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Trahan joins Black Caucus leader for broadcast on race

Washington, July 7, 2020

Trahan joins Black Caucus leader for broadcast on race

By: Meghan McIntyre

LOWELL — In a Facebook Live broadcast Tuesday afternoon, U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan spoke with U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, about policing and criminal justice reform in America.

The virtual discussion was the first in a series of events Trahan plans to host on Facebook Live called “Being the Change,” where she will speak with leaders who are fighting racial injustice. Trahan began the broadcast Tuesday by acknowledging the recent death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by police in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, and the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on communities of color.

“Americans are reawakened to the pervasive racism and inequality that exists in our country,” Trahan said. “The passage of time has only confirmed that we must continue tough conversations and expose racial injustice in all its hiding places. “

Bass represents California’s 37th District and sponsored the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which the U.S. House of Representatives passed late last month. The bill, which would ban chokeholds, imposes new restrictions on using deadly force and makes it easier to prosecute officers for wrongdoing, among other measures, now goes to the Republican-led Senate, where it is considered unlikely to pass.

“The bill tries to hold officers accountable, because when all of us saw that horrific video, that officer was literally looking in the camera with his hand in his pocket while he was committing a murder. He clearly knew he was acting with impunity. He didn’t think anything was going to happen to him at all,” Bass said. “So the bill addresses that.”

She noted that the bill also offers grants to communities to go through a “visioning process” looking at what purposes police departments should serve. Protesters and activists have recently called for communities to decrease funding to police departments and redistribute funds to other services such as programs to address homelessness and mental health concerns.

“This is an incredible moment in our history. A moment that is sad — you know, it’s mixed with so many emotions. But the main emotion that I feel is hope. I feel hope, I feel the energy from the streets, and you should know the way the legislative process works, it can take 30 days or 30 years,” Bass said. “But because of the people who have been peacefully out in the streets, it has moved us along to deal with this issue.”

Asked by Trahan how members of the public can stand against racism in other areas of life beyond policing, Bass pointed to the effects of the public health crisis on people of color. She noted that the pandemic has exacerbated inequities that already exist in areas such as education, pointing to families who may not have access to or knowledge of the technology students need to learn remotely during lockdown.

She suggested that residents get involved in their own neighborhoods and look at how these issues are affecting local schools, students and parents who are essential workers. Bass also recommended the documentary “13th,” which explores racial inequality in the United States through the lens of the prison system, as a good tool for self-education around racism.

“I just believe that people need something concrete to do. It’s important to do something even if it’s small. Find a focus. There are so many issues to be involved in, whether it’s education or health care or jobs or the issue of people coming out of prisons and needing to incorporate themselves,” Bass said. “But find a focus and get involved, even if it’s in what you feel might be a small way. You can just make such a huge difference.”

Trahan noted that she has seen her constituents begin to educate themselves around racism, and said that young people have been leading the charge of organizing demonstrations and starting conversations around these issues in their communities.

“Your leadership on these issues is so important, and I look forward to continuing our work together to end the disparities that have just persisted in our country for far too long,” Trahan told Bass.