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Dismantling the painful architecture of discrimination

By Tim Kaine

For centuries, our nation has preached equality as our cardinal virtue while burdening African Americans with systemic inequality. The horrific murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, together with the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on both the health and economic conditions of African Americans, have laid bare the continuing challenges of racism in America.

Racism in this country is not an accident. Local, state and federal government policy — enforced by our courts — formed the architecture of inequality and though, in very recent history, some racist practices have ended, our government has never been made accountable for these longstanding practices or been forced to uproot that which it so carefully built over multiple generations.

Through my work as a civil rights lawyer and elected official, I have tried my best to battle against such injustice, but more work is clearly needed. So I am redoubling my efforts and demanding that Congress pass comprehensive legislation to address longstanding inequalities.

I have announced a series of reforms that I am supporting to address racial inequality and injustice, including legislation to reform the criminal justice system, reduce disparities in health care and education, and help close the systemic economic gaps that have only been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. I also have joined two of my friends and colleagues Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris in introducing sweeping police reform legislation. This bill, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, would eliminate unnecessary practices like choke-holds and no-knock warrants, end racial profiling, promote the accreditation of law enforcement agencies and reform the practice of granting police officers immunity for reckless behavior endangering the lives of the citizens they serve.

All Americans will benefit if our country gets serious about truly dismantling the painful architecture of discrimination against African Americans that began on Virginia soil more than 400 years ago. We have to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and work together to get this right.

TIM KAINE is a Democratic senator for Virginia, serving in Washington, D.C. Contact him via 202-224-1903.