Police Reform and Racial Justice

Our nation is grappling with a 401-year history of racism and oppression. With the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many more, millions of us are in the streets to demand justice, to demand that Black Lives Matter, and to demand an end to impunity for police murder.

This movement is layered on top of existing crises, including COVID-19, a healthcare crisis and an economic depression, that all disproportionately impact the Black community. We are seeing that Black workers are more likely to be the “essential workers” who face the greatest risk of exposure to COVID-19. We are seeing that Black Americans are among those most likely to die from COVID-19. We live in a country with an “original sin” of slavery that resulted in enormous class disparities, with a legacy of Jim Crow and “redlining” in housing practices, where Black mothers face overwhelming maternal mortality rates, and where a Black baby is more likely to be born into poverty and live in a community with under-resourced public schools. As plain as day, we can see that the American Dream has not been for everyone.

And of course the Black community is not the only community that faces systematic racism in this country. Contrary to ideals that many of us hold, the United States has not provided equal opportunity for all. Latino, Asian, Middle Eastern and Native American communities face unique assaults and oppressions on a daily basis, from our police forces, our economic institutions, and society in general. In Texas we see anti-immigrant sentiment, anti-Muslim sentiment, anti-Asian sentiment — much of it coming, unfortunately, from the leaders in power, in the White House and the Texas Capitol.

I come to this struggle as a civil rights lawyer who has taken on suits to challenge racist police practices, to stop housing discrimination, to challenge anti-immigrant policies and fight for voting rights. I taught in public schools in Houston, New York City, and Oakland, California, working to meet the needs of diverse students, including Black children. As a candidate for Congress, I’ve fought to protect the right to vote of students at Prairie View A&M, a historically Black college in the Texas 10th. I’ve spoken out, I’ve marched, I’ve organized and filed lawsuits, dedicating myself to the struggle against racism and inequality.

I also come to this work as a father and husband. As a white man who is married to a Black woman, and who is the father of Black children. When my wife Hindatu and I met in Houston, Texas in 1999, neither of us knew the path ahead. We were first-year public school teachers with our lives ahead of us. 21 years later we are raising two children in Texas. For the greater community, and for our children, we are committed to the fight for true public safety, justice, and equality for all. 

And given our background in teaching, we know first-hand how poverty and inequality are deeply rooted and intersectional challenges. Policing is connected to housing. Housing is connected with jobs. Jobs are connected with education. We can’t just change policing policy without addressing the underlying structure of our society

To that end, I believe we must work on multiple fronts, to directly address racism in police practices, while also working to address the essential preconditions to equality and opportunity. 

To address racism in policing, I support demands including the following:

    • End qualified immunity which allows police to escape accountability when they violate our constitutional rights.
    • Support community oversight over our police, allowing civilian representatives to make decisions concerning police policy and the hiring and firing of officers. 
    • Enforce the duty to intervene, requiring other officers to stop excessive uses of force and immediately report it to their supervisor. 
    • End secrecy laws that prevent the public from learning about police misconduct. 
    • Require state and local governments to decriminalize non-violent offenses like loitering, jaywalking, and disturbing the peace, that officers have used as a pretext to over-police Black, indigenous and other people of color, and eliminate the use of quotas that incentivize over-policing.
    • Invest in alternative responses to emergency calls, including the use of mental health first responders, social workers, and conflict resolution experts. 
    • Create national use of force standards that are enforceable by the Department of Justice.
    • Create a national registry of use of force with demographic information.
    • Require independent investigations of all police killings and use of force complaints, and provide funding for independent prosecutions as needed.
    • Strengthen labor laws so that all workers have access to collective bargaining and union representation in states like Texas — not just police and fire unions. 
    • Strengthen First Amendment protections to ensure that community members have a “right to record” police interactions. 
    • Implement national body camera requirements that insure body cameras are always rolling for interactions with police and create harsh punishments for destroying evidence. 
    • Stop the transfer of military weapons to local police.
    • Prevent civil forfeiture unless the person has been convicted of a crime and the state has determined the property was evidence in the crime committed. 

Just as important as making fundamental reforms to our policing system, we must address the underlying causes that have brought us to this moment. That means addressing systemic racism and enduring inequality.

To advance the American Dream of equality for all, I support demands including the following:

    • Enact universal healthcare. Let’s end the segregation of our health care system and unjust, racially-biased outcomes. Treat healthcare as a human right. 
    • End mass incarceration. This broken system has devastated communities of color. From the Jim Crow south to the War on Drugs, communities of color have been over-policed, given harsher sentences, and disproportionately subject to the enduring stigma of incarceration.
    • Guarantee housing for all. We must redress generations of housing discrimination, compounded by redlining, denial of credit, and exploitative lending practices. We must invest in public housing and housing assistance, and ensure that every person can find a home. 
    • Protect the Right to Vote. We must reauthorize the Civil Right Act of 1965, create automatic voter registration and universal vote by mail, end the disenfranchisement of formerly incarcerated Americans, and prosecute states guilty of voter suppression. 
    • Create an economy that works for everyone. We need a national jobs program to use the power of the U.S. Treasury to put Americans to work and redress economic inequality. We must strengthen unions, create a living wage, enact paid sick leave, eliminate student loan debt, and invest in every community. 
    • Fight for a Green New Deal. Communities of color have historically taken the brunt of air and water pollution and are treated as expendable when it comes to environmental and health impacts. I support strong federal action to simultaneously address climate change, create millions of good new jobs building a renewable economy, and address the legacy of environmental racism.