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WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) took to the Senate floor condemning President Trump’s violent response to protests of the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless other victims of systemic, racist police brutality. Brown points out that black and brown communities have been and remain marginalized and targeted and that protests sweeping Ohio and the nation are in response to this historic racism.
“Our job is to show victims of systemic racism at the hands of their own government that the same government can and will protect them from this pandemic – that we hear them, that we see them, that we are fighting for them. And that their lives matter,” said Brown.
Brown’s remarks, as prepared for delivery can be found below:
The protests around our state and throughout our country are an expression of fear, and grief, and frustration, and anger.
Black communities led the nation in mourning the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor over the last week – and they are now leading calls for justice and long-term changes to dismantle the systems of oppression that hold them back.
But instead of listening to those calls – from the people who built this country – instead of offering leadership and rising to meet this moment, President Trump is failing yet again.
Instead of uniting, he divides. Instead of comforting, he stokes fear and places blames. Instead of healing, he rubs salt in black Americans’ open wounds.
And Monday night, the President of the United States turned the arm of the state on peaceful protesters, teargassing the citizens he’s supposed to serve – all to stage a photo-op at a church he doesn’t attend and hold up a Bible he doesn’t read.
People are tired and they’re angry.
More black sons and daughters and mothers and fathers killed by police officers – the very people who are supposed to protect ALL Americans.
More death, when many are already grieving the loss of family members and friends to the coronavirus and grappling with the economic stress this pandemic has caused.
The pandemic has been the ‘great revealer.’
We know black and brown communities have been hit hardest by the coronavirus—they are more likely to get sick, they have less access to health care, they make up the communities hurt by redlining and Jim Crow laws, and they disproportionately make up our essential workers.
It’s not because they don’t work as hard, it’s not because of individual choices – we ALL work hard, we’re ALL trying to do something productive for our family and our community, and we ALL want to build a better country for our daughters and our sons.
No, it’s because of a racist system that has been making it harder for their work to pay off, and putting their lives at risk for generations – long before this virus appeared.
A grocery store worker in Ohio told me recently, “I don’t feel safe at work and they don’t pay me much. They tell me I’m essential – but I feel expendable.”
Long before this pandemic, millions of Americans knew that we have a system that treats them like they’re expendable. Their hard work isn’t paying off. For some it feels like the system is broken – and for black and brown workers, it never worked to begin with.
In the midst of the trauma and grieving, millions of those same Americans still go to work, day after day, week after week.
Our job is to show victims of systemic racism at the hands of their own government that the same government can and will protect them from this pandemic – that we hear them, that we see them, that we are fighting for them. And that their lives matter.
Our response to this crisis must be to stand behind the people who make this country work – ALL workers, whether you punch a clock or swipe a badge, earn a salary or make tips; whether you’re raising children or caring for an aging parent.
Whether your hard work isn’t paying off now, or whether it’s NEVER paid off the way it should.
As Dr. King said – “One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker. For the person who picks up our garbage, in the final analysis, is as significant as the physician, for if he doesn’t do his job, diseases are rampant. All labor has dignity.”
It’s black and brown workers who have been robbed of their dignity on the job – far, far too often.
If we want to be a country where every person has dignity, we need to start by recognizing that all labor has dignity.
But so far, our response to this crisis is not the response of a government that believes that.
This Senate and this president can always find trillions of dollars for corporations – for tax cuts, for bailouts.
But when hardworking families need help with rent, or to put food on the table, President Trump and Leader McConnell say we can’t afford it.
The president and his Administration had already made racial and economic inequality worse, and undone civil rights protections.
They’ve been pretty clear they’re willing to put workers’ lives at risk – to reopen stockyards, or just to juice the stock market.
President Trump and his Administration believe that millions of Americans are expendable – and it’s not a coincidence that many of the people they consider expendable are black and brown workers.
Since the president is unwilling to protect people – whether that’s protecting their lives, or protecting their financial future – we must fill the leadership void.
As we do that, as we work for change, we also need to be clear: part of leading is listening.
The best ideas won’t come out of Washington – the solutions we need to fix our justice system, to address wealth inequality, to reverse disparities in health care, to help communities that have been hurt by redlining and Jim Crow laws and so much more – those solutions must come from the communities who have been excluded for too long.
Whenever we talk about this, whenever people bring up the ways the system has failed so many Americans – on the Senate Floor, or at a protest march – there are always naysayers – always white, usually men, often pretty well off – who say, how can you be so negative? Why do you want to dwell on all the worst parts of history? Don’t you love our country?
My response to our country’s naysayers and sunshine patriots is this: how can you be so pessimistic as to believe this is the best we can do?
Do you really think that the American people – with our ingenuity and optimism and tenacity – do you really think we can’t create a fairer economy and a more just government?
Do you truly believe we can’t have a society that works for everyone – black and white and brown, women and men, no matter who you are or what kind of work you do?
Protesting, working for change, organizing, demanding our country do better – those are some of the most patriotic things all of us can do.
I love my country – and if you love this country, you fight for the people who make it work. ALL of them.