Sen. Schumer Remarks On JuneteenthJune 19, 2020
Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today delivered the following remarks in a virtual Juneteenth JusticeCon celebration hosted by Greater Allen A.M.E. where he discussed the importance of Juneteenth and the work House and Senate Democrats are doing to work towards progress. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
I want to thank the Reverend Dr. Elaine Flake for inviting me to be a part of today's celebration. It's truly an honor to be here, and an even greater honor to call her and her husband, Floyd, my good friends.
My friends, this is a bittersweet day – not just because of what Juneteenth symbolizes, but also the specific context in which we find ourselves celebrating it this year. Some people think Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of the slaves, which was proclaimed so majestically by President Abraham Lincoln in the midst of civil war. In a certain sense, that is true. But more accurately, Juneteenth commemorates the moment – nearly three years after Lincoln made his proclamation, and two months after the Civil War formally ended – that some of the last slaves in the Union learned that they were, in fact, free men and women. In other words, Juneteenth symbolizes "justice too long delayed." Which Dr. King, in writing so eloquently about the Black experience in 1960s America, reminded us is too often "justice denied." What better metaphor then for this historic moment in which we find ourselves today?
More than 400 years after the first slave ships arrived on our shores, 155 years after the end of slavery, 56 years after passage of the Civil Rights Act, 21 years after Amadou Diallo, 14 years after Sean Bell, 6 years after Eric Garner, 3 months after Breonna Taylor, 3 weeks after George Floyd, we are reminded that justice is still denied for far too many American citizens.
This is a moment that demands we confront the poison of racism, which pervades every aspect of our society – from the jury box to the ballot box, from the emergency room to the classroom, from C-suites to city streets. And although we have made some progress on the winding road to racial equality, the events of the past few months are a vivid reminder why, to invoke Dr. King's words once again, "We can't wait."
That's why House and Senate Democrats have drafted legislation – called the Justice in Policing Act – that would deliver the most comprehensive set of reforms to police departments in decades: a ban on chokeholds, a ban on “no knock” warrants in federal drug cases, a ban on racial profiling, and limits on the transfer of military equipment to police departments.
Only a few months ago, these policies would be seen as controversial. But in the wake of such obvious injustice, and thanks to the bravery of the thousands of people who have marched and peacefully protested in the streets, there is broad and deep support for these policies in America. The people are calling out for justice. "No more delay," they say. "No more denial."
Unfortunately, those words have fallen on deaf ears in the Republican Party. The bill put forth this week by Senate Republicans doesn't even come close to addressing the deep, systemic issues in our criminal justice system. The executive order signed by President Trump does even less. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:15-16)
This is not about finding the lowest common denominator between the two parties and then moving on. This about bringing real change to police departments across the country, about stopping the killing of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement, and bringing accountability and transparency to officers and their departments that are guilty of misconduct.
My friends, this moment calls us to cast aside what is politically convenient. That way of thinking has failed, and must be relegated to the past. Now is the time to act boldly, courageously, righteously. And in doing so, finally realize Lincoln's noble words in the Emancipation Proclamation, which set in motion this battle for the soul of our country that remains unfinished.
And I quote: "Upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God."
Just as an Almighty God delivered the Israelites out of Pharaoh's Egypt and into the Promised Land, so, too, do I believe that He will deliver justice to all people in this country. But it won't happen unless we keep our feet moving and marching, and our voices raised to the sky, as we demand justice NOW, not tomorrow, and for ALL of God's people. That is the spirit and promise of Juneteenth. Let us all be guided by it in the days and weeks to come.
God bless you. God bless this church. And God bless the United States of America.”