Juneteenth is a day of profound weight and power—a holiday whose very existence tells us so much about the soul of America. It reminds us of just how vulnerable our nation is to being poisoned by systems and acts of inhumanity. And it reminds us, too, of our incredible capacity to heal, to hope, and to emerge from our darkest moments of cruelty into a better version of ourselves. The Psalms tell us that ‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.’ Juneteenth contains both the long, hard night—the two-and-a-half years those enslaved in Galveston, Texas, endured before learning of their emancipation—and the promise of the brighter morning to come.
There is no question that the night feels endless right now. The last words of George Floyd—I can’t breathe—have called our entire nation to reckon with the injustices we have allowed to fester. His death carries echoes of Breonna Taylor in Louisville and Atatiana Jefferson in Fort Worth—senselessly killed by officers in their own homes. It carries echoes of Ahmaud Arbery—lynched before our eyes while jogging on a Georgia road. It carries echoes of Rayshard Brooks—shot in the back by an officer on the eve of his eldest daughter’s eighth birthday party. It carries echoes of an unbearable litany of lives and dreams snuffed out before their time.
Their deaths call us to come face to face not only with overt acts of violence, but with subtler realities that strike at the dignity of Black Americans every day. Homes systematically undervalued in Black communities. Credit that is harder to access for Black entrepreneurs. Expectant Black mothers who are disbelieved when they share medical concerns with their doctors—contributing to Black women being two-and-a-half times as likely to die from pregnancy complications as white women. And today, in the grip of a devastating pandemic that has claimed more than 117,000 lives, persistent disparities in our health and economic systems have conspired once more to place the sprawling burden of the crisis disproportionately on the shoulders of Black families.
Black Americans carry this weight. But all Americans have the responsibility to act. I believe that the moral obligation of our time is to rebuild America in a way that finally delivers the full share of equality, opportunity, and dignity due to every American. And, achieving it starts by rooting out systemic racism from our laws, our policies, our institutions, and our hearts.
The pain engulfing us today demands an overwhelming response—we need a comprehensive agenda that tackles inequity in every part of our society. That is why I developed the plan I released in early May, which is designed to dismantle some of the most stubborn and pervasive barriers that hold back Black Americans from receiving an equal shot.
The plan is built around closing six pernicious racial gaps: the wealth and income gap, the education opportunity gap, the health care gap, the justice gap, the voting rights gap, and the environmental gap. Under each of those categories is a broad and evolving array of specific policies and actions—far too numerous to list out here, but available for anyone to read on my website.
Additionally, I have called for immediate legislative action to begin the urgent process of policing reform. No mother should worry that her child or loved one isn’t safe walking the streets of America. We must take action, starting with immediately outlawing the use of chokeholds and creating a model use of force standard to make de-escalation priority one. In addition, if I have the honor of becoming President, I will create a national police oversight commission in my first hundred days in office to ensure that our police protect and serve all members of their communities.
Earlier this month, a video was widely shared of George Floyd’s six-year-old daughter, Gianna, proclaiming: “Daddy changed the world.” We owe it to her—and to every one of America’s Black children—to never rest until it’s true. Getting this done won’t be easy; the roots of inequity touch nearly every corner of American life. But Juneteenth is a powerful reminder of our ability to change—to close our deepest wounds, and reach new mornings. I believe that, together, we can emerge from this moment and lay the roots of real and lasting justice, so that we might finally become the extraordinary nation that was promised to all Americans.