Published: Thursday, January 14, 2021 02:10 PM
SPRINGFIELD – In order to address the longstanding root causes of racial inequality and disinvestment that are holding back the Black community, the Illinois Senate Legislative Black Caucus has passed the most comprehensive legislative package in the nation to rid Illinois of systemic racism.
Decades of oppression, the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and police brutality inspired the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ push to end the historic disparities facing Illinois’ Black population.
The Black Caucus built their legislation on four pillars:
Criminal justice reform, violence reduction and police accountability
Education and workforce development
Economic access, equity and opportunity
Health care and human services
A champion in promoting quality education and providing support to working families, Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) sponsored House Bill 2170, which addresses disparities in education and workforce development for Illinois’ Black population.
“I’m proud that we were able to make so much progress in dismantling racist systems throughout Illinois. These changes will uplift Black residents of Illinois for generations to come,” Lightford said. “Our children will have better opportunities in school, police will be held more accountable to our communities, and our families will have more tools to help them climb into the middle class.”
ILBC Senate Chairman Robert Peters (D-Chicago) said true equality can’t be achieved until racist systems are broken and remade.
"It is impossible to win real safety and justice in our communities and achieve true equality until the systems that enable systemic racism are completely dismantled, such as cash bail - which once stood at the intersection of racism, classism, and sexism and essentially made it a crime to be poor," Peters said. "There is still a lot more work to do, but the comprehensive reform we passed this week, which was result of years of work, is a historic, transformational start. It can be used as a foundation on which we can build a future where everyone in this state can be made whole."
Because police brutality, increased arrests, and higher rates of incarceration continue to plague many disadvantaged Black communities, State Senator Elgie R. Sims Jr. (D-Chicago) sponsored House Bill 3653, the caucus’ plan for criminal justice reform, violence reduction and police accountability.
“A measure this transformative would not be possible without the heightened interest and vocal support of Illinoisans whose consciences have been shaken by years of misconduct without meaningful consequences,” Sims said. “Change, when it comes, always seems as if it has come too late, but I know that our successes here today are not an end, but a beginning to uplifting our communities and better supporting law enforcement in ways that improve our criminal justice system.”
A lifelong advocate of making a difference for Black youth, State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Centreville) passed a package of legislation to eliminate barriers to economic access, equity and opportunity.
"On average, Black women are paid 63 cents for every dollar a white man makes, due to racism and sexism in the workforce, as well as disparities in education and generational wealth," Belt said. "In order to put an end to this cycle of wage inequity, we must pass laws to root out systemic racism and ensure everyone has equal access to economic resources and opportunity."
A longtime fighter for quality and expanded access to health care, State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) sponsored House Bill 3840 to eliminate health care disparities for people of color.
“The lasting misfortunes of COVID-19 have shown us that Black people are at the bottom of the totem pole in this country and are always being disproportionately affected by the worst of society’s ills,” Hunter said. “This legislation would address these ills and give Black Illinoisans equal opportunities to quality care.”
The Health care and human services pillar passed both chambers under different legislation with minor differences. The Black Caucus will address this technical issue in the 102nd General Assembly’s spring session. The criminal justice reform, violence reduction and police accountability; education and workforce development; and economic access, equity, and opportunity pillars legislation will head to the governor’s office for final approval.