Since 1971, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has been the “Conscience of the Congress,” uplifting the voices of the voiceless and fighting for the most vulnerable among us. The CBC collectively represents more than 82 million Americans, including 18 million African Americans, who have historically been denied access to the resources needed to improve their quality of life. All Americans, especially Black Americans—given our long history of enslavement, discrimination, and inequalities—deserve an efficient, effective, and accountable government that ensures equitable access to resources and participation in the democratic process. Everyday the CBC is working to uplift the concerns of our constituents and Black Americans while working with the Biden-Harris Administration to advance a more perfect union rooted in racial equality and equal opportunity. This Congress, the CBC is focused on advocating for racial justice across the following platforms:
Democracy and Civic Participation:
In 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the heart of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, holding the preclearance provisions unconstitutional. In 2019, the Court dealt another blow to democracy by ruling that partisan gerrymandering is a political question beyond the jurisdiction of federal courts in Rucho v. Common Cause. In 2021, in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the Court significantly weakened Section 2 of the VRA to prioritize the state’s interest in hypothetical voter fraud over a minority group’s history of discrimination in a state.
At this juncture, there are few formidable federal laws to protect the right to vote. The CBC will continue our work to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to fight against all forms of voter suppression and ensure that all communities are fully represented in our democracy. The CBC is also committed to ensuring full participation – particularly Black participation – in the U.S. Census, advocating for a more inclusive and representative federal judiciary that is responsive and protective of the needs of the Black community, and supporting civic education and voter registration to facilitate more democratic engagement.
The CBC has always prioritized securing funding and federal support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), which have always been agents of equity, access, and excellence in education – especially for students of color. Additionally, the CBC is on the frontlines against curriculum censorship bills that seek to eliminate the teaching of Black history and make diversity, equity, and inclusion a political wedge issue.
In the 118th Congress, the CBC is focused on protecting the comprehensive and accurate teaching of Black history in schools and advancing affirmative action programs to create pipelines to economic opportunity in foreign policy, STEM, manufacturing, and other emerging sectors in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to end affirmative action in institutions of higher education.
The CBC will continue our work to fund HBCU’s, advocate for student loan debt relief which disproportionately affects Black communities and end the school-to-confinement pathway by creating safe and nurturing environments for Black and brown students by dismantling institutional practices that over police students.
Climate change has already begun to increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather events and natural disasters, particularly storms, flooding, and extreme heat events. Black communities are particularly vulnerable to climate change as they are disproportionately harmed by its’ collateral effects, like pollution and lead poisoning, which pose significant health risks. After the Flint, Michigan water crisis, the lack of federal attention and intervention on issues of environmental justice became abundantly clear, requiring a racially enlightened whole-of-government approach.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act, secured by the CBC’s vote in the 117th Congress, represent historic investments in advancing infrastructure equity to remediate the environmental harm that has languished in Black communities to ensure clean energy infrastructure, clean and safe drinking water, and other climate resiliency projects. The CBC is working in tandem with the Biden-Harris Administration to ensure equitable implementation of the Infrastructure Act and Inflation Reduction Act while also advocating for increased funding to create efficient energy projects and other prophylactic measures to remediate historical environmental injustices.
Future of Work:
The CBC has fought tirelessly to improve the lives of all workers by supporting policies that strengthen workplace protections and expand economic opportunities. The CBC is particularly concerned with addressing the historical inequalities that have plagued communities of color for generations. For example, the Black unemployment rate is consistently twice as high as the white unemployment rate, the federal minimum wage has been stagnant at $7.25 since 2009 despite historic levels of inflation and increased costs of living, and corporations are intensifying their antiunion policies affecting the organizing rights of Black workers. As America builds its next generation economy, we have to continue the work of the last Congress to fortify our supply chains and keep good-paying jobs in our communities. Good jobs do not need to require a college degree or make people leave home in search of opportunity.
To create our next generation economy, we must expand eligibility for federal Pell Grant programs to individuals pursuing short-term, high-quality education and training programs to address the worker shortage by closing the skills gap; invest in clean energy to create more jobs in communities most affected by climate change; and center racial equity in STEM research and development, job training and workforce development programs.
Health issues that lower life expectancy and quality of life disproportionately affect the African American community – from high maternal mortality rates to inadequate access to life saving healthcare and medication.
The CBC has historically spearheaded legislative solutions to defend against assaults on healthcare security that would exacerbate existing health disparities and equip Black Americans with the research, information, and practical tools they need to live healthier lives.
In the 117th Congress, the Inflation Reduction Act capped Medicare beneficiaries’ costs for insulin to $35, the Protecting Moms Who Served Act addressed the maternal mortality crisis among women veterans, and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act prohibited discrimination and promoted women's health and economic security by ensuring reasonable workplace accommodations for workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.
However, in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson, codifying the right to choose is of paramount importance, as is passing the MOMNIBUS to protect Black mothers and children during and after their pregnancies. This Congress, the CBC will continue to advance legislation to remedy racial disparities in healthcare and fund research into ailments that disproportionately affect the Black community.
For decades, members of the CBC have been zealous advocates for affordable housing and government programs to address the eviction and homelessness crises and have worked to combat rampant discrimination in the renting, home purchasing, and appraisal processes.
In the 55th year of the Fair Housing Act, which the CBC was instrumental in passing, more reforms are needed to address the rising cost of housing, collateral effects of housing discrimination, and the quality of government subsidized housing because housing continues to impact a person’s ability to access quality jobs, healthcare, and education.
The CBC will continue to highlight and remedy the impact of racial discrimination in housing from financial lending to appraisal bias and will work with former Chairwoman of the CBC and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge to promote fair and equitable housing policies to ensure access to safe, stable, and affordable housing in all communities.
Black Americans make up nearly 13% of the U.S. population but nearly 33% of the prison and jail population because of failed “tough on crime policies,” broken windows policing, and the war on drugs.
The CBC is continuing to push for public safety reform and police accountability in the 118th congress because bad policing should have no place in American cities. The CBC is working to advance legislation that will improve conditions of confinement in jails and prisons; improve the longstanding pattern of law enforcement violence against the Black community; fortify laws which hold law enforcement officials accountable for deprivation of civil and human rights, put an end racial bias in all facets of the criminal legal system, and provide alternative mechanisms for nonpunitive and non-carceral community-based responses to harm.
The Congressional Black Caucus is working alongside the Biden-Harris Administration on elements of our public safety agenda and will continue to push the Department of Justice to make more progress on implementation of President Biden’s executive order on policing.