Georgia Powers’ recent op-ed in The Courier-Journal mischaracterizes my views, and does a disservice to a host of issues that I am working on to help minorities.
Let’s start with fact one: I support the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is simply unimaginable to think what modern America would be like if not for the brave men and women who stood up for the rights of all Americans. This legislation changed the future of our nation by enforcing the belief that all men and women are created equal.
In passing the law, Congress rightly acted under the 14th Amendment which states that “no state shall deprive” an individual of his or her natural right to due process and equal protection under the law.
I do not support discrimination of any kind, public or private. I, like most Americans, celebrate the great civil disobedience of sit-ins that helped bring down Jim Crow. I respect and admire Samuel Tucker, who organized one of the first sit-ins in 1939 at the library in Alexandria, Va., and the Greensboro Four. A few months ago, I met Clarence Henderson who sat with others at the Woolworth’s counter in Greensboro. He was kind enough to recognize the work I’m doing for minority rights: “I have seen him be a voice crying out in the wilderness, standing up for freedom,” he said. “I have encouraged [Sen. Paul] to keep speaking out because he reminds me of myself—when I walked into the Woolworth’s in Greensboro, I did it not for publicity, but because it needed to be done.”
We must continue to build an America that our children — of every race, creed and color —deserve. That is why I am advocating for a 21st century civil rights agenda with economic empowerment, voting rights restoration, sentencing reform and school choice at its core. These are all issues of paramount importance to the black community and I am proud to be the champion of these ideas.
My Economic Freedom Zones legislation would allow $650 million to remain in the West End of Louisville over 10 years. This plan would create thousands of new jobs in West Louisville.
This week, I joined with Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey to introduce a bipartisan bill to roll back harsh mandatory sentencing on non-violent drug offenses.
When nearly one-third of the adult black male population has been in prison — when the prison population has exploded ten-fold in the past generation — there is a problem. Politicians, wanting to be “tough on crime” have made harsh, unnecessary sentences the only answer, ruining many lives over a simple mistake.
The war on drugs has had a racial outcome and no one in Congress is fighting harder to eliminate racial bias from our criminal justice system.
If someone does go to jail and pays their debt for a crime, they deserve to have their voting rights restored when they return to society. Too many voters are disenfranchised today from voting, due to a mistake for which they have already paid.
Of course, the root of so many problems in all of our communities — black, brown or white — is education.
Our system is broken, especially in our poorest communities. That’s why, just this past Monday, I joined Pastor Jerry Stephenson in the West End of Louisville to discuss the success he has had with his after-school and summer academic programs. We talked about the promise of school choice and the obstacles that still exist, and how we can make better schools with local and parental control the norm rather than the exception.
I have brought this message to Louisville and Lexington. To Paducah and Pikeville and everywhere in between in Kentucky for the past five years.
And recently, I have brought this message to Washington, D.C., Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, California and New York. I will travel throughout Kentucky and the nation, with passion in my heart.
When you believe in something wholly, it is easy not to be deterred by the naysayers who want to protect a broken system, or who have a political interest in making sure you don’t succeed.
Our nation has made great strides on civil rights in the past 50 years. I was too young to have marched with Dr. King, but I like to think that I would have.
Now there is more to do, and I want to help lead the way, in the ways that I can. No one in Congress is doing more to address these important civil rights issues and I won’t rest until we have an America that is truly colorblind.