Racism continues to this day. It’s destructive and counter-productive; we need everyone grabbing the oars of our nation and pulling in the same direction. My family heritage includes African, Taino, Asian and European ancestry and it is a microcosm of our diverse district. We are richer and stronger as a nation when we respect our diversity; and we are weaker when we let others divide us along our differences.
The fingers on my hand are all different, but they work together. I will continue to work for our whole district and all its citizens, and I will pursue collaboration and unity.
Life is not a zero-sum game. If we help our neighbors on the margins to find good work, become educated or become politically engaged all of us win because our nation, our economy and our democracy becomes stronger. In my experience people of different races sometimes think they are in competition for limited resources and political power. When I see that I ask who does that competition serve? For example, disunity in the Black and Latino communities makes both groups weaker because it blocks us from collaborating to demand progress. Disunity prevents the positive change we could create working together.
We have many common interests. We need jobs to support our families. We need better health care. And we need quality education so that our children are ready to support their families in this increasingly competitive world. And we have many common challenges that demand collaboration. For example, the African American and Latino communities both suffer from health disparities. Compared to the population at large, African American women are over two times more likely to die during pregnancy, and African American men are over two times more likely to die of prostate cancer. African Americans are almost two times more likely to not be able to afford to see a doctor, and African American children are 45% more likely to be obese – which will set them up for diabetes later in life. Likewise, Hispanics are over 3 times more likely to not be able to afford to see a doctor and Hispanic children are 35% more likely to be obese. Moreover, 67% of Hispanic women over 40 are likely to never have had a mammogram.
Poverty contributes to these problems and poverty in the Black and Hispanic communities greatly exceeds the national average. In 2010, about 27% percent of Blacks and Hispanics were poor, compared to 10% percent of whites. Children are especially hit by poverty, with 38% of Black children living in poverty, and 35% of Hispanic children, compared to about 12% of children generally. These distressing statistics can change if we work together and demand progress.