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Lawmakers, Martin Luther King III discuss federal responses to systematic racism

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Democratic lawmakers and Martin Luther King III on Thursday called for “transformative” changes to federal policies as a way to address systemic racism and injustice in the U.S.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), along with King, spoke at The Hill’s “Race and Justice Imperative” event, where they said lawmakers and policymakers can play a key role in pushing for legislation and programs that foster equity.

“We have to continue to push to have transformative change in our policies, in our federal government,” Lee, former head of the Congressional Black Caucus, told moderators Steve Clemons and Marty Johnson of The Hill.

Lee added that there needs to be a discussion about all facets of the social justice, with an acknowledgement that structural racism has had long-lasting effects.

Waters, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, said collective and consistent action from lawmakers is necessary to create opportunities and foster change.

“Those of us that have the ability because we have some positions of power and influence, should use that instead of simply seeking out perks for ourselves and falling into the tradition of doing things the way they’re always done,” Waters said. “We have to use our positions to open up these opportunities.”

Calls for government action to address racial injustice quickly spread across the U.S. last summer in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in the custody of Minneapolis police. Congressional efforts on issues like police reform have fallen short, adding to pressure on the Biden administration by advocates to take action on racial injustice issues.

King, a civil rights activist who also spoke at Thursday’s event sponsored by Alexion, said he’s optimistic about the prospects for meaningful action by the administration.

“We have to continue to challenge and hold elected officials accountable. It’s not going to happen automatically but if people are constantly raising these issues and rising up in a unified way, I think we will make good progress,” King said.

Tags Barbara Lee Maxine Waters racial injustice

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