United Black Agenda Calls on Gov. Murphy and Legislative Leaders to Dismantle Systemic Racism in New Jersey’s Legislative Process
The United Black Agenda (UBA) calls on Governor Murphy, Senate President Sweeney, and Speaker Coughlin to take steps to dismantle systemic racism in the legislative process, namely by reforming the state’s budgeting process so it is more inclusive, transparent, and democratic, and by making transformative and reparative investments in the billions in Black communities and other communities of color.
Today, Governor Phil Murphy will sign New Jersey’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget. And with this signing, he culminates a budget process that largely shut out the voices of New Jersey’s Black and Brown communities and was instead led by New Jersey’s most powerful elected officials, each of whom are white men: Governor Phil Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Speaker Craig Coughlin.
To be sure, power given to a few, as here, not only undermines democracy but it also strengthens, empowers, and perpetuates systemic racism. That’s why New Jersey is home to some of the nation’s starkest racial disparities in the areas of wealth, health, education and incarceration — just to name a few. Racial inequity is built into New Jersey’s very foundation, which carries a direct through line from slavery that took root very deeply in the colony to today’s disparities.
Since today’s inequities are a direct result of generations of intentional policy design, so must be the solution. But if Governor Murphy, Senate President Sweeney and Speaker Coughlin want to begin to reach a solution, they must, first, create a process that empowers Black and Brown communities to advocate for those investments. They did not. This budget received votes by lawmakers who stated, in committee, that they did not have enough time to read it or understand it. Indeed, the bill language for the budget was made available for public review for less than 11 minutes.
There is no legitimate reason for New Jersey’s legislative process to operate in the manner it does. For lawmakers to combat structural racism in our state, New Jersey must operate a more inclusive and transparent legislative process that makes bills available to the public several days before they are voted on.
We urge this because New Jersey’s budget is not only a moral document but also a racial justice document which accounts for our state’s myriad racial inequities. A failure to incorporate the voices and concerns of New Jersey’s residents of color into the final budget not only speaks to a lack of transparency but the fortification of the foundation of racial injustice that allows our state’s racial disparities to thrive, as our colleague Brandon McKoy recently urged.
Addressing systemic racism should be a foundational piece of policymaking. If New Jersey is to ever live up to its stated values of liberty and justice for all, naming systemic racism is an essential starting point. We urge the Governor, Senate President, and Speaker Coughlin to work with their colleagues and make transformative and reparative investments in the billions in marginalized Black communities and other communities of color.
In this powerful moment, residents all across the state, and especially Black and other New Jerseyans of color, are calling for our government to live up to its stated values, and operate a budget process that is truly inclusive of the marginalized communities across the state.
Members of the United Black Agenda
Elise Boddie, The Inclusion Project at Rutgers University – Newark
Rev. Charles Boyer, Founder and Director, Salvation and Social Justice NJ
Carolyn V. Chang, Esq., Past President of ABWL and Chair of ABWL’s Social Justice Committee
Rev. Eric Dobson, Deputy Director, Fair Share Housing Center
Jerome Harris, Chairperson Emeritus, NJ Black Issues Convention
Ryan Haygood, President and CEO, NJ Institute for Social Justice
Andrea McChristian, Law and Policy Director, NJ Institute for Social Justice
Brandon McKoy, President, New Jersey Policy Perspective
Richard Smith, President, NAACP NJ