Editor’s note: This column was originally published in Indianapolis Reporter.
Since the murder of George Floyd and the protests that have ensued, two words have been on my mind: Listen and Act.
I ran for the United States Senate because I wanted to represent all Hoosiers — not just those who look and think like me. To do that effectively, I have to take the time to understand as best as I can what people with different life experiences than me are going through.
I’m embarrassed that nearly two months after George Floyd’s death, Congress has still not passed much-needed police reform. I co-sponsored Sen. Tim Scott’s JUSTICE Act, but partisan politics kept it from even being debated publicly, much less voted on.
Still, I remain optimistic that Republicans and Democrats will come together to reform procedures, require and fund body cameras, mandate transparency and accountability in use-of-force incidents, and more to ensure that we don’t lose any more innocent lives.
But as I’ve listened to Black leaders across Indiana — not just this summer, but over the last three years — I’ve also heard loud and clear that criminal justice isn’t the only concern that needs to be addressed. Affordable housing, health care, job opportunities and education. These are all issues that you’ve told me are important.
These aren’t issues that only affect Black Americans, but they are issues that disproportionately affect Black Americans due in part to the lingering racism and inequity that dates back decades.
Eviction rates are higher in primarily Black neighborhoods. Black moms and babies are more than twice as likely to die during or after pregnancy. Black families are more likely to live in food deserts with little or no access to healthy groceries.
And while Black American unemployment reached record lows earlier this year, it remains especially challenging for our Black neighbors to get jobs. In fact, it takes an average of five weeks longer for a Black American to get hired, and too many workers are stuck in bad jobs because they’ve been forced to sign non-compete agreements.
Over the last three years, I’ve been working to make progress on these issues.
On housing, I’ve filed bills to end discriminatory zoning laws, reduce unnecessary evictions and make it easier for housing voucher recipients to relocate.
On health care, I’ve partnered with the Indiana Minority Health Coalition to find ways to work together on infant and maternal mortality, like supporting doulas. I wrote the law to raise the smoking age to 21, a measure that will prevent tobacco companies from hooking Black teens on their deadly products. We’re also working in other ways to address high-risk diseases like diabetes and working to lower prescription drug prices.
On education, I’m working so that young Black graduates can have a debt-free post-secondary education through Income Share Agreements. And we’re exploring ways to reform admissions processes that make it harder for Black students to get into college in the first place.
When it comes to jobs, my colleagues and I created Opportunity Zones so people are rewarded for investing in high-poverty neighborhoods. This simple action can help eliminate food deserts and create jobs in distressed ZIP codes. I’m also fighting to give workers the “freedom to leave” by eliminating those unfair non-compete clauses.
None of these ideas will be easy to achieve. To effect the kind of change you’ve been asking for we need a broad coalition of lawmakers. It will take a true partnership without partisanship.
As your US Senator, I want to be a part of that coalition. I will continue to listen. And I will continue to act to ensure all Americans have a fair shot at success.
If you have an issue you want me to hear about or a place you’d like me or my staff to visit, please call my downtown Indianapolis office at 317-226-6700 or email me at young.senate.gov/contact. I work for you.
Todd Young is a Republican US Senator representing Indiana.