Summit for Civil Rights 2021
Summary of Transition Recommendations
An Agenda for Racial Justice and Middle Class Opportunity for All Americans Within a Metropolitan Framework
On July 30 and 31, 2020, over 50 civil rights leaders, including renowned scholars and litigators, clergy and faith leaders, grassroots organizers, labor union presidents and elected officials including powerful members of Congress, convened with over 500 participants to examine and call for action on today’s triple crisis of deadly racial injustice, vanishing middle class opportunity and toxic political polarization. One of our central conclusions is that spatial disparities (segregation by race and income), especially across America’s metropolitan regions, are significant and critical drivers of structural inequalities in wealth, education and opportunity, widening both race and class divides and contributing to our already fractured politics. What follows are recommendations for federal action for reducing these disparities and expanding an inclusive middle class through structural reform at the regional level.
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE
The first Summit for Civil Rights began on November 9, 2017 at the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis. It was held a year to the day after the election of Donald J. Trump and featured Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, Vice President Walter Mondale and many others. Since then, we have held two more gatherings sponsored by Rutgers University School of Labor Relations in New Brunswick, NJ and Georgetown University Law School’s Workers’ Rights Institute in Washington, DC. Between events, a core committee of Summit organizers representing civil rights scholars, labor leaders, law students, clergy and elected officials have been assembling research and analysis to produce a set of recommendations for a strategic approach and a policy agenda to address some of the most critical issues facing our country.
The Summit for Civil Rights held this past July was the latest in the series of three convenings that included, among others: House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, House Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, NEA President Becky Pringle, NAACP President Derrick Johnson, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, Vice President Walter Mondale, AME Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, NAACP Legal Defense Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill, AFT President Randi Weingarten, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman; and many other civil rights activists, litigators, scholars and experts in education, housing, finance and labor .
Our third Summit was held virtually under the cloud of the current health emergency and economic catastrophe resulting from the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the immediate crisis of the pandemic, the Summit for Civil Rights conference maintained its focus on addressing the three main interrelated topics listed above: racial injustice, economic inequality and political polarization in America. We did not ignore the pandemic. On the contrary, the still unfolding crisis has acted as an ill-timed and regrettable overlay that seems to have only magnified racial disparities, deepened economic inequality and widened the political divide.
This document is an attempt to summarize some of the key areas of transformational reform we believe can and must be pursued by Congress and the new Administration to move our country in a different and better direction. It hopes to unite the energies and the constituencies committed to racial justice and those focused on middle-class opportunity for all Americans—especially groups tied to civil rights and organized labor, including faith communities and local elected officials. Much of this argues for a regional, or metropolitan, approach to bringing us closer together as a country socially, politically and economically.