PODCAST: The future of race relations in California and across the nation

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The nation stands at a turning point on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with the inauguration of a new president just two days away.

After months of protests for racial justice, as well as the storming of the Capitol, the shift in power in Washington, D.C. is making way for the next stage of race relations.

California Senator Steven Bradford—who is also the new Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus—told KCBS Radio on Monday’s “The State of California” that he thinks race relations are at the “worst at any time in this country,” or least in his lifetime.

“I’m saddened by what has transpired, not only over last week but over the last year,” he said. “If Dr. King were here today, he’d probably be saddened at the fact that all we worked for has really not come to fruition here in the United States, as well as in California.”

Sen. Bradford said he thinks the division of the country has been exacerbated by President Donald Trump since his election in 2016, but that he has only pulled the “covers off and show what America is really about.”

“Many people keep stating, ‘This is not who we are,’ but this is really who we are,” he said. “We still have a racial divide, we still have discrimination that is clearly demonstrated all across this country on all levels.”

But Sen. Bradford is hopeful that President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ administration will “lend a new lens” to how race is looked at across the state and the nation.

He said the key to moving forward is honest dialogue and having conversations about the system racism that has existed since slavery and the founding of the country.

“Many folks want to walk through life with blinders on,” he said. “It’s not enough to say you’re not prejudice, it’s what you’re doing to end the systemic racism that exists in this country.”

In addition to continuing honest discourse, Sen. Bradford said pushing forth legislation that addresses the need for diversity in areas like education, healthcare, employment and the criminal justice system will be crucial.

He applauded the work the Legislative Black Caucus has done with what he considers “four of the top pieces of legislation that were celebrated at the end of last year,” including the need for police reform.

Sen. Bradford echoed the sentiments many racial equity advocates and activists have expressed about the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

“What we saw…was a clear, angry mob and 90% were white males and with weapons,” he said. “As we’ve discussed in the Black Caucus, had half of that crowd been African American, there would have been a whole lot of dead African Americans on the steps of that Capitol.”

He called out the Trump administration for perpetuating the incarceration inequities in African Americans and Latinos.

“Look at the folks who have been executed over the last 30-45 days under this president’s exit,” he said. “The majority of them have been African Americans.”

But he is hopeful, and said that the diversity of the people protesting last summer moved him.

“The Black Lives Matter protests unified this country in a way that I’ve never seen in a protest,” Sen. Bradford said. “You saw a rainbow of individuals. We need to keep that same type of unity, they need to stand by us and let their voices be heard.”