MelissaHarris-Perry: This is The Takeaway. I'm Melissa Harris-Perry, and I have a few questions. First, how satisfied are you with the direction the country is headed? Do you support abolishing the filibuster in the Senate? Has your household financial situation gotten worse during the pandemic? These are just some of the questions asked in a recent survey of a random sample of Black adults in America. The survey is part of the Black to the Future Action Fund. It's a temperature check series, and the responses point to the continuing burdens of the pandemic and growing dissatisfaction with the current policy environment.
I spoke with Alicia Garza, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network, and the head of the Black to the Future Action Fund.
Alicia Garza: One of the things that we know is that Black communities are often left out of the conversation, or our experiences and the things we want to see are dictated to us, rather than listen to from us. What we decided to do earlier this year is to do a Temperature Check Poll, where essentially we're taking a temp check every other month of what it is that Black communities want to see from their government. How we are experiencing the public policy that's shaping our lives, and what we want to see done about that public policy.
We have been working with our partners at Socioanalítica Research, to really capture the Black experience and help shape the agenda that is coming out of the White House, and also the agendas that are coming out of our state legislatures. Through this poll, we're asking people to weigh in on the state of the country, the state of our leadership, policy priorities, and how issues like the COVID-19 pandemic and its health and economic consequences are impacting us. We are trying to provide key insights on what we experience, what we want, and what we need to become powerful.
Yesterday, we released the results of the second survey of our poll that was taken in September, and the first one that we did was conducted in July.
MelissaHarris-Perry: Give me you a couple of the top lines. What in the broadest sense have you found?
Alicia Garza: One of the things that we've found is that Black communities are going backwards as it relates to relief and recovery. In particular, we've lost protections in two key areas. One is about stopping evictions, and the other is about expanding unemployment benefits. Our polls show that Black folks are feeling the brunt of government not working for us, even though we're working hard for it, and this incomplete and incorrect belief that the pandemic has subsided.
What we see here through our poll is that more than half of the people that we talk to are dissatisfied with the state of the economy, and that's a 17% point increase since July. We've also found that a third of renters and mortgage holders are not confident that they're going to be able to make their payments on time. Nearly half have said that they're having difficulty paying for household expenses. We also found the dissatisfaction with the direction of the country and with the state of the economy has significantly increased, and the approvals of the president, governors, and Congress is also decreasing.
MelissaHarris-Perry: You're saying that since President Biden has been elected and inaugurated, since we've had what is presumably at least a numeric majority or a tie in the US House and the US Senate, that you're finding a reduction of satisfaction, and less sense of efficacy and optimism about the future among Black folk?
Alicia Garza: That's exactly what we're saying, and that's exactly with the poll shows. When President Biden was elected, there was a lot of hopefulness about the direction of the country, particularly given what we were coming out of under the Trump administration. We saw high approval rates of the president and the vice president, and we also saw high approval rates in terms of Congress and governors, but over time, what we're seeing in is that Black communities have significantly less confidence in the job that the president is doing, the jobs that governors are doing and Congress. Because we're seeing time after time, even though we showed up and showed out, our priorities are not staying on the table.
MelissaHarris-Perry: Is this primarily about the economic pieces that you had just cited about the continuing struggles to just make ends meet?
Alicia Garza: We saw this when we did the Black Census in 2018, that the number one issue that Black communities cared about. The number one issue that was keeping us awake at night were wages that were too low to support a family, followed by a lack of access to affordable and quality housing. Then, of course, followed by a lack of access to affordable and quality healthcare. These are all economic issues. These are all safety and support issues. When we were going into 2020, some of the things that Black folks were saying that we wanted to see was more economic security. We wanted to see government work for us.
Certainly, there was a lot of hope that President Biden, particularly through the campaigning he was doing, was going to put the core issues that Black communities are facing on the table and get things done. What we're finding is that Black communities are seeing that things are not getting done when it comes to relief and recovery from the pandemic. There's an assumption that it's over. Even though we had that brief burst of stimulus, we are finding again that some of the most popular solutions that Black communities want to see is an ongoing stimulus to help make sure that we are able to come out of this pandemic fully recovered, and that's not happening.
We're also seeing that Black folks want to see bold action from Congress. More than two-thirds of respondents to this poll said that they wanted to see the filibuster amended so that things could get done. Yet, as we're looking at what's happening with the infrastructure bill, we're seeing that it is that very tool that is in the way of relief and recovery for Black communities. That's why I think we're starting to see that satisfaction is decreasing, because time and time again, we're seeing that the priorities of Black communities with the economy being at the top are not getting done, and they're not getting dealt with.
MelissaHarris-Perry: Let's talk a little bit more about solutions as well. You've talked about some of those economic solutions, for example, the continuing stimulus and support to ensure that Black communities can actually emerge from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. What are some of those other economic solutions, but also some of the ones that you asked about and found out about around racism and white supremacy?
Alicia Garza: Look, what Black communities want is bold action. We want to see real solutions for real people. We don't want our government to be organized around a bogeyman, that never seems to come out of the shadows. What we actually need right now is bold and creative solutions that are going to give our communities relief and push our communities ahead. What we are doing is we're saying to the Biden-Harris Administration, we are saying to Congress, "Go bold or go home." That is a dire warning for the midterm elections coming up in just a couple of months.
Congress has the opportunity to pass bold legislation, but we have to use the power that Black voters provided. What we want to see is to pass this $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act before passing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Earlier this year, we released our Build Back Bolder mandate, as a policy roadmap for elected leaders, who committed to advancing racial equity, and we collected more than 50,000 endorsements for this mandate. Among some of these demands include expanding the Child Tax Credit payment and making it permanent, making substantial investments into affordable housing, passing comprehensive legislation to pass and expand voting rights, because democracy is crumbling before our eyes.
We need to see the Freedom to Vote Act, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act moved through Congress, if we want to have fair elections in 2022. We also think that what we want to see here is to challenge the policies and practices that leave us sick and dying younger, and deliver the care that we need to live long and live well.
One of the big things that came up in the poll was this conversation about white supremacy and white nationalism. We know that there's been a commission that's been convened, but we need to see bold action there. We need to make that there are consequences when actions are taken that threaten the health and well-being of our communities. What we need to do there is to see a rejection of the toxic culture of white nationalism, by addressing it in every opportunity and in front of every audience.
MelissaHarris-Perry: Alicia Garza is co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network, and the head of the Black to the Future Action Fund. Thank you for joining us, Alicia.
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