Washington, D.C.—Ahead of the Juneteenth holiday marking the end of slavery in the United States, JEC Vice Chair Don Beyer (D-VA)—joined by Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA), the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (D-OH), the First Vice Chair of the CBC and a JEC member—today re-released two recent committee reports that shed light on the racial disparities at the root of both the coronavirus and police misconduct. The reports—The Economic State of Black America in 2020—and—The Impact of Coronavirus on the Working Poor and People of Color, released in February and April respectively, include updated data on both issues.

“As a Black man in America, George Floyd—murdered by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25—was more likely to die from the coronavirus, and more likely to die at the hands of law enforcement. But Floyd survived the coronavirus, a recent autopsy revealed, only to be killed by a police officer who kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds until he suffocated,” said Congressman Beyer (D-VA).

Congressman Beyer (D-VA) continued, “The end of Floyd’s life illustrates a fact that many experts have pointed out: the community that is bearing the brunt of the coronavirus is the same community that is bearing the brunt of police misconduct—Black Americans. Ahead of Juneteenth, it is important that we remember and reflect on all the ways that Black Americans have fought and still fight for freedom in a country that is supposed to be the ‘land of the free’—especially now as people take to the streets in the name of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and other Black Americans whose lives should have mattered to those they paid to protect and serve them.”

“For Black America, these last few months have been nothing short of a pandemic upon a pandemic," said Congresswoman Bass (D-CA), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. "However, as we respond to the immediate issues we cannot ignore systemic racism which has simply been exacerbated due to COVID-19. In May, the House passed the HEROES Act, which would provide a substantial boost to the economy during the second half of this year, when the economy is most vulnerable to the pandemic and at most risk of sliding back into recession. If we are really concerned about alleviating the impact of COVID-19 on the African American community, then the HEROES Act needs to urgently be made a law. Black America cannot continue to bear this brunt."

“This year’s Juneteenth celebration comes as our nation and the world confront the COVID-19 pandemic that has exposed deep inequities not just here at home but abroad," said Congresswoman Beatty (D-OH), First Vice Chair of the CBC and a member of the JEC. "The pandemic has disproportionately impacted the Black community and has laid bare disparities in healthcare, employment, housing, policing and our justice system. In fact, the unemployment rate for Black Americans is twice that for Whites, Black homeownership rates are approaching a 50-year low and the median wealth of Black families is one-tenth that of White families."

Congresswoman Beatty (D-OH) continued, "In this moment of crisis, it will take all Americans to work together to overcome the pandemic and to address the long-term systemic discrimination faced by the Black community which the pandemic has exacerbated. These reports issued by the JEC Democrats, under the leadership of Vice Chair Don Beyer, enumerate the many challenges Black Americans face due to structural and entrenched racism and show that the time is now to have a truth and reconciliation process to end racial disparities, unequal treatment and societal injustices that are the long-standing vestiges of slavery in America.”

Juneteenth—also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, and Cel-Liberation Day—is an American holiday celebrated annually on June 19. It commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers—led by General Gordon Granger—arrived in Galveston, TX, with the news that the Civil War had ended and that all previously enslaved people were free.

Last week, President Trump announced that he would resume holding campaign rallies, the first of which would be held on June 19, in Tulsa, OK, the site of one of the worst incidents of white supremacist violence against Black Americans in U.S. history—the 1921 Tulsa race massacre. After receiving backlash, he changed the date to the following day, June 20.

About Congressman Beyer

Congressman Beyer is currently serving his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Northern Virginia suburbs of the nation’s capital. In addition to his role as Vice Chair of the JEC, Beyer serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Previously, Beyer served as the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia and Ambassador to Switzerland and built a successful family business over the course of four decades.