As lawmakers return to Springfield this week to inaugurate the 101st General Assembly session, the Center for Racial and Gender Equity (CRGE) released the Illinois Legislative Racial Justice Scorecard to hold elected officials accountable to the policy priorities articulated by Black constituents across the state. With the goal of improving the transparency, accessibility and oversight of state government, the report equips readers with a quantified assessment of the racial equity impact of the state legislature as a whole, as well as that of individual members. The guide also includes a policy agenda which outlines CRGE’s recommendations for building racial justice across Illinois in the new legislative session.
CRGE’s analysis of the 100th General Assembly reveals a lawmaking body that actively subverts equity, justice and opportunity for Black communities across the state. In the 2017-2018 session, the overwhelming majority of general assembly members voted to escalate Illinois’ inhumane and racially targeted practices of mass incarceration and child detention, and to further empower local police to survey and harass Black communities. Moreover, state lawmakers failed to pass legislation that would adequately ensure fair protections and wages for workers, guarantee the democratic rights of Black voters, or promote equitable access to education, human services and economic opportunity.
While Republicans ranked consistently lower than Democrats, political complacency on racial justice issues in Springfield is not restricted to a single political party. Rather, an astonishing contingent of democratic legislators roundly ignored the concerns of Black constituents, and despite their majority control, the party as a whole failed to pass policies that would meaningfully address systemic racial inequity in Illinois.
The Racial Justice Scorecard concludes by detailing CRGE’s policy recommendations to build universal equity, justice and liberation in Illinois. CRGE calls upon lawmakers to answer the policy demands of Black constituents throughout the state, by enacting sweeping reform of sentencing laws, securing community control over the police, promoting workers rights and wages, investing equitably in public services, and ensuring fair voting rights and direct democracy for all.
CRGE believes communities of color deserve responsive political representation in Springfield. In order to advance policies that will reverse the institutionalized violence, displacement and extraction waged against Black Illinoisans for generations, constituents must play an active role in demanding accountability from elected officials. As we enter into the 101st General Assembly session, CRGE is working to assert political power in Springfield, amplifying the demands of Black communities and championing an ambitious policy agenda that platforms Black Liberation as an electoral imperative.