U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand took her new presidential campaign to Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in Harlem for Martin Luther King Day — saying white women needed to be part of the fight against institutional racism in the United States.
“It cannot be left to people of color alone. It is wrong to ask men and women of color to bear these burdens every single day, the same fights over and over again,” said Gillibrand, who launched an exploratory campaign last week. “White women like me must bear part of this burden and commit to amplifying your voices.”
The remarks were Gillibrand’s first in the city after she did a swing through Iowa over the weekend — but not her first at Sharpton’s “House of Justice.” In 2009, she delivered one of her first speeches as an incoming Democratic senator there.
“One thing I’ve learned is: don’t underestimate he — because nobody knew her name and now everybody knows her name, and she started at the House of Justice,” Sharpton told the crowd Monday.
In her remarks, Gillibrand returned to a line she’s been road-testing for the last week, promising to fight like she would for her own family.
“I’m going to run for president of the United States of America because as person of faith and as a mother, I cannot sit idly by — I will fight for your children as hard as I will fight for my own,” she said.
Gillibrand rattled off a series of startling statistics — that black women are 12 times more likely to die in childbirth in New York than white women; that black or brown men are ten times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites.
“If I really do care about your family as much as I care about my own, it is my fight — it has to be my fight,” she said.
As she did a year ago — when Sharpton teased that he’d recruit her to run for president — Gillibrand quoted scripture, quoting the book of Matthew and its direction to let light shine in dark places.
But she said President Trump — “this person in the White House,” as she called him — had instead “chosen to tear this country apart” on racial and religious lines.
“He has inspired a hate and a darkness in this country that I have never witnessed myself. He is tearing apart the very fabric of who we are as a nation,” she said. “He has added fuel to a very ugly fire.”
Gillibrand relied again on Ephesians for another quote, saying it was time to “put on the full armor of God” and the “bright breastplate of righteousness.”
“I feel very called at this moment to do what is right and to fight,” she said. “Please join me.”
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