Frontrunning Democratic Presidential Hopefuls Discuss Black Issues At BEA Presidential Forum

Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and more were on hand.

Four Democratic presidential candidates showcased their ideas for economic rejuvenation in the Black community on Sunday (June 16) during the Black Economic Alliance at the Charleston Music Hall in South Carolina.

Held just nine blocks away from Emanuel AME, the church where a white supremacist shot and killed nine parishoners during a bible study nearly four years ago, the forum featured Sen. Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke. The candidates were interviewed by award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien. U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris delivered their own messages via video.

Beto O’Rourke spoke about his goals of ending discrimination in the work place and the dissatisfaction African Americans have voiced about not reaping the economic benefits the United States has to offer.

He also proposed a Paycheck Fairness Act that would "allow employees to share salary, income, and wage information without being punished for doing it.”

"It would free them from mandatory arbitration clauses that preclude them from being able to use courts to hold employers and corporations accountable,” he continued to a cheering audience. “And it would do this – it would stop using past salary history as a basis for future salary going forward."

Elizabeth Warren, who, if she were president, would propose eliminating criminal history from job applications and stressed the importance of investing in the African American community.

“This is something the United States government should be able to provide,” she explained. “I have a plan to set aside $7 billion to be there for equity investments for Black and other minority-owned business. It would support about 100,000 Black and other minority-owned businesses to get them up and started and create about 1 million jobs across the country. That's a win-win for everyone."

Investing in Black communities was also a selling point coming from Pete Buttigieg, who was the forum’s third guest. He says racism is systemic in accessing loans and other financial services.

"We know that there are a lot of issues with the way that credit scoring and credit assessments are done right now," he said. "I'm very worried, living in an era where more and more of this is going to be done by algorithms and big data, that we're going to automate inequality. We need to look wholesale at how things like access to credit and scoring of credit work to break down racial bias.”

Sen. Booker focused on addressing the disproportionate amount of savings the Black community has verses whites and proposed setting aside money to give to every child through a “baby bonds” program.

"Data shows that a child just knowing they have an interest-bearing account there for them increases college attendance rates threefold," he said. "The baby bonds legislation that I have puts $1,000 into a savings account for every child born in America. By the time that you're 18, if you are (among) the lowest-income Americans, you actually would have up to $50,000 to put towards training, to put towards college or buying a home -- the things that we know, the data shows, create generational wealth.”

A recent poll commissioned by the BEA found that 72 percent of respondents were dissatisfied with the economic situation for Black Americans. Eighty-one percent said it is hard for people to reach the so-called American Dream.

The Black Economic Alliance Presidential Forum was televised on Sunday (June 16) at 10 a.m. on BET. If you missed it, you can watch the entire program below.

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