ATLANTIC CITY — Presidential candidate and Democratic U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris on Saturday outlined her plan to close the racial wealth gap and criticized President Donald Trump during a speech at Harrah’s Resort.
“We are better than this,” Harris told the crowd of hundreds as they gave her a standing ovation. “As I stand here before you today, as a serious and, as they call it, top-tier candidate to be the next president of the United States, I will tell you that we have a fight in front of us.”
Harris, who spoke during the Leadership Conference of Omega Psi Phi, one of the nation’s largest black fraternities, also talked about being raised as a daughter of the Civil Rights Movement and the work she’s done for criminal justice reform as a prosecutor, district attorney and attorney general in California.
While the bulk of the audience was made up of fraternity brothers who, as part of a nonpartisan group, would not comment to The Press of Atlantic City, members of the public also attended.
“I’m an African American, and the fact that she is black and a woman is very interesting to me,” said Alice Clay, 62, of Raleigh, North Carolina, just before the speech. “But, just because she’s black and a woman is not enough.”
Clay said she likes some of Harris’ policies but didn’t know what all of them were, so hearing Harris speak was her opportunity to get a better idea of them.
Harris talked about her “3 a.m. agenda” — the issues she said she wants to solve that keep the majority of Americans up at night, including the racial wealth gap.
The average black family in America has only a fraction of the wealth of other families, Harris said, molded by a history of lack of access to home ownership and predatory lending practices often targeting black, brown and immigrant families during the previous decade’s foreclosure crisis.
Harris’ three steps include changing the way credit scores are assessed to include rent, utility and other bills on time, create stronger anti-discrimination lending laws and require enforcement, and invest $100 billion to allow 4 million families in red-lined and federally subsidized housing to cover a down payment and closing costs on a home.
“By taking these steps, we could shrink the wealth gap in the United States between black households and others by at least one third,” she said.
Also during her speech, Harris criticized Trump, whom she referred to as the “current occupant of the White House.” She questioned his 2016 campaign slogan, “Make American Great Again” by asking “Again for who?”
She said they must “successfully prosecute the case against another four years of Donald Trump in the White House,” adding there is “quite a rap sheet on which we can base that prosecution.”
Trump reneged on his promises to help working-class families with his “trade policy by tweet” and his tax bill that “benefits the top 1% and the biggest corporations in this country,” she said. She also attacked his policies on health care, criminal justice and climate change.
Outside the Wildwood Ballroom where Harris spoke, Veronica Brooks said Harris has a “great perspective on leading and uniting the community.”
“She’s a remarkable speaker,” said Brooks, 36, of New York City. “I’m impressed with her vision for not only the country but in our communities.”
Her sister, Amanda Brooks, 34, said Harris sounded like she had a strategy. She called the speech “inspiring.”
“She’s fighting the root causes and not the symptoms,” Veronica Brooks said. “She’s genuine, authentic and she cares about all Americans and their well-being.”