No governor in America has displayed more empathy for the poor, people of color, and historically marginalized groups than California Gavin Newsom. Newsom apologized to Native Americans for genocide and proposed giving $100 million to purchase ancestral lands. He returned land seized by the government from a black family 100 years ago to its descendants. And he signed legislation making California the first state to protect the right of black people to wear their hair in natural styles.
But those were all highly symbolic acts that had no impact on the lives of California’s poor, people of color, and historically marginalized groups. It was already illegal to discriminate against employees based on race under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.
California Gov. Jerry Brown had already acknowledged the genocide against Native Americans and $100 million is a pittance compared to the $9 billion in annual revenues for California’s Native American casinos.
And Newsom has done nothing to help black families who were discriminated against after World War II in the form of red-lining and other measures that deprived them homeownership. Newsom promised to add 500,000 new housing units per year but instead added just 100,000.
It’s true that Newsom launched the nation’s first effort to consider reparations for slavery, but California never allowed slavery, reinforcing the purely symbolic nature of Newsom’s action.
Meanwhile, no governor in America implemented policies on covid, crime, and climate change that disproportionately hurt poor people and people of color more than Gavin Newsom.
Start with covid. Gavin Newsom kept public school students out of classrooms until the fall of 2021, even though everybody knew that this would hurt minority students the most.
And it did. A new Harvard University study confirmed that the big racial gaps in math achievement did not widen in Texas and Florida where classroom instruction remained in person.
Were Newsom’s own children impacted? Of course not. They were in private school.
What about crime? Newsom’s policies massively increased the death toll of open air drug markets and crime in minority neighborhoods. Homicides in California went up by nearly a third under Newsom, and drug overdoses have gone up by nearly 100 percent since Newsom took office, which disproportionately impacted minority Californians.
And climate change? Newsom has used his climate change policies to worsen environmental injustice, energy poverty, and racial inequity.
There’s no worse form of structural racism than on housing, due to redlining, and Newsom’s policies only made housing more scarce, making it the new redlining.
Why is that?
The main reason is because Newsom only cares about himself — and becoming president. He is laser focused on symbolic actions because those are the ones he believes Democratic voters in Iowa and New Hampshire care about.
Not me. I’ve been fighting for racial equity for all my life. I’m proud to serve on the two most important civil rights organizations in America, one of which is specifically dedicated to housing equity, and the other to Martin Luther King’s anti-racist vision.
I want to see life — real life — improve for ordinary people, no matter the color of their skin.
And I believe that Californians, and all Americans, are tired of symbolic actions, and of the radical Wokeism that divides us. Californian voters have rejected racial preferences not once but twice, in recent decades.
It’s true that no governor in America has displayed more empathy for people of color than California Gavin Newsom, but those displays are empty. It’s time to move beyond cynical virtue signaling, and embrace policies that are good for everyone.
Michael Shellenberger is a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment,” and president of Environmental Progress. Follow him on Twitter @ShellenbergerMD.