“Yeah, I’ve got no house.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made the case Saturday that her Green New Deal would address wealth inequalities caused by systemic racism.
Speaking at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, the freshman Democrat from New York sought to portray her sweeping proposal for environmental and social justice as more race-conscious than the original New Deal.
“A lot of people don’t know this story of the New Deal, a lot of people don’t know what redlining is,” she said, referring to the federal government’s one-time refusal to insure mortgages in black neighborhoods.
Ocasio-Cortez went on to argue that a lack of understanding of the policies behind white wealth helps promote racism against African-Americans and other minorities.
“When people are not educated about the tools and the systems that created racial wealth gap disparities or other wealth gap disparities … you create this gaping maw in which someone can tell a racist story that kind of tells people why a certain community is poor.”
“They’re poor because they’re lazy. They’re poor because they’re uneducated. They’re poor because this,” Ocasio-Cortez continued, mimicking a racist. “Where no ones say they’re poor because they’re redlining and everyone else inherited a house except for people of color.”
“Yeah, I’ve got no house,” said Ocasio-Cortez’s interviewer, The Intercept editor Briahna Gray, who is black.
“Yeah, yeah, exactly,” Ocasio-Cortez agreed.
The congresswoman presumably does not actually believe that all white people inherit homes, but rather sought to illustrate the fact that white Americans hold much more wealth on average than blacks, in part because of higher rates of home ownership.
Gray had earlier in the conversation asked Ocasio-Cortez about what she said is an “emerging consensus” that it is impossible to address economic inequality without creating special programs for minorities.
Ocasio-Cortez responded that the country should seek to transcend race rather than focusing on racism. But at the same time, she promised that her Green New Deal would prioritize the needs of “people of color.”
“This is why the intersectional frontline community aspect of the Green New Deal is so important, because it allows indigenous communities to lead, black and brown communities to have a certain self determination that has not existed in public policy for these communities before. We fix the pipes in Flint first, we clean the air in the Bronx first, we rebuild the electrical grids in Puerto Rico” she said, pausing before adding, “and we fully fund the pensions of coal miners in West Virginia at the same time.”
Ocasio-Cortez, who received a rock star’s reception at South by Southwest, also defended her democratic socialist agenda by embracing the mantle of political radicalism.
“It feels like ‘moderate’ is not a stance. It’s just an attitude toward life of like ‘mmm,'” she added. “When we think about the greatest things we have every accomplished as a society have been ambitious acts of vision, and the meh is like worshipped now for what, like for what?”
Echoing President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign rhetoric, Ocasio-Cortez essentially argued that she just wants to make American great again.
“This is what we’ve always been. It’s just that now we’ve strayed so far away from what has really made us powerful, and just, and good, and equitable, and productive,” she said. “And so I think all of these things sound radical compared to where we are, but where we are is not a good thing, and this idea of like 10 percent better from garbage shouldn’t be what we settle for.”
However, unlike Trump, who has mocked the Green New Deal, Ocasio-Cortez argued that America needs to return to a more socialist system because capitalism is “irredeemable.”
“Capitalism is an ideology of capital – the most important thing is the concentration of capital and to seek and maximize profit,” she said. “And that comes at any cost to people and to the environment, so to me capitalism is irredeemable.”
Although Ocasio-Cortez said that some aspects of capitalism are OK, she went on to explain that her brand of democratic socialism is all about putting people above profit.
“We’re reckoning with the consequences of putting profit above everything else in society. And what that means is people can’t afford to live,” she said. “For me, it’s a question of priorities and right now I don’t think our model is sustainable.”
She dismissed conservative’s concerns about her vaguely defined left-wing ideology as “fear mongering” about a government takeover of the economy.
“We should be scared right now because corporations have taken over our government,” she said.