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On Friday, June 19, Axios' markets reporter Dion Rabouin hosted a discussion on the history of Juneteenth and the current nationwide protests against police violence, featuring former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, BET founder Robert Johnson and activist DeRay Mckesson.

Robert Johnson discussed the history of Juneteenth and his advocacy around reparations.

  • On reparations and race relations: "Reparations is a demand on the part of African-Americans that we be made whole for the wealth that was stolen from slaves over a 300 year period...My position is that white America should recognize the debt and black Americans should be proud to accept the atonement."
  • How slavery laid the foundation for racial income inequality: "It is no secret that the net income of a white family is $170,000 on average. The net income of a black family is $17,000. That 10-fold disparity can be traced directly back to the wealth transfer that started with slave labor."

Mayor Sylvester Turner focused on policy decisions around policing in Houston, and responded to calls for defunding the police.

  • On his decision to increase police funding: "We need policing. [People] are asking for good policing. They're asking for a policing system that's accountable. They're also going beyond that...They want to be investing in communities and neighborhoods that have been overlooked and under invested in for decades."

Valerie Jarrett discussed the ongoing demonstrations around the country and the upcoming election in November.

  • On the importance of civil rights during this political moment: "We need a robust civil rights division...in deciding how you want to vote, you should say, are the people who are in office actually worrying about the civil rights of all Americans and not just some Americans?"
  • On how to make cultural progress: "It's not good enough to just say, 'Look, I'm not a racist.' What you have to say is: 'What am I going to do to help change our culture, to make it better?' There's something that we can all do individually. There's certainly something the business community can do."

DeRay Mckesson highlighted how the present moment invites people to reimagine the concept of safety.

  • "The question is not police, no police. The question is like, how do I stay safe and what does safety look like? The police are not the best answer to that. The police aren't the only answer to that. And the police shouldn't be the answer that we fund when we think of that question."

Thank you Bank of America for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

California passes a swath of police reform laws

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaking in Los Angeles in 2019. Photo: Agustin Paullier/AFP via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Wednesday signed collection of policing bills that outlaw the use of chokeholds, allow the state Department of Justice to investigate police shootings and give counties added oversight of sheriff's departments, according to a statement from his office.

Why it matters: The laws add to the wave of reform bills introduced across the U.S. after the May police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Newsom also signed bills related to the state's juvenile justice system and legal protections.

Justice Department closes Emmett Till murder probe

A faded photograph is attached to the headstone that marks the gravesite of Emmett Till in Burr Oak Cemetery in Chicago. Photo: Scott Olson via Getty Images

The family of Emmett Till announced Monday that the Department of Justice has formally closed its second investigation into the 1955 murder of Emmett Till.

Why it matters: The DOJ reopened the probe in 2018 after the white woman at the center of the case reportedly recanted her allegation that Till, a Black 14-year-old, sexually harassed her prior to his murder.

GOP Rep. Devin Nunes to retire, will be CEO of Trump media org

Rep. Devin Nunes. Photo: Dylan Hollingsworth/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who serves as the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, will retire at the end of the year and become CEO of Trump's new media organization.

Why it matters: Nunes, once considered a moderate member of the party, became one of the fiercest defenders of former President Donald Trump throughout both of Trump's impeachments and the Intel committee's Russia investigation.