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Meet CNN's White House Correspondent Abby Phillip

Black girl magic, y'all can't stand it.

Politics

There's only a handful of Black women in the political commentator game and one that you should definitely get to know is Abby Phillip. At 31, the Virginia native is among the youngest White House correspondents but she isn't new to this, she's true to this. And she's had previous reporting positions at Politico, ABC News, The Washington Post and now CNN to prove it. However, two very visible moments of her journalistic career happened only within the past year.

Many began to take notice of Abby last fall. During a presidential briefing, she asked Donald Trump a question and he responded that her question was "stupid," which the Harvard grad is far. And the night before Joe Biden and Kamala Harris filled the 46th slot for President and Vice President of the United States, the nation was watching Abby when she boldly proclaimed live on TV:

"Not only would Black women put Joe Biden in the White House but they would also put a Black woman in the White House, as well. And while Donald Trump's political career began with the racist birther lie, it may very well end with a Black woman in the White House. Black women did that."

Abby's comment landed in publications like The New York Times and her social media following quadrupled. Minister Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, shared her appreciation with a tweet of Abby's headshot. If a full circle moment had a face, this is what it would look like.

Last month, Abby sat for an interview with The Bakari Sellers Podcast where she talked about everything from her college experience to her future writing goals. And get this, she didn't even plan for an on-air position; in fact, she tried TV with ABC News, didn't like it and accepted a position with The Washington Post. But as life has it, it brings you right back to where you're supposed to be.

Here are five interesting facts to know about Abby:

Abby’s initial career goal was in medicine or law.

"I was going to be a doctor. And if that didn't work out, I was probably going to be a lawyer."

It turned out chemistry wasn't her ministry. She told herself that if she couldn't do math, then she had to learn how to write. She ended up not pursuing law, either. Abby decided to write for The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper. She also became active in community service, ultimately getting her degree in government. What got her hooked on journalism was a school-sponsored public service trip to Oxford, Jackson and Sunflower County, Mississippi tracing the civil rights movement. She grew fascinated with it and wanted to be one of the journalists who brought the Deep South to the rest of the country.

Abby’s peers describe her as being more “reserved” than the typical reporter.

Abby describes herself as being a quiet child. After returning to the U.S. from Trinidad and Tobago at age nine, she was self-conscious about her accent so she didn't say much in class. Abby's teacher would send notes home to her parents saying that she needed to speak up. But that didn't deter her from excelling in a field dominated by more vocal peers who don't share our gender and/or look like us.

Today she still stands out from the crowd for her "poise" and "self-possession." John Harris, co-founder of Politico told The New York Times that Abby has always been "very quiet and ambitious, but she doesn't present in a flamboyant way like some ambitious people do."

However, that makes her observant and means she can be very analytical in her approach to her questions and she can offer profound but relatable commentary. CNN's political director David Chalian said:

"Abby has an intellect that is unmatched and she has a pretty unique ability to synthesize information quickly both in her reporting and her analysis, and deliver it in a way that meets the viewers where they are."

Abby never wanted to be on television.

As much as she loves Oprah, Abby doesn't have Oprah goals, meaning there's no talk show in her future. Abby didn't ever want her job to be about her appearance; she simply wanted to write the stories.

"Being a Black woman as a print reporter was not always front and center. Before Twitter, people wouldn't have really known I was a Black woman. The thing about being on TV is that, that becomes a part of who you are."

She’s writing a book on Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Abby wants to remind us that Black political power is still growing and that it didn't peak during the Obama years. In her book, she talks about the origin of Black political power beginning with Jackson's presidential candidacy and his place as a civil rights and political figure. She'll also produce some old receipts such as the one where he was once an international hostage negotiator. How many of us forgot all about that?!

"Political history is rarely told by Black people. His story deserves a retelling."

Abby's book is scheduled to be released spring/summer 2022 in time for midterm elections.

Abby may indirectly credit 45’s administration for making her an even better journalist.

Abby covered our forever POTUS' time in the White House but what she finds with this administration is that she spends so much time – sometimes days! – trying to get to the facts and she does want to be fair. She also wants to be accurate and on-point with her questions because she also notices that questioning from Black women seems to set 45 off quicker than questioning from other reporters. He'll go back-and-forth with reporters of other genders, who again don't look like us, but when it comes to Abby, Yamiche Alcindor or April Ryan, things go left immediately.

Of course, we know that 45 will gladly take credit for Abby's journalistic prowess and say the rest is just fake news. Let him tell it, he answers all questions politely and thoroughly. But what we do know to be true is that come January, Abby Phillip will still be covering the White House. And 45? Well, he'll be ushered out of it.

For more of Abby, follow her on Instagram at @abbydphillip.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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