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Taraji P. Henson shines a light on Project 2025 at the BET Awards

todayJuly 1, 2024 3

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Taraji P. Henson shines a light on Project 2025 at the BET Awards

The BET Awards, held on Sunday, June 30, 2024, featured musical performances, tributes, and recognition of outstanding achievements in Black entertainment. The event, known for celebrating African-American culture, typically focuses on artistic accomplishments rather than political issues. However, this year’s host, acclaimed actress Taraji P. Henson, used her position to raise awareness about a policy initiative that she believes could have significant consequences for the African-American community.

During a break between award presentations, Henson addressed the audience with a sense of urgency, stating, “I’m telling y’all, you better show up and show out. I’m being serious now. It’s not just about the presidential election, you guys. It’s time for us to play chess, not checkers.” She specifically mentioned Project 2025: “The Project 2025 plan is not a game. Look it up.”

Henson’s comments stood out amidst the entertainment-focused event, prompting many viewers and attendees to seek more information about Project 2025. Her choice to bring attention to this initiative during a high-profile awards show underscores the project’s perceived importance and potential impact on the African-American community.

What is Project 2025?

Project 2025 is a comprehensive policy agenda developed by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, in collaboration with over 50 other conservative organizations. The initiative aims to prepare for a Republican administration taking office in 2025 by providing a detailed blueprint for governance across various federal agencies and policy areas.

The core document of Project 2025, titled “Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise,” outlines a vision for reshaping the federal government according to conservative principles (p. xiii). The project encompasses four main components:

1. A detailed policy document providing recommendations for governing major federal agencies.

2. A personnel database for vetting and recommending individuals for government positions.

3. An online educational system to train potential administration personnel.

4. A set of transition plans for immediate implementation upon a new administration taking office.

The stated goals of Project 2025 include reducing the size and scope of the federal government, promoting traditional family values, securing national borders, and protecting individual rights and liberties as interpreted through a conservative lens (p. 1-17). The initiative advocates for significant changes across various policy areas, including education, healthcare, civil rights, and environmental regulations.

Potential Impact on African-Americans

Project 2025’s proposed policies could have wide-ranging effects on African Americans across several key areas:

1. Federal Employment: The initiative calls for a reduction in the size of the federal workforce, which could disproportionately affect African Americans. The plan aims to eliminate at least 50,000 federal civil service positions (p. 7-9). Given that African-Americans make up 18.2% of the federal workforce compared to 12.6% of the total population, this reduction could lead to job losses and decreased economic opportunities for many Black families.

2. Healthcare: Project 2025 advocates imposing work requirements on Medicaid recipients (p. 45-51). Research suggests this could disproportionately affect African Americans due to existing disparities in the low-wage job market. Studies indicate that Black Americans are about half as likely to be called back for entry-level jobs compared to white Americans, meaning they would be disproportionately burdened by such requirements. This could potentially fuel racial inequality in healthcare access.

3. Reproductive Rights: The plan calls for severely restricting abortion access nationwide (p. 5). This policy change could disproportionately impact Black women, who receive about one-third of all abortions in the country. Additionally, Black women are far more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related issues, making access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare a critical concern.

4. Education: Project 2025 proposes significant changes in education policy, including promoting school choice and alternatives to public education (p. 5-6). While proponents argue this could provide more options for African-American students, critics contend it might lead to reduced funding for public schools, which serve a large proportion of Black students. The initiative also calls for banning certain curriculum content related to racial issues like critical race theory, which could impact how African-American history and experiences are taught in schools.

Furthermore, the plan advocates for rolling back student debt relief efforts implemented by the Biden administration. This would particularly affect Black borrowers, who face a “disproportionate debt burden” and would bear the brunt of any large-scale debt regulation reversal.

5. Climate Policy: Project 2025 champions gutting climate regulations and clean energy programs (p. 378-379). This could disproportionately impact Black communities, as nearly 80% of Black Americans live near coal-fired power plants compared to 56% of white people. This proximity exposes Black communities to higher levels of pollution and associated health risks. The rollback of environmental protections could exacerbate existing health disparities and environmental injustices.

6. Civil Rights and Affirmative Action: The plan calls for eliminating affirmative action and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts across federal agencies and institutions (p. 5). According to legal experts, this could potentially reverse decades of progress in addressing systemic inequalities and reduce opportunities for African Americans in education and employment. Some analysts argue that these policies have been crucial in bringing Black Americans into the middle class, and their elimination could have far-reaching economic consequences.

7. Economic Policy: The initiative’s focus on deregulation and reducing government intervention in the economy could have mixed effects on African-American communities. It could create new business opportunities and remove certain protections and support systems.

It’s important to note that these policies’ actual implementation and effects would depend on various political, legal, and practical factors and may differ from the stated intentions in the Project 2025 document.

Reactions and Perspectives

Taraji P. Henson’s comments at the BET Awards brought Project 2025 to the attention of a wider audience, prompting diverse reactions from various stakeholders:

Supporters of Project 2025 argue that its policies would benefit all Americans, including African Americans, by promoting economic growth, reducing government overreach, and empowering individuals. They contend that the initiative’s focus on school choice and economic deregulation could create new opportunities for Black communities.

Critics, including some civil rights organizations and Democratic politicians, express concern that the proposed policies could disproportionately harm African Americans by rolling back hard-won progress in areas such as civil rights, healthcare access, and environmental protection. They argue that the initiative’s approach to issues like affirmative action and voting rights could exacerbate existing racial disparities.

Policy analysts and academics have noted Project 2025’s comprehensive nature, highlighting its potential to reshape federal policy significantly. Some have called for a more detailed analysis of how the proposed changes would specifically impact minority communities, particularly given the potential effects on employment, healthcare, education, and environmental justice for African Americans.

The discussion surrounding Project 2025 underscores the importance of civic engagement and awareness of policy initiatives that could significantly affect minority communities. As political discourse intensifies in the lead-up to the election, it will be crucial for voters to critically examine proposed policies and their potential consequences for all segments of American society, particularly those who may be disproportionately impacted. Since the RNC is just around the corner, taking place in Milwaukee, it would be interesting to see if Project 2025 would be a focus of conversation at the convention.

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Written by: Tarik Moody

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