Why Texas’ only Rep. Jasmine Crockett: Black first-year Democrat refuses to give up voting rights fight
But after being the victim of racist hate mail while studying at Rhodes College undergraduate and seeing black people dealing with inequalities in the criminal justice system, both careers became a calling she had to fulfill.
Today, Crockett is making waves as an outspoken and passionate lone black freshman Democrat in the Texas state legislature. During her first year in the State House of Representatives, Crockett proposed more than 60 bills – many of which were drafted herself – that attacked criminal justice reform, the loosening drug laws and expanding access to voting. Although none of them succeeded, she did not give up.
Crockett said she came into office determined to stand up for vulnerable Texans and refused to be silenced by more experienced colleagues who don’t always agree with her.
“My intention was to make sure my constituency knew absolutely that their voices were being heard,” Crockett said. “I never intended to sit on my hands and let lies unchecked.”
Crockett’s leadership among Texas House Democrats in Washington is consistent with his continued advocacy for voters of color in Texas. Since her election last July, she has introduced bills that would create online voter registration and same-day voter registration, increase ballot boxes, codify drive-thru voting and allow voters who turn 18 in time for the general election to be able to vote. at primary.
“If we can’t fight for us, then I don’t know who is going to fight for us,” Crockett said.
Crockett said ensuring that voters have equal access to ballots is key to increasing voter turnout, noting that when more people vote, Democrats often win because “we tend to fight for a plus. large number of people “.
A fight for criminal justice reform
As a civil rights lawyer who previously worked as a public defender, Crockett learned about the state’s criminal justice system and knew what she wanted to change as a Texas lawmaker.
She filed bills which she said would minimize police contact with blacks and browns and save them from “unreasonable use of force.”
For example, Crockett proposed a law that would allow people facing non-violent offenses to receive citations instead of jail time. Other bills would reduce the length of time people are held before being formally charged and relax the penalties and restrictions surrounding cannabis use.
Crockett has run into opposition from Democrats and Republicans with these bills and has yet to see anything go through.
“It’s just frustrating and disappointing,” she said.
Yet Crockett receives praise and praise from some colleagues in the state legislature.
Texas State Representative Ron Reynolds has been a mentor to Crockett since his election. Reynolds said he trained her on the culture of the state legislature and encouraged her to speak out on issues that mattered to her.
Reynolds said it’s rare for a first-year lawmaker to speak up and introduce so many bills, but he advised Crockett not to let his colleagues’ reaction stop him.
“A lot of people will try to silence someone like her and I didn’t think it was better for the fiery personality that she is,” he said. “She’s a strong advocate for her constituents. She’s a great speaker, she does due diligence and she prepares.”
From the courtroom to the State Capitol
Crockett decided during his university studies that practicing law – instead of his original career goal in anesthesiology – would allow him to help those facing inequity and racism. She recalls needing a lawyer when someone left a racist hate mail in their campus mailbox and when her black friends brought their cars into campus.
“I wanted to be that shero who could help people at a very confusing and difficult time,” Crockett said. “I went ahead and took this coat.”
Crockett spent more than a decade working as a lawyer, including a stint as a public defender in Bowie County, Texas, and then opened her own private practice focusing on civil rights law in Dallas in 2015.
As a public defender, she realized that most of the people who needed the help of public defenders were black. She also acknowledged that people of color face harsher penalties than whites, she said. Crockett studied the Code of Criminal Procedure and focused on helping people of color get reduced obligations and shorter prison terms.
In 2010, she ran for the Bowie County District Attorney in hopes of being able to make more changes. She was beaten in the race.
“I was constantly walking through courtrooms where the disparities are glaring,” Crockett said. “To me, I was like we need to change the laws regarding how we are monitored. We need to change the laws regarding what is considered criminal activity.”
She said she announced her candidacy for State House in 2019 after seeing her Dallas district suffer from high poverty and high incarceration rates.
“Honestly, I didn’t think we had the firepower in Austin,” Crockett said. “And I said that was what I had to do and that it was the time.”
A “modern day civil rights movement”
For Crockett and other Democrats, getting to Washington was an emergency as Republicans in Texas were on the verge of a sweeping election overhaul that would make postal voting more difficult; ban drive-thru voting centers and 24-hour voting; make poll observers accountable, making it easier for courts to overturn election results; “Souls at the polls” of black churches effectively outlawed are coming out of the electoral campaign and more.
Crockett said federal legislation is the only way to save millions of Texas voters from being denied the right to vote. The restrictions could also impact next year’s mid-terms in which Abbott is running for re-election.
Crockett said the battle for the right to vote looks like a “modern day civil rights movement.”
“They are there for ego success and they are looking for solutions,” Pittman said. “Women of color are more productive with sponsorship or co-sponsorship legislation.”
Despite facing an uphill battle to pass legislation, Crockett has become a leading voice for black and brown Texans and garnered support from other black leaders as well as voting activists who l ‘joined in Washington.
Crockett said one of his most powerful support systems was his sisterhood Delta Sigma Theta. The sorority sisters, she said, came to the Texas Capitol to support her during hearings on the passage of the legislation and worked on her campaign.
Her sorority sister Crystal Ward was among the campaign volunteers who knocked on doors and made phone calls.
“It makes me proud to know that a sorority friend and sister is doing a good job, getting into big trouble,” Ward said. “She sticks with everything she believes in, she’s really for people.”