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Harris Viewpoints: Vanessa Uribe (CLA'20) on the Divisions Made Clear in 2020

As a part of Harris Public Policy’s coverage of the 2020 election in conjunction with the Center for Effective Government, we reached out to other experts in the field to share their perspective on the 2020 election. These are their opinions and perspectives, informed by their life experiences and worldviews (and do not necessarily reflect the views of Harris).

A lot of people are calling this election the “most important of our lifetime.” What’s most at stake in this election, and what makes this one different from past ones?

This election has offered us a front row seat to the division within our country. The movement for black lives insists that our government finally recognize in policy and practice that Black lives matter. The children separated from their families and placed in cages on our southern border seek fair immigration policies that give them and all immigrants the ability to contribute to our society in ways generations of immigrants have done before them, while being treated with dignity as human beings. The countless women across the country who are told what they can and can’t do with their own bodies demand that the Supreme Court leave them alone once and for all. The victims of COVID, disproportionately black and brown, expect to live in a society where your zip code doesn’t determine your outcomes or makes you higher risk during a global pandemic. Yet still, this election has reminded us that there are plenty of Americans who see nothing wrong with any of this. Plenty who feel that America is great for them. This election is reflective of a deeply divided country, one that was built on a white supremacist foundation hundreds of years ago, that’s been maintained by those who benefit from that power. It’s not new. What makes this election different is that the dog whistles of yesterday have become the blowhorns of today. We can thank our current president for that. This election could validate racism, sexism, fascism and bigotry in all its forms, ultimately resulting in policies that can affect us for decades to come. We are holding up a mirror to ourselves during this election, and it’s not pretty. Our values are at stake.

How might the election impact your work in the Chicago civic space? What, if anything, have you been doing this cycle to make those impacts clear to those you work with?

Elected officials down the ballot play a crucial role in deciding what programs we prioritize and how we allocate our resources. This election could have a direct impact on our economic and community development response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last few months, the Bureau of Economic Development has used federal CARES funding to develop programs aimed at reducing the impact of COVID-19 on small business and residents across the County. To ensure these limited resources reach those who need them most, we have partnered with local community organizations to encourage participation and increase outreach. Without this funding, many of our small businesses and residents would face significant financial hardship. Given the uncertainty of this election and future federal stimulus funds to support this work, efforts will focus on advocating for additional funding streams to continue these programs as we know that the economic recovery from COVID-19 will take time. Centering equity in this work, while strengthening community partnerships, demonstrates a clear commitment to stand by our most vulnerable populations during this difficult time.

About Vanessa Uribe (CLA'20)

Vanessa Uribe (CLA'20) manages equitable and collaborative initiatives for Cook County’s Bureau of Economic Development, including inclusive public-private partnerships, special initiatives like the 2020 Census, and the planning and launch of the County’s Racial Equity Leadership Council. Previously, Vanessa managed the national affiliate network for Unidos US, the largest Latinx civil rights organization in the country, connecting grassroots community organizations to federal policy priorities and capacity-building opportunities. Vanessa currently serves on the Board of Enlace Chicago and proudly served as a 2019 Chicago United for Equity fellow.

Vanessa holds a BA in Political Science from Roosevelt University and an MPA from the University of Illinois at Chicago.---

The news release above was originally published by the Harris School of Public Policy.