Benjamin Todd Jealous is a Partner at Kapor Capital, where he invests in social impact tech startups that narrow gaps in opportunity and access for underrepresented communities and eliminate barriers to full participation across the tech ecosystem.
Jealous is the former president and CEO of the NAACP, where he successful state and local movements to ban the death penalty, outlaw racial profiling, defend voting rights, secure marriage equality, and free multiple wrongfully incarcerated people. Under his leadership, the NAACP grew to be the largest civil rights organization online and on mobile, experienced its first multi-year membership growth in 20 years, and became the largest community-based nonpartisan voter registration operation in the country.
Prior to leading the NAACP, he spent 15 years serving as a journalist and community organizer. While at Mississippi’s Jackson Advocate newspaper, his investigations were credited with exposing corruption at a state penitentiary and proving the innocence of a black farmer who was being framed for arson. A Rhodes Scholar, he has been named to the 40 under 40 lists of both Forbes and Time magazines. He is #1 on TheRoot.com’s 2013 list of black leaders under 45.
Jealous serves as an advisor for multiple tech startups that work to close gaps, particularly in the areas of financial inclusion, justice tech, and low wage work. He serves as a board member at Pigeonly and a board advisor at PayNearMe.
My son is only 5 years old and we’ve already had “the talk.” I can recall being a little older when my grandfather, a probation officer, had the same talk with me. It’s the same talk that has been given time and again in black families following the deaths of Eric Garner, Terence Crutcher and Michael Brown, all unarmed black civilians who lost their lives at the hands of police.
This month, a school full of children suffered an enormous tragedy. Again.
Seventeen young people were gunned down inside a Florida high school but instead of devolving into the same cycle of meaningless debate, we’re seeing a new moment of student leadership. In a time of crushing grief and anger and fear, these students have chosen to rise up and fill the vacuum of leadership that many of our leaders have created. And they’ve been joined in their activism by their peers all across the country.
In this interview with Thomas Roberts of MSNBC, Sanders Institute Founding Fellow Ben Jealous discusses the importancee of protecting families from the AHCA and standing up for single-payer healthcare.
In this interview with CBSN, Ben Jealous reacts to some of the prominent events and issues around race relations in the United States.
First, he is questioned about a recent poll that indicates that almost seven-in-ten Americans think that race relations in this country are bad. Jealous points to the unprecedented sadness and rawness that characterized the 2016 presidential debate.
Next, Jealous addresses the Black Lives Matter movement. He sees BLM as a continuation of many of the early civil rights movements - with a tradition of truth telling and shedding light on localities that are not performing morally in order to "take our country to a higher and better place." When asked why BLM does not have a unified message, Jealous points out, that when you step back from the individual protestors and individual tweets, the BLM movement has a very strong message: that "Black Lives Matter" and that the police killings have to stop.
When asked about celebrities talking about this issue, Jealous supports their actions. Many people, especially children, look to athletes and celebrities as their heroes. Jealous states that for these "heroes" to come out and say "I am afraid too" can help galvanize people who look up to them - "I am your hero and now I need you to be my hero and join with all of us to help move this country forward."
In this article, Ben Jealous looks at a specific encounter that an African American woman, Ashley Overbey, had with the police in Baltimore. He uses it as an example of why the police system in this country, and particularly in Baltimore, needs to be changed.
Jealous points to a report released by grassroots activists and community organizations in Baltimore that suggests six reforms for policing in Baltimore:
1) Fire police officers who have demonstrated corruption or unnecessary violence
2) Remove the “gag order” on victims of police misconduct that silenced Ashley Overbey
3) Speed up the distribution of body cameras
4) Promote community policing; publish all police department policies online
5) Improve de-escalation training
Jealous uses Cincinnati as an example that this sort of reform can happen. "In response to community demands, the department shifted to a community-policing model, encouraged officers to interact more with community members, started tracking officers who received an abnormal number of complaints and took steps to improve transparency." He states that "Over the next 15 years, Cincinnati saw a 69 percent drop in police use-of-force incidents, a 42 percent drop in citizen complaints and a 56 percent drop in injuries experienced by citizens during encounters with police. Importantly, violent crime dropped from a high of 4,137 incidents in the year after Timothy Thomas’ death to 2,352 incidents in 2014."
In this report, Ben Jealous and his colleague Ryan Haygood investigate the effects of the Supreme Court's 2013 decision Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder that "invalidated core protections in the Voting Rights Act"
They specifically look at 5 states that enacted laws that would have been, or were, considered discriminatory and therefore would not have been put into effect for the 2014 elections. These states are: Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia
The report finds that "it is clear that the number of people predicted to face increased difficulties in voting during this election either approaches or exceeds the margins of victory for competitive statewide races." In addition, "Consistent with a recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, or GAO, finding that photo ID laws lower voter turnout, especially among voters of color."
The human result of our nation's decades-long obsession with "tough-on-crime" policies is clear as day: one in three black men will spend time in prison at some point in their lives, many of them for non-violent offenses.
In this article, Ben Jealous looks at the Common Core State Standards as another step towards equal access to high-quality education.
He states "The educational landscape today is defined by its harsh inequities. Students of color lag behind their white peers in test scores and graduation rates on nearly every indicator." Rather than this being an an indication of ability or desire, "African-American and Latino students tend to live in poor neighborhoods with underfunded schools, and these schools lack the experienced teachers, extracurricular activities, and access to college courses that help students thrive."
While Jealous states that the Common Core state standards are not perfect, and there are legitimate criticisms from both sides, "The first step to solving a problem is identifying it correctly. The Common Core standards offer clear, consistent and high expectations for what children should be learning at each grade level. Although the new tests are often more difficult, they also offer a more accurate portrait of student achievement."
The fight against profiling by law enforcement is at a critical moment. Ben Jealous talks about racial profiling, the steps that have been taken to mitigate it, and the steps that still need to be taken to get rid of it.
Jealous states that "Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are significantly overrepresented in all aspects of the penal system." The problem is even worse for LGBT individuals of color who face multiple types of discrimination. Jealous believes that this racial profiling demands a response from the federal government. He suggests that that the federal government:
1) Ensures that protections against all forms of profiling extend across the country by linking funding to the adoption of bans on profiling.
2) Encourage prosecutors to stop confiscating and citing possession of condoms as evidence.
3) End immigration-enforcement programs that encourage and expand the consequences of discriminatory profiling.
Jealous ends with the statement "We need to end institutionalized homophobia and transphobia, just as we need to end institutionalized racism. Let us be sure to leave no one behind."