Watch CBS News

'A Pandemic On Top Of A Pandemic'; Newsom Acknowledges Systemic Racism Fueling Protests

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) -- California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday described the racism fueling the last five days of civil unrest "a pandemic on top of a pandemic" and called on leaders and citizens alike to work to end systemic racism of society's institutions.

Governor Newsom was joined by faith leaders in Sacramento during Monday's public address at Genesis Church to talk about the weekend's protests.

Full Coverage: George Floyd Protests

Before the governor spoke, he met with those leaders to discuss the state's response to the violence and unrest across California. Genesis Church Pastor Tecoy Porter talked briefly prior to Gov. Newsom taking the podium.

Much as he did on Friday, Newsom spoke at length about the long struggle to end racism and the failure society and both local and federal governments to foster real foundational change.

"We -- our institutions -- are responsible. We are accountable for this moment. Let's just call that out. We have a unique responsibility to the black community in this country and we've been paying lip service about that for generations," said Newsom. "We indulge on the margins but we don't systemically, foundationally address the root of these issues. We prune.; we don't tear out the institutional racism from all of our institutions large and small. We don't! And we know that."

He continued: "And the community knows that. We're seeing that manifested in the streets these last five days. They know that. The question is, do we deeply understand that? Are we prepared to do something different about it?"

Newsom noted that people have lost patience for a reason and called on not just leaders, but everyone to make a difference.

"Each and every one of us watching; what are we going to do differently, foundationally, fundamentally? Not in the short run, but in the long run to do justice to this moment?" asked Newsom. "If leaders are going to meet this moment in front of us, we better start listening. We better start hearing people. We better own up to our own responsibility. Each and every one of us has to do more and do better."

Newsom said that -- in following with his admiration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Bobby Kennedy -- he understood that a harsh response to the protests and looting was not the answer.

"I am here as your governor, humbled over the course of the last five days, resolved to keep the peace, but recognizing that an armed camp is not a place of peace, and that the answer to violence is not more violence. And that if we're going to create the conditions to truly advance police, people have to know that we mean it," the governor explained. "And they have to know that they matter, and we care. And so for those of you that are out there protesting, I want you to know that you matter. And I want you to know I care. We care."

Newsom went on to call the issue of racism "a pandemic on top of pandemic" and said that those who tried to stoke the fires of anger and take advantage of the chaos on city streets would be held accountable.

"To those who want to exploit this moment, that want to flame violence and fear, we hear you as well. But we don't have the same sensitivities as it relates to those who are trying to exercise their voice from a place of hurt and pain," he said. "When you try to cause pain on others, when you're out there to exploit conditions, not advance the cause of justice, that is not serving the greater good and we also need to call that out."

Newsom alluded to the lack of leadership coming from the White House during these recent days of protests and violence.

"In the absence of leaders and people in positions of formal authority, we have people that exercise their moral authority each and every day. Church leaders, community leaders, faith-based leaders of all stripes, teachers, parents, caregivers, strangers walking the street that exercise their moral authority by trying to soften the edges of people that are out to do more harm and create more violence. Leaders in law enforcement that meet this moment that recognize the empathy that's called for as well," he said. "That kind of leadership is desperately needed in this nation and is ample that people begin to exercise it and that's my hope and that's my resolve, it is to find those leaders to call for more of that kind of leadership in this country."

When asked about the President's comments about governors being weak on protesters Monday morning, Newsom said he was not interested in the back and forth "noise" between the President and those who oppose him, saying he preferred to focus his message on "what unites us and not divides us."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.