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Five Questions Black Voters Should Ask Sen. Bernie Sanders

The presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders is moving to make inroads with African America voters.
Image: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Bernie Sanders smiles as he takes the podium to speak during a campaign rally in Amherst
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Bernie Sanders smiles as he takes the podium to speak during a campaign rally in Amherst, Massachusetts January 2, 2016. REUTERS/Mary SchwalmMARY SCHWALM / Reuters

Sen. Bernie Sanders is looking to make inroads with African American voters.

The campaign has embarked on a tour of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and has engaged with Black Lives Matter activists and activist-turned Mayoral candidate DeRay McKesson. On the trail, Sanders has spoken candidly about discrimination against communities of color and he's touted his racial justice platform.

Though it is too soon to tell if these efforts will lead to African American voter support, the campaign appears to be putting in more than just casual effort. But as the race between Sen. Sanders and Secretary Clinton heads to South Carolina, there should be a call for specific answers on the federal policies Sanders would have to consider if he were to become President.

Here are five questions African American voters may want to hear answers on before casting their votes.

Vermont Senator and US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (C) looks on as he speaks at the event 'Commit to Vote Concert featuring Bernie Sanders' in Durham, New Hampshire, USA, 08 February 2016. The New Hampshire primary will be held on 09 February 2016. Banners reading 'A future to believe in.'KATHERINE TAYLOR / EPA

1. Why haven't you been active on justice reform issues in the Senate until very recently?

Sanders only became a co-sponsor of S. 1056, the End Racial Profiling Act of 2015, late last year despite the fact that the legislation has been offered in every Congress for the last six years.

Sanders is currently not a sponsor of S. 2021, the Fair Chance Act sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) which would ban the box for federal hiring.

With the U.S. still leading the world in the rate of incarceration with 2.3 million behind bars, Sanders should be asked why he hasn't been more involved in the issue of justice reform which in recent years has seen some bipartisan agreement.

2. Will you end George W. Bush's Tax Rates?

President Obama promised to end the Bush Tax rates during the 2008 campaign but failed to do so. Will you reopen the debate on the issue given that it lines up with your repeated campaign pledges to increase taxes on the wealthy?

RELATED: Five Questions Black Voters Should Ask Hillary Clinton

The Bush tax rates were made permanent in January 2013 as a result of the fiscal cliff deal. What followed were cuts to community block grants and Head Start, which assists urban communities disproportionately. Even billionaire investor Warren Buffett noted that he was paying a lower tax rate than his secretary. Will Sanders re-ignited this debate?

3. Will you push for targeted proposals on poverty?

Currently, over 38 percent of African American children are in poverty. Will Sanders embrace a specific policy plan for poor children in America? Will he embrace the 10-20-30 poverty plan put forward by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Jim Clyburn (D-SC)?

4. What is your specific plan to fund HBCUs through various cabinet agencies?

Sen. Sanders has recently kicked off his "Feel the Bern" HBCU campus tour. Will his Department of Education change the Parent PLUS loan credit standards back to what they were in 2010 before President Obama's Department of Education changed the standards, which disrupted the education of some 28,000 students and cost HBCUs $160 million collectively?

Secretary Clinton proposed to do this during an interview in South Carolina in September 2015.

5. Do you have a specific plan to confront black unemployment?

African Americans have been told before that "a rising tide lifts all boats" and that Black unemployment has been "double white unemployment for years," as if to concede that the issue can't be fixed.

But even given the history and data, will you be policy-specific in addressing the issue? Will you push for a specific urban jobs program such as Job Corps or funding for summer jobs?

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