Black leaders to push Biden for action

KAT STAFFORD
·3-min read

President-elect Joe Biden's victory is being celebrated by civil rights activists and black leaders who warned that a tough road lies ahead to address America's persistent inequalities and racial division.

Biden will take office in January as the nation confronts a series of crises that have taken a disproportionate toll on black Americans and people of colour, including the pandemic and resulting job losses. Many cities saw protests against racial injustice during a summer of unrest.

During a contentious campaign against incumbent Donald Trump, Biden made explicit appeals for the support of black voters. He pledged to unify the country, acknowledged systemic racism, criticised his rival for stoking division and picked Kamala Harris as his running mate, making her the first black woman on a major party's presidential ticket. While those were all welcomed steps, black leaders and activists say they will keep pushing the incoming administration to do more.

"This is just the beginning of change and the election of any one administration does not mean the work is done," said civil rights leader Martin Luther King III, who noted the vision of his father, Martin Luther King Jr., has yet to be fully realised in America, 57 years after he delivered his famous 'I Have a Dream' speech. "Dad and Mom wanted to eradicate poverty, racism and violence from our society and that will take a monumental effort. A Biden-Harris administration has to constantly be challenged and pushed to move."

Nine in 10 black voters nationwide supported Biden, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 110,000 voters across the country.

Latino voters supported Biden over Trump, 63 per cent to 35 per cent, according to the survey. White voters, who made up roughly three-quarters of the electorate, were more likely to support Trump, 55 per cent vs. 43 per cent for Biden.

More than 74 million Americans voted for Biden, more than any other presidential candidate in history. But some black political strategists and activists noted the 70 million votes for Trump, suggesting that some of those turned a blind eye to the racism he demonstrated.

" When you have somebody like President Donald J. Trump come along and be so blatant with his racism, it's a shock to the senses," said Nina Turner, a Black progressive and former Ohio state senator. "But this country should not be deluded that it's just Trump, it's millions of people. A lot of white liberals, they're very comfortable with pointing the finger at President Trump. But they need to look in the mirror...because he is just a reflection of what is already a reality in this country."

In 2016, a coalition composed largely of white voters powered Trump's win over then-challenger Hillary Clinton. At the time, many said they voted for Trump because of his economic plans, which included bringing back manufacturing jobs and auto plants.

But Ashley Jardina, assistant professor of political science at Duke University and author of the book "White Identity Politics," said many white Americans supported Trump in 2016 and again in 2020 because they agree with his rhetoric and views on race.

Black Lives Matter protesters will be looking for Biden and Harris to address their concerns and create progressive policies to address the root causes of police violence, according to Jessica Byrd, who leads the Movement for Black Lives' Electoral Justice Project.

Byrd said the movement will push for legislation and policies like the BREATHE Act, which would transform the nation's criminal justice system and invest in communities. "We fully intend to show up in the really important days between November and the inauguration and demonstrate our vision for Black lives is real. We have demands of the first 100 days of a Biden-Harris administration."