The country is broken. Riddled with political and social unrest, the fabric of America has begun to unravel showing breaks in a system that does not guarantee justice for all. Amid intense political scrutiny and high racial tension, two extremely different POTUS administrations must exchange power and set the tone for the next four years.
As the nation prepares for the inauguration, President elect Joe Biden has already begun making history and welcoming a new wave of diversity to Pennsylvania Avenue. For the first time in history, a woman will sit in the second most powerful seat. Vice President elect Kamala Harris also makes history as the first Black female and the first person of South Asian descent to hold the position.
Helping to secure the presidential win, Black communities in America are now ready to see their ballots at work. Often a pivotal political demographic, the voices and votes of African Americans helped tip the scales in an historic election laced with unsubstantiated accusations of voter fraud. Now, how can the Biden/Harris administration protect the interests and address the concerns of Black America?
Racial discrimination has long since been a pain point in the advancement of Black and Brown communities. Steven Chisolm, Council Member for the City of Inkster, hopes President elect Biden will begin to tackle racism while in office.
“One of the things he can do is what the president wouldn’t do during the debate; he can denounce white supremacy,” Chisolm says. “He can get on tv, he can get on social media and denounce all of that stuff immediately and let them know where he is and where he stands on it, what his beliefs are and how we’re going to move forward through this.”
An uprising of white privilege and supremacy led to an insurrection at the nation’s capitol in early January. With many political leaders blaming the racist rhetoric and instigation by President Donald Trump as a catalyst for the rebellion, what started as a Pro-Trump rally, quickly turned into a violent mob where insurgents stormed the capitol stealing federal property, taking pictures with police and pausing the official vote to certify President elect Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States. More than 200 years ago during the War of 1812, the last siege against the U.S. capital was led by the British.
Across the country the outcry is real to put action behind words. In Detroit, community organizations like Detroit Action are leading the charge to secure political power for people of color. Policies and the enforcement of those laws need to be embraced at the local, state and federal levels in order to effect real change.
“It’s a step in the right direction in terms of defeating Trumpism and defeating white supremacy,” Branden Snyder, executive director of the organization says. “I think that the Biden/Harris administration is a step in the right direction. But when we talk about policy and politics, it’s up to communities like us to hold them accountable,” he added.
To help hold the administration accountable is the council of advisors to the 46th president. As diverse as the country it serves, Biden’s cabinet selections showcase a class of minorities and women who will have a seat at the decision-making table.
“Minorites doesn’t just include Black people,” Chisolm explains. “It includes white women, and Mexicans, and whoever starts to fall in that group because they’re the minority and not the majority.”
Among cabinet picks is Symone Sanders, an instrumental advisor during the Biden campaign, who will now serve as the chief spokesperson for Vice President elect Kamala Harris. Another notable name is Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, who, upon confirmation, will serve as the first Black male Secretary of Defense.
“We see Black folks in defense. We see Black folks in HUD. We see the first Native American ever leading the Interior,” Snyder says. “We need to make sure we aren’t just placing Black folk in those token spaces.”
Vice President elect Harris also reflects the extended diversity under Biden’s presidency. Hoping the former California Senator can serve as a catalyst for sparking meaningful change and a pipeline for new leaders, communities of color will be looking to the VP to set the stage with her political prowess.
“She has some experiences that we should lean on,” Snyder says. “We want her to be able to be a bridge to the future for elected officials.”
The power of the Black vote has proved to be a mighty tool since the Voting Rights Act of 1965. According to exit polls in key battleground states of Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan for the 2020 election, Black voters rallied in numbers rivaling the Black voter outcome of the 2008 presidential race that led to a triumph for President Barack Obama. In a state with a 14 percent Black population, Michigan’s Democratic votes counted for 20 percent of total votes.
Georgia, traditionally a red Republican state, has been flipped to Democratic blue on two occasions this political season. Winning the state with just 12,000 more votes than his opponent, according to Pew Research, Joe Biden was able to seize the traditionally red state in a political upset. Georgia’s Black voters also played a pivotal role in securing a Democratic stronghold for the Senate.
“We just poured blood, sweat and tears from the left to move and win those two Senate seats in Georgia and there were hundreds of bills that were passed in the last Congress that sat in the Senate waiting to die by Mitch McConnell,” Snyder says. “That’s some of the things that can be moved and be done to benefit our community.”
Black Georgia voters turned out on behalf of former minority leader in the Georgia House of Representatives, Stacey Abrams. Leading the charge to register and rally Black voters after a narrow loss in the race to become the state’s governor, Abrams has been able to shift the political dynamic for African American communities across the country. Now, with a 50/50 split vote in the Senate, Vice President and Democrat Kamala Harris holds the tie-breaking vote.
“Democrats have a 50 plus one majority in the Senate and that’s only for 18 months. Time is of the essence If they want to pass any of their legislation,” Snyder shares.
In his victory speech during his win over Donald Trump, Biden thanked the Black community and declared now it is his turn to return the favor.
“And especially those moments when this campaign was at its lowest ebb, the African American community stood up again for me. You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours,” he said.
For leaders, it is time for Biden to make good on his promises.
“When he says we’ve always had his back and it’s time for him to have our back, show it,” Chisolm says. “Hop on Air Force One, that first 100 days, and come right to Ground Zero like Flint where you have the water crisis that’s been going on for forever and change it. You can do it just like that with the flip of a switch.”
It is with no doubt the Biden/Harris administration is inheriting a country saddled with racial disorder, rogue police, a national health crisis and economic devastation. The first 100 days will be crucial to the President’s overall recovery plan for America and execution of a campaign full of promises to the Black community.
With the world watching Joseph R. Biden Jr. will be inaugurated January 20.