Opinions are the writer’s own and not those of Blavity's.
Our Black Party remains steadfast in our belief that Black Lives will not matter until Black policies do. While vying for the Black vote, Joe Biden made a lot of promises to Black folk. His words during his victory speech were, “I mean it, especially in those moments and especially for 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.”
A few months before that when he accepted the Democratic nomination, something that may have never happened without Rep. Jim Clyburn, he said, “This is the most compelling call for racial justice since the ‘60s.”
Forgive me for seeming as if I am being unappreciative or pushing the Biden Administration to move at a pace that is faster than the usual rate at which bureaucracy works. As a former elected official, I understand that things take time. However, Black people in America do not have time. Our backs are consistently against a proverbial wall in which our lives can be taken at any moment at the hands of the police. Our livelihoods can be ravished by a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic while in the midst of us fighting the generational plague of racism. We are in a constant sense of economic uncertainty due to the fact when America catches a cold, Black people catch pneumonia. The people who make the rules of the game rarely look like us and even more seldom operate with our best interests in mind.
But how can we combat these measures? With policy. With electing people who operate in our interest. By accessing our access to voting.
When a police officer shoots and kills an unarmed Black person, it is usually the “elected” District Attorney who has the ability to bring forth charges to hold the officer accountable. When we see disparities in vaccine distributions within a community, it is the local and state elected officials who can use their influence to provide resources to community members to set up the necessary workstations to provide testing and vaccine stations. When banks are refusing to provide bank loans or assistance to Black businesses, it is the local elected officials who can work with their staff to create funding opportunities to help start or sustain their businesses. The point is, all of these positions are elected.
People, especially Black people, have to have access to voting precincts and the ability to vote when convenient without waiting 10 hours. We should not have to provide 392 documents to register to vote or jump through hoops created to intentionally thwart our right to choose our elected leadership. It’s not just about the Presidential election, the voter suppression tactics that Republicans are looking to implement will have lasting ramifications on races across the country on all levels.
If the Biden Administration believes that a $1,400 check is going to satisfy the needs of Black people who once again saved the nation with our selflessness, then he is beyond wrong. If the Biden Administration believes that a promise to make vaccinations available to all Americans before the “so-called” Independence Day of a nation that didn’t free us on the same day as everyone else, he is sadly mistaken. Biden is a career politician who says that he knows the Black community well. Don’t tell us you know us and you appreciate us, show us with your actions.
My wife and my sisters always tell me that the best way to apologize is with changed behavior. This is the opportunity for Biden to deliver more than words. He can deliver by catering to our needs and not the moderate Republicans — who didn’t vote for him and refused to hold their leader, Donald Trump, accountable, and let down the American people by refusing to vote for the latest stimulus package. President Biden, for once in our American history, can show Black people that this country cares about us — not with words, but with action.
I want to be clear: Black people in our nation will no longer be satisfied with symbolism. Those days are gone. It’s time for “Fightin’ Joe” to roll up his sleeves, put on his gloves and fight for the people that delivered his evasive seat to 1600 Black Lives Matter Plaza. The Executive Order on Promoting Access to Voting was symbolic at best. It reads:
Sec. 2. Policy. It is the policy of my Administration to promote and defend the right to vote for all Americans who are legally entitled to participate in elections. It is the responsibility of the Federal Government to expand access to, and education about, voter registration and election information, and to combat misinformation to enable all eligible Americans to participate in our democracy.
If Biden wants to protect the voting rights of Black people who saved him, then he needs to come out in support of limiting the use of the filibuster and throw his full support behind HR1/SB1, also known as the “For the People Act.”
Under the filibuster rule, at least 60 senators have to vote in favor of ending debate on a bill, also known as cloture. If a minority group of at least 41 senators refuses to vote for debate on a bill to end, they can effectively block it indefinitely. Since Democrats only control 51 votes in the upper chamber, they would need Republican support to pass the voting rights act, or any crucial legislation, through the upper chamber, or at least come to an agreement not to filibuster the legislation. In January of 2021, more than 106 state-level bills that would restrict access to voting were under consideration, and that is in comparison to only 33 such bills at this same time last year. Today, that number has expanded into at least 250 bills in 43 states across the country. What led to the change? I think we all know the answer.
Donald Trump’s 2020 Presidential election loss is a pill Republicans just refuse to swallow. Because of this, several states — led mostly by conservatives (mostly white people who will tell you until they are red in the face that they are not racist), have mobbed up to suppress voter access, which will absolutely disproportionately affect the very same Black voters that were crucial in handing them that loss. That being said, it is highly unlikely that Republican Senators are going to go against the wishes and desires of members of their party at the state level.
The same man who is largely responsible for Biden’s Democratic nomination, Congressman and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, said, “We must not allow a modern-day filibuster to do what filibusters of old did — deny voting rights, deny civil rights, and yes, deny equal access and opportunity. Let's not repeat the errors of the past."
Biden and his Administration have the opportunity to do what very few elected into the White House have done. He has the chance to stand up for Black people, not with his words but through his actions. The ball is in his court. Just know that for you, and the Democratic party, Black people are watching. We are taking notes. And Our Black Party is an alternative.
Dr. Wes Bellamy is the National Co-chair of Our Black Party.