Black women are miracle workers. We have been the Democrats’ most reliable voting bloc since passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Most recently, we resurrected Joe Biden’s campaign.
This year is no different: Biden’s only path to victory is through black women and the voters we know how to energize. Though we have propped up the Democratic Party for decades, the return on our investment in the party might as well read, “insufficient funds.”
Those days are over. We are here to collect.
Very simply, Vice President Biden: You owe us, you need us and you must not take our votes for granted — they must be earned. To earn the engagement, excitement and, most importantly, the votes you need, we believe many black voters need the following commitments:
America needs a black woman as vice president
We do not agree with other influential black leaders who suggest that having a black woman on the ticket is not necessary. Black female elected leaders throughout the country have shown themselves to be formidable champions of justice, expert coalition builders, highly effective legislators and compelling communicators.
Having a ticket that reflects America’s changing demographics must now be the rule, not the exception. As the electorate becomes more diverse, Democrats need fewer white voters to win. Prioritizing white swing voters didn’t bode well for Hillary Clinton in 2016, nor was it central to Barack Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012.
Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, does not need help winning white, working-class voters — he serves that function himself. A choice such as Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), who failed to prosecute controversial police killings and is responsible for the imprisonment of Myon Burrell, will only alienate black voters. These are the same voters who may be forced this fall to take personal risks to line up and vote in many states, especially where Republican efforts to suppress mail-in voting are successful. This is a lot to ask amid a coronavirus pandemic that is disproportionately more deadly to black people.
America needs a black female Supreme Court justice
While we credit Biden for pledging to nominate a black woman to the Supreme Court, he must do more. His apology to Anita Hill came late and fell flat. Of the 114 justices who have served on our highest court, no black woman has ever been nominated, despite there being many talented and qualified candidates. The Supreme Court is poised in coming terms to make crucial decisions on such issues as mass incarceration and voting rights. The black community’s needs must be fully represented on the bench if a seat becomes available.
Recent history shows the key to this is winning back the Senate. Without Democratic control of the Senate, any nomination can be bottled up, a la Merrick Garland, by Senate Republicans keen to keep our community disenfranchised. Republicans know how close they are to losing control of the Senate. Democrats will need black voters to take back the Senate this fall, which cannot happen without energizing black voters — particularly first-time voters. Black voters in Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia are key to regaining control of the chamber that is the gateway to the Supreme Court. Biden and the Democratic Party must commit to devoting the time and financial resources to get that done. Without this, his promise to name a black woman to the court is illusory and an empty one.
America needs a comprehensive black agenda
The rules are rigged against our communities. From repairing shredded safety nets to ending widening wealth gaps. Whether we are talking about Ahmaud Arbery being killed by vigilantes or Breonna Taylor, a Louisville EMT being killed by police, we deserve solutions that address systemic domestic terrorism and deep seated racial injustice. At a minimum, Biden must apologize for and enact policy to repair the damage done by the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 that established mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act that created the crack-cocaine sentencing disparity, and, of course, the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. He says that he knows better now, but he must do better.
A comprehensive framework for next steps is Black Agenda 2020, which grew out of largest survey of black people conducted in America in 155 years. The document reports that “the vast majority of Black Americans see the excessive use of force by police officers and police officers killing Black people as problems in their community.” Biden and his team must consult with a broader cross-section of black grass-roots leaders and add the necessary staff to redress these problems.
The Biden campaign must address our oppression and most importantly, embrace our power to win the White House. An administration that is good for Black America is good for all Americans.
Joe Biden has stated that his mission is to “restore the soul of America.”
Black people are that soul. There is no restoration without us.