President Biden’s oath to “heal the soul of the nation” is a call for unity. However, this dream for a more unified nation cannot be attained without a just democracy where everyone is truly heard. In his upcoming address to a joint session of Congress, the president must speak to the urgent need to build a more inclusive democracy if he is serious about achieving his other priorities and taking the first step along the path of healing that he desires for the country.
[T]rue healing cannot take place unless the most impacted communities are cared for and uplifted.
To his great credit, President Biden has made addressing the festering wound of racism in this country a central pillar and through-line of his agenda. His administration understands true healing cannot take place unless the most impacted communities are cared for and uplifted, but his words must be followed by deeds. He promises to address the ravaging effects of the pandemic on the Black community, specifically citing the loss of Black lives, jobs, and businesses. He promised to combat climate change and hold “polluters accountable for the damage they caused” in Black and brown communities. Additionally, he has promised to address the racial wealth gap by providing the tools to support businesses, employment, education, and infrastructure.
That same awareness of the suffering of Black Americans implies an understanding of the need for successes on these fronts to build back trust and power. The people, especially Black people, are watching for these promises to be kept. This administration should feel responsible to the powerful Black women who have gone above and beyond to create unprecedented voter turnout. Their efforts provided the momentum for the repairs necessary to provide the care that Biden’s priorities promise. Black communities have been let down for far too long to have a new administration let this opportunity slip away.
The package of strong democracy policies that Congress is currently considering is critical racial equity legislation.
Due to 2020’s robust participation, states have begun mobilizing efforts to prevent voters, particularly Black and brown voters, from replicating their turnout. In addition to the attempts to silence the people’s voice generally, big money allows the donor class’ priorities to overshadow those of small donors, effectively silencing the Black and brown Americans who likely fall into the latter category. In short, without structural changes at the federal level, the window for making progress on climate and economic security will close fast, and President Biden risks leaving Black and brown communities disappointed again. The package of strong democracy policies that Congress is currently considering is critical racial equity legislation because it empowers Black and brown communities and opens the door for success on other fronts.
While Biden inspires hope, many Black Americans remain hesitant to bank on that hope without seeing him take concrete steps to make good on his promises. Any serious discussion of solving environmental crises, racism, and racialized wealth and health disparities starts with unrigging our democracy. That’s what I’ll be listening for during his speech.