The President's Column: President Biden is Undoing Trump’s DamageFebruary 18, 2021
The path to real unity is through acknowledgment of America’s racist history.
After four years of the most corrupt, dishonest, cruel, racist, misogynistic, incompetent, science- and fact adverse administration in history–– and one ending with a murderous assault on the U.S. Capitol––the Biden-Harris White House has its work cut out for it. And so do we.
In his first days in office, President Biden hit the ground running and set into motion a rational, organized plan to tackle COVID-19. The Biden pandemic plan includes significantly increasing vaccine production and eliminating Trump directives that protected employers, not workers. President Biden’s first actions also shore up the poor and the unemployed, lay out a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, promise a $15 per hour federal minimum wage, return the U.S. to the Paris Climate Agreement, and expand federal food assistance to millions of hungry families.
In his inaugural address, President Biden said, “A raging virus, growing inequity, the sting of systemic racism, a climate in crisis. America’s role in the world. Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways. But the fact is, we face them all at once…. Now we’re going to be tested.”
I want to address one of those challenges before us. Last summer, following the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, an estimated 20 million of us marched in what were the largest protests in our history. Marches, silent vigils, and candlelight parades were held regularly in nearly half of the counties in our country. For the first time, leading members of Congress, editorial writers, commentators, and religious leaders were speaking openly about the need to eradicate the systemic racism that has poisoned American life for 400 years.
Just six months later, Donald Trump directed a mob of thousands of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and assorted fascists to attack the U.S. Congress and overturn the November elections. In the aftermath, many of the same politicians and opinion shapers who had so vehemently spoken out against racism over the summer told us that the riot is not who we are. There is a bit of a disconnect here. Systemic racism infects America. But when a mob of white terrorists attacks our democratic elections at the bidding of the defeated President of the United States and is supported by more than two-thirds of the Republicans in Congress, that is not who we are?
I suggest that we will never be able to truly dismantle systemic racism until we fully recognize that it is very much part of who we are. After all, ours is a country that was built on 250 years of slavery and another 100 of Jim Crow apartheid; on the genocide of 90 percent of the indigenous peoples who were here before Europeans; and on the forced annexation of half of Mexico—from Texas to California.
Of course, that is not all that we are. The attempted coup at the Capitol came just one day after Georgia—a perennial red state––elected its first Black U.S. Senator, Rev. Raphael Warnock, the preacher of Atlanta’s Ebeneezer Baptist Church whose pulpit was once Dr. King’s. Georgia also elected its first Jewish Senator, Jon Ossoff. Who we are includes the millions of Georgians who voted for Senators Warnock and Ossoff and the millions of us who marched for Black Lives and racial justice last summer. At the same time, who we are includes those in law enforcement who beat, gassed, and arrested tens of thousands of peaceful March for Black Lives protesters compared with how Trump’s white supremacist mob was treated at the Capitol, where white police removed barricades and posed for selfies.
President Biden has consistently promoted the theme of national unity, but it is unclear how there can be unity when most of the Republican party refuses to recognize that Joe Biden won the Presidential election. When I think of unity, I think of what we 1199ers have built. We include among our members Democrats, Republicans and Independents. We represent every color and hue, every religious faith, and non-believers as well. But whatever our differences, we all believe in affordable quality health care, decent wages and benefits, and a voice on the job. However much we might disagree on this or that, 1199 is a snapshot of the unity the country needs. That is because we reject any form of racism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, hatred of those whose color or national origin is different from one’s own. It is only together that we can realize our strength and win new victories. Unity is the very definition of our union.
We in 1199 are proof that we can build unity among people with great differences if we have a unity of purpose. Can there be unity with those who oppose democracy and refuse to recognize the election results? Obviously, there can be no compromise with white supremacy.
Trump and his GOP supporters’ attacks on the election results came down to Atlanta, Milwaukee, Detroit and Philadelphia—cities where large numbers of Black people live and vote. The fantasy of fraud implies a crime by Black people against white people—which of course is the very opposite of what happened.
In 2020—and in every election for decades—Black people waited longer in line to vote longer and were more likely to have their votes challenged.
They also were more likely to be suffering or dying from COVID and less likely to be able to take time off work to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965—the signal accomplishment of the civil rights revolution—was gutted by a Republican-dominated Supreme Court in 2013. And even today, there are GOP-controlled state legislatures are drafting bills to make voting more difficult for years to come.
Simply put, the refusal of most Republicans to accept the election results and the peaceful transfer of power represents the refusal to accept a move from systemic racism to a multiracial democracy. So, my sisters and brothers, we are all indeed going to be tested, but I know we are up to the challenge. Time once again to roll up our sleeves, pull our marching boots out of the closet and get ready to fight.