by M. Anthony Davis
When Trump boarded his helicopter this morning for his final departure as President of the United States, most Americans let out a collective sigh of relief. After four tumultuous years, characterized by emboldened white supremacy and capped by mismanagement of a global pandemic that has claimed over 400,000 American lives, Trump’s tenure as president has finally come to an end.
The inauguration itself, which many feared could possibly fall under attack from the insurrectionists who stormed the capitol a few weeks ago, went relatively smoothly. While the recent acts were acknowledged, they did not overshadow the peaceful transition of power that took place.
The centerpiece of the inauguration, of course, was Joe Biden’s first national address as the 46th president of the United States. He opened with a straightforward reminder that “This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day.” These statements are correct. After an attempt to block democracy, and thus stifle the ideology that this country was founded on, Biden is correct in declaring victory for America and claiming victory for democracy.
The rest of Biden’s inaugural speech faltered. Biden used this speech to reinforce his belief that unification of our country will lead to salvation. However, in his steadfast appeal to bring Americans together, he is leaving out a very important segment of Americans — Black and BIPOC folks. For us, this idea of unity means coming together with those who hate us. Finding common ground with those who continually do us harm.
As a Black man, I have no desire to be at the table with white supremacists. And I have no desire for leadership that believes the answer to collective healing from the ills of white supremacy is to bring everyone together to work out our differences. This is not the time for unity. This is the time for accountability.
Biden acknowledged in his speech that he hears the “cry for racial justice 400 years in the making.” He also spoke about the Emancipation Proclamation and how Lincoln knew that his legacy would be forever tied to that document. For Americans like me, Biden’s current legacy is also tied to a document — The infamous 1994 Crime Bill. If Biden wants his legacy to be comparable to Lincoln’s, we will need more than just fancy words and speeches. We need direct legislation that will improve the lives and ensure the safety of Black and BIPOC Americans.
Even with my reservations on the direction of Biden’s speech, I do feel hopeful for his administration. Despite Biden’s past indiscretion, and Vice President Harris’ past record as a prosecutor which was marked with incidents of injustice, such as the wrongful conviction of Jamal Trulove, who was sentenced in 2010 to 50 years in prison before his retrial and subsequent acquittal in 2015, the Biden administration has a clear path for their first 100 days in office that will help millions of Americans. Announced executive orders include plans and funds for coronavirus vaccinations, extension of the federal rent moratorium, extension of federal student loan deferments, and a federal minimum wage increase to $15 per hour. These steps will immediately improve the lives of suffering Americans and give skeptics like me a reason to believe that perhaps the Biden administration will take steps to improve the lives of working-class Americans.
But as a Black American, I demand more. It’s great to have legislation to help everyone, but I want specific legislation that will help us. If Biden is really serious about healing the wounds of racial inequality in America, then it is fair to expect concrete steps to address the wealth gap and the education gap and an end to mass incarceration. These are the issues plaguing Black Americans across this country and we must be sure to push this administration until these issues are brought to the forefront and addressed directly with legislation that will outlive the current administration. That is the path to Joe Biden building the type of legacy he described this morning.
I am happy that the transition of power was peaceful. I am happy that we have a president with a clear plan for combating COVID. I am happy to have our first woman become vice president. But I will never let go of the Black agenda and I hope that my fellow Americans are also ready to hold Biden to the promises he has made to Black and BIPOC communities.
M. Anthony Davis (Mike Davis) is a local journalist covering arts, culture, and sports.
Featured Image: Inauguration Day Sunrise — attributed to Geoff Livingston under a Creative Commons 2.0 license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
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