The African American vote helped Biden win the 2020 election. Pew Research’s exit polls show that 90% voted for the President-elect.
Now that Biden is due to take the White House he has some division to heal, namely the relationship between police and black communities. This was the spark that ignited Black Lives Matter protests over the summer.
BLM was reignited in May, while many states and other countries were in lockdown, a video circulated the internet of a police officer knelt on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds until he died.
A movement that started in 2013, is still going strong thanks to activists across the globe. BLM came as a response to the Acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who killed 17 year old Trayvon Martin in 2012.
Chayil, an African American from North Carolina, is cautious about a Biden/Harris Presidency. He is unsure whether the President-elect will assist BLM and bring offending police officers to justice. He said: “Biden is a rich white man, sorry if I don’t trust him.” This feeling, for Chayil, came from Biden’s history with law and order.
Biden, BLM and Bill Clinton
Biden’s contribution to the Crime Law in 1994 has become one of the most controversial criminal justice issues in the US election this year. This led to states adopting harsher criminal justice policies, which largely impacted African Americans. Today, Biden pledges to “root out the racial, gender, and income-based disparities in the system.”.
With Trump in power, the movement has felt widely unsupported and unheard by the government. But will President-elect Joe Biden change this? In the eyes of Dr. Aidan Hehir, Professor of Humanitarian Intervention and International Relations at the University of Westminster: “the notion people had in 2009 that Obama is going to be president, that’s the end of racism— clearly didn’t happen,”
This concern continues today: “There is a sense that people will fall into thinking that everything is ok particularly because of Harris as well, again like 2008/9, well everything is ok now we don’t need to take to the streets.”
What does this mean for BLM UK?
The UK based organisation, Stand Up To Racism’s (SUTR) Tower Hamlets group points out that: “Biden will avoid being inflammatory like Trump, (but) he did not support the Black Lives Matter Movement nor the demand to defund the police and allocate the funds elsewhere and has had friendly links with segregationist Republicans.”
SUTR draws a likeness in the way anti-racism movements bring change in the US and UK; “Kamala Harris does not have a record of opposing police killings in the US. So any change will be because of movements from below in the US. The same is true about contesting deaths in police custody of Black people in this country [England]. Any shifts in policy will come from grassroots campaigns in which SUTR will continue to play a part.”
The Biden/Harris administration has listed racial equality as one of their top four priorities. They plan to work with Congress to pass legislation including:
- A nationwide ban on chokeholds
- Stopping the transfer of weapons of war to police forces
- Improving oversight and accountability, to create a model use of force standard
- Creating a national police oversight commission
Whether the legislation will pass is a question for the future. Right now, there is at least indication that Biden will work with BLM to heal the racial divide.