Black voters turned out for Biden. Here's how he can repay them.

The 2020 election proved not enough has changed for Black voters in America. What will Biden do about it?
Image: Livia Johnson, an organizer with Warriors in the Garden, raises her fist as she marches with protesters through New York's Times Square on June 14, 2020.
Livia Johnson, an organizer with Warriors in the Garden, raises her fist as she marches with protesters through New York's Times Square on June 14, 2020.Ira L. Black / Corbis via Getty Images file

Since the inception of this nation, the Black vote has been denied, systematically suppressed, then dismissed, taken for granted — and suppressed some more.

The 2020 election cycle proved this hasn’t changed as much as we want to believe, as we saw deceptive schemes taking place across the country that were specifically designed to disenfranchise Black voters.

It was overwhelmingly Black voters who persevered in spite of every roadblock strategically placed before them.

As the most loyal voting block and the one that literally saved our democracy during such a critical moment, we must receive a return on our investment in a Biden-Harris administration. A starting point would be passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and the John Lewis Voting Right Act, as well as increasing broadband access in our communities and expanding the Affordable Care Act.

During his evening address last Saturday, Biden stated: “Especially those moments when this campaign was at its lowest ebb, the African American community stood up again for me. You’ve always had my back and I will have yours.”

He is absolutely correct about that first part. Despite these measures and despite tremendously long lines at voting locations, and despite attempts to delay and discount record numbers of mail-in ballots, Black voters delivered President-elect Joe Biden a victory. It was Black voters in South Carolina who delivered a victory for Biden in the primaries, and once again Black voters came through in the general election in cities like Philadelphia, Atlanta and Detroit and in many suburbs to push Biden across the finish line.

We did so because we knew just how crucial this election was for everything from civil rights and voting rights to police reform and racial equality. The Black community has been the backbone of the Democratic Party, and our concerns must take priority in the new administration. Whether it’s criminal justice reform, restoring voting rights, access to quality health care, ending the digital divide, educational equality or more, tackling these challenges should be at the top of the list.

My colleagues and I at the National Action Network have worked for decades to combat police brutality and advocate for systemic changes. In June, there was a glimmer of hope when the House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, but the bill unfortunately stalled in the Senate. The act, which includes a call to end qualified immunity for officers, ban chokeholds and no knock warrants, and requires officers to wear body cameras, faced intense opposition from Republican leadership including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and President Donald Trump himself.

Democratic control of the Senate is crucial if this legislation is to become law, but who sits in the Oval Office is extremely important as well. A Justice Department under a Biden presidency can begin to take appropriate measures for reform as well.

In 2013, the Supreme Court virtually gutted the Voting Rights Act when it struck down Section 5 of the act.

In 2013, the Supreme Court virtually gutted the Voting Rights Act when it struck down Section 5 of the act, which required jurisdictions to receive federal approval before making any changes to their election laws. This effectively opened the floodgates to various voter suppression tactics in different states like the elimination of some voting locations, strict voter ID laws, an end to early voting periods and more.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Act, named after the esteemed congressman and civil rights champion, is designed to restore full protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act covers all 50 states and creates a targeted process for reviewing voting changes, especially those that have been used to discriminate against voters in the past. It helps ensure the right to vote as a fundamental principle for all Americans. Despite the significant setbacks, Black voters still showed up or mailed in their ballots and did their part to elect Biden as our next president; now it’s time to protect and expand that right to vote from the top administration.

One in 3 Black, Latino and Native American students lack a broadband connection, according to an analysis published by Reuters.

Our nation is still paralyzed by a pandemic that has been exacerbated by the recklessness and incompetence of the Trump administration. As Biden takes on the immense task of combatting the virus, he should also commit to increasing broadband access in underserved communities as well as access to quality health care. One in 3 Black, Latino and Native American students lack a broadband connection, according to an analysis published by Reuters. If our children have to learn virtually, we must provide them with the proper tools to do so. Because these are also the same communities that have suffered the most from Covid-19, protecting and expanding the Affordable Care Act so that millions have health insurance must take precedence with the incoming administration. At the moment, every indication is that it will, but we must make sure to hold our leaders to account.

A Biden-Harris administration will undoubtedly face intense opposition from the other side on the above policies, but it is imperative that it remains steadfast in advocating for reform in order to not only support the communities that brought them to victory, but for the betterment of society itself.

Such actions will of course help Black communities in Americas, as we are primarily affected and burdened the most by many of the inequalities in our nation. However, we also look forward to the new administration directly targeting racial justice and social justice issues in 2021.

After all, it wasn’t the disaffected Trump voters, the "Never Trumpers," or the former Republicans-turned-Democrats who pushed Biden to the White House. It was overwhelmingly Black voters who persevered in spite of every roadblock strategically placed before them. Now it’s time to take a bulldozer to those roadblocks.