We’re far from the equality of Dr. King’s dream, but the Biden-Harris administration is moving us in the right direction
OPINION: To keep up the momentum, it's imperative that the American people vote in November to give Democrats in Congress an opportunity to pass more of the Biden-Harris agenda, which will help Americans of all races.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
Fifty-nine years ago this month, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stirred the conscience of America with his eloquent “I Have a Dream” speech. We’re still a long way from achieving the equality for Black Americans that he dreamt of, but our nation continues to move forward, most recently thanks to President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and congressional Democrats.
Dr. King spoke on Aug. 28, 1963 to a crowd of about 250,000 people of all races at the Lincoln Memorial that honors the president who ended the sin of slavery, at the culmination of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. I was only 3 years old at the time so I was unaware of the great speech when it was given. But I’ve been moved to tears as I’ve read the text and viewed video of the powerful oration many times over the intervening years.
My parents couldn’t vote when Dr. King spoke, barred from the ballot box in segregated Louisiana by the color of their skin. And I can remember “colored” schools, restrooms, water fountains and theater seating that was the reality of my life as a little girl. Thankfully, times have changed for the better.
The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, both signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, advanced the cause of racial justice, followed by other important legislation. On top of this, America has been blessed to have our first Black president in Barack Obama and our first Black vice president in Kamala Harris, along with Black people holding many other jobs in government and the private sector that were out of reach to us when I was a child.
But the struggle continues as Republicans fight to reverse the progress of the past. They are enacting laws at the state level making it harder for Black people and others to vote (after the Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act), railing against affirmative action, passing laws to bar the truthful teaching of Black history in public schools, absurdly denying the existence of systemic racism, and seeking in other ways to return to the bad old days.
President Biden made history by selecting Harris to become the first Black, female and Asian vice president; by appointing Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman Supreme Court justice; and by appointing the most diverse Cabinet and White House staff in American history. This includes a Black defense secretary, secretary of housing and urban development, Environmental Protection Agency administrator, director of the White House Office of Management and the Budget, ambassador to the United Nations, head of the Council of Economic Advisers, domestic policy adviser and more.
Biden has also signed a slew of executive orders and bills into law that benefit Americans of all backgrounds and that in many cases disproportionately benefit Black folks. We reap the benefits because our nation’s long and ugly history of racism has left us with lower average incomes, homeownership rates, educational attainment and other measurements of achieving the American Dream.
Space doesn’t permit me to list all the ways Black Americans have benefitted from Biden-Harris administration actions, but to cite just a few:
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), signed into law Tuesday by Biden, will extend health insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) for an additional three years. This will save millions of people with incomes below 400 percent of the federal poverty level millions of dollars each year. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the percentage of Black Americans under 65 without health insurance dropped from 20 percent in 2011 to 12 percent in 2019. The IRA will also lower some prescription drug prices, fight climate change with actions including making energy-efficient home improvements and electric vehicles more affordable, reduce inflation, impose a minimum tax on multibillion-dollar corporations that now pay little or no income taxes, and crack down on wealthy tax cheats.
The American Rescue Plan signed into law by Biden invested $1.9 trillion to fund free COVID-19 vaccines and treatments for Americans, send 160 million checks to Americans to help them deal with the pandemic, expand food and rental assistance, dramatically reduce unemployment, aid small businesses, and lift millions of children (including 40 percent of Black children) out of poverty with an expanded child tax credit.
The bipartisan infrastructure law signed by Biden to invest $1.2 trillion to improve America’s roads, bridges, mass transit, rail, airports, ports and waterways and energy systems while creating good jobs.
Assistance to Historically Black Colleges and Universities totaling $5.8 billion from several federal programs.
The most significant gun safety reforms in 30 years.
The Biden-Harris administration proposed many other programs—including criminal justice reforms and voting rights legislation—that would be especially beneficial to Black Americans. Unfortunately, those died in the Senate, divided equally between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, because of unanimous or near-unanimous Republican opposition and the refusal of two Democratic senators to end or modify the filibuster rule that requires 60 votes to consider most legislation.
The November election will give the American people the opportunity to give Democrats continued majorities in the House and Senate. Adding just two more Democrats to the Senate could enable senators to end the filibuster rule and win approval for more of the Biden-Harris agenda that will improve the lives of Americans of every race.
I know that many people don’t bother voting in midterm elections, casting ballots only when the presidential candidates are on the ballot. That’s a big mistake that will come back to haunt us if Republicans capture control of one or both chambers of Congress and block further progress by the Biden-Harris administration.
If you believe Black lives matter, you should cast your ballot in the upcoming elections and show that Black votes matter. And I urge you to vote for Democrats who will work to bring us a step closer to making Dr. King’s dream of equal rights for all a reality.
Donna Brazile is an ABC News Contributor, veteran political strategist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, and the King Endowed Chair in Public Policy at Howard University. She previously served as interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute. She managed the Gore campaign in 2000 and has lectured at more than 225 colleges and universities on race, diversity, women, leadership and restoring civility in politics. Brazile is the author of several books, including the New York Times’ bestseller “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House.” @DonnaBrazile
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