It’s the Racial Equity Plan For Me, Joe
By Sidney Essex
“It’s the _____ For Me, Joe” is a short weekly breakdown of Joe Biden’s policy plan for a specific issue, with the aim of encouraging and energizing college students across the Democratic political spectrum—particularly those who are less than excited about Joe Biden. It is written by Sidney Essex (instagram: @sidney.essex, twitter: @essexsidney), a Biden Policy Expert on the Campaigns Committee.
On February 28th, after crushing defeats in the first three primaries, the Biden campaign was dead. 24 hours later, on February 29th, Joe Biden won the mostly Black South Carolina electorate by 30 points. He continued to enjoy high polling with Black voters, particularly those over 40, which provided his campaign with the momentum that would carry him all the way to the nomination.
Of course, all of this was before a once in a generation pandemic killed 190,000 people—a disproportionate amount of whom were Black—and before the brutal murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor set off one of the largest protest movements against systemic racism in our nation’s history. Joe Biden has honored both the Black votes that revived his candidacy and the movement to protect Black lives with one of the most ambitious plans for racial equity and justice in the modern era, with policies to reverse systemic racism in criminal justice, education, wealth accumulation, and civil rights.
Of course, any discussion of racism in the American justice system would be remiss not to mention the now infamous 1994 tough-on-crime bill, co-authored by Joe Biden and passed by the likes of Bernie Sanders and the Senate Black Caucus, undoubtedly one of the key contributors to modern mass incarceration. But while Joe Biden may have helped to fundamentally break the criminal justice system, he is also poised to fix it. On the legislative side, the former Vice President plans to call for the immediate passage of Rep. Bobby Scott’s SAFE Justice Act. This would reduce recidivism through prison based programming and learning through earned time credits, cut down on over-criminalization and over-policing by expanding the drug trafficking safety valve, an alternative to mandatory minimums, and creating a performance incentive funding program to encourage states to invest in problems solving courts and restorative justice. His administration also plans to push for legislation to address systemic prosecutorial misconduct. He will also undertake the long term legislative project of eliminating mandatory minimums and the death penalty.
On the executive side, a Biden administration plans to end the federal government’s use of private prisons and stop corporations from taking advantage of prison labor. His Department of Justice would be empowered and encouraged to take on systemic malpractice and racism in law enforcement around the country. A new Task Force on Prosecutorial Discretion will work to ensure prosecutors enforce the law in a humane, compassionate way, recognizing the humanity of the accused. He will also eliminate barriers to a reentry to society after someone has served their time, strongly incentivize states to restore voting rights to ex-felons, and authorize a $20 billion grant program for positive criminal justice and law enforcement reform at the state and local level.
The Biden-Harris administration will also disrupt the school to prison pipeline by reinforcing and reforming our public school system so that all Black students can receive a 21st century education rather than having to endure the trauma of constant criminalization. They’d start by investing $1 billion into juvenile justice reform through expanded after school and summer programming, new urban community centers, and a commitment to double the number of mental health professionals in public schools. He will also create a $100 million pilot program to explore restorative justice based alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent youth, and then repurpose juvenile detention centers for their communities’ benefit. Biden also plans to eliminate the racial funding gap in public schools, giving teachers a raise and improving and expanding the STEM curriculum Black students are too often excluded from. Combined with his plan to make college accessible, this policy will ensure that Black students have the academic skills, encouragement, and affordability necessary for higher education. He will further encourage Black college education by authorizing $70 billion in federal funding for HBCUs and other minority institutions.
Joe Biden understands that historically, one of the key obstacles to true racial equity and justice in America has been the prevention of Black wealth accumulation, whether it be through Jim Crow in the South or redlining and other predatory federal banking practices in the North. His administration will begin to undo this inequity by increasing opportunities for Black entrepreneurs by increasing funding for the Minority Business Development Agency, protecting Social Security, and increasing opportunities for Black-owned businesses to obtain federal contracts. A Biden Presidency would also attack the injustice of racism in credit scores by creating a public credit reporting agency within the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to ensure the algorithms used for credit scoring do not have a discriminatory impact. It will also accept non-traditional sources of data, such as rental history and utility bills to establish credit. This new function of the executive branch will additionally address some of the most egregious sources of racism in American life: home value, ownership, and community resources. He will immediately invest $100 billion into constructing and upgrading affordable housing, and use the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which requires communities to proactively examine housing patterns and address discrimination to combat gentrification. The administration will also strengthen and expand the Community Reinvestment Act to ensure that our financial services are serving all communities, and hold those that engage in discrimination accountable to the fullest extent of the law. There will also be a national standard of housing appraisals to ensure that racism or implicit racial bias does not play a part in the value of an American home.
Finally, in memory of Congressman John Lewis, Joe Biden will reverse the damage the Trump administration has wreaked upon civil rights enforcement by ensuring the Department of Justice’s civil rights agencies have the resources they need to represent the American people and root out discrimination all over the country. Crucially, Biden’s Department of Justice will also aggressively protect voting rights, and the administration will use federal funding incentives to attempt to put an end to gerrymandering, combating one of the oldest American white supremacist tricks in the book: disenfranchisement.
I will never understand what it is like to be Black in this country, and I therefore cannot possibly make the argument that Joe Biden’s response to our nation’s original sin is the morally correct one. I can only articulate it and compare it with that of his only opponent, which is to stoke the flames of white supremacy, inciting and exploiting it for a political strategy that is nothing more than concentrating uneducated white rage and fear of a more diverse and equitable America.
Note: The mission of the GW College Democrats Blog is to highlight, empower, and facilitate the political expression of GWCD members. As such, the views expressed in this article are based on the opinions of its author, and do not necessarily represent the views of the whole of GW College Democrats, its executive board, or its deputy director board.