WASHINGTON — The Biden administration appears to be paying close attention to the criticisms thatdemocratsjust participatewith black votersduring electoral cycles without complying with the issues that concern them.
Vice-President Kamala Harris, which is playing a crucial role in government outreach, met quietly last week with students andcivil rightsorganizers to solicit ideas on how the Biden administration can help black youth.
In the private meeting, attendees detailed how the White House can helpyoung people of color improve their livelihoods. Harris also wanted to know how the White House can help black youth overcome stigma.
Participants in the hour-long discussion with Harris said the conversation continued with the vice president's top advisers after his departure. They were left with the impression that the White House is looking to broaden its policies, they said, and improve its engagement with young people of color.
“The purpose of the meeting was really for them to listen, for her to listen, for her team to listen and really figure out how to go deep and think about an intentional plan to engage black men, particularly young black men in this country. that don't see themselves in the process, but more importantly, to address their concerns and issues,” said NAACP National Vice President of Membership Dominik Whitehead.
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Whitehead said the vice president told aides he would listen and "take everything off the list and figure out what our game plan is" while the administration develops a strategy that aides can participate in.
Harris and his team were "uncompromising" in keeping the more than 30 participants informed about "what they do and what they plan to do," said Tylik McMillan, current manager of the statewide National Credit Union Association and a former civil rights organizer.
“The VP has shared several times how it was a priority for them and they will continue to engage with us moving forward as they are in the planning process for whatever comes up or announces,” said McMillan.
The vice president's office declined to comment on the USA TODAY story.
Biden's recent contact with black men
The meeting comes as President Joe Biden prepares to deliver his State of the Union address and possibly announce a bid for re-election, and after thean intermediate cyclein which manyBlack male voters saidthey felt abandoned by the Democratic Party.
Black women vote at higher rates for the Democratic Party compared to black men. During the 2020 presidential election, 95% of black women voted for Biden, while 87% of black men voted for him.according to the Pew Research Center.
Harris has conducted listening sessions with civil rights leaders, abortion rights activists, students and others.
Two days before Harris' meeting with black youth, Biden highlighted his administration's efforts to pass federal voting rights reforms on a Sunday.sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Churchan atlanta
The next day, over breakfast in Washington, D.C. organized by the National Action Network, a civil rights organization founded by Rev. Al Sharpton, Biden spoke at length aboutyour administration's policiesimplemented with the aim of improving the lives of African Americans.
"On this and a lot, I support you," Biden told breakfast attendees.
Black men and the economy
Systemic racism and inequalities in the criminal justice system have long hampered black men's employment and financial security.
Black men have been one of the hardest hit groups financially during the COVID-19 pandemic. In June 2020, theUnemployment rate for black men hits 16%while thethe global unemployment rate was 11.1%, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Whitehead said the vice president's office reached out to the NAACP, which eventually sent more than a dozen of its members to meet with Harris, and said it wanted to speak with black men ages 18 to 35.
Students from Harvard University, UCLA and Morehouse College and organizers affiliated with the National Urban League and the National Action Network also participated in the meeting. So did climate activists, trade unionists and people affected by the hurricanes in Puerto Rico, said people who attended the meeting.
The vice president's top economic adviser, Deanne Millison, was among Harris' attendees who attended the closed-door meeting. Harris' office declined to make Millison available for an interview.
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Participants said the conversation focused on economic empowerment and opportunities for communities of color and touched on black entrepreneurship, the racial wealth gap,disproportionately high interest ratesfor black borrowers, barriers to home ownership, inflated rental prices, mental health programs, criminal justice reform, and equal access to high-paying jobs.
“The vice president was very attentive to the conversation,” said McMillan, a former national youth director and senior policy adviser to Sharpton's group. “It was a real conversation. She kept it real."
McMillan said he spoke to the group about the need to ensure that financial institutions, such as credit unions, have the resources to invest in low-income communities. He said there was also talk about how the White House can engage young people on these issues through social media.
promessa de Biden
Some of Biden and Harris' promises of "empower black men”has been more successfulWhich others.
Minimum wage increase legislation that would close the racial wealth gap, for example,is stalled in Congress. Legislation that restores and expands credit for first-time homebuyersis under discussionbut it did not become law. Biden Student Debt Forgiveness Actionswere blockedby the courts.
A law that Congress passed last summer addressing gun violence includedadditional money fortratamento de saúde mental e dependência, e legislação de infraestrutura fornecidasome of the fundsBiden pledged to target minority-owned businesses.
Joshua Harris, vice president of the Baltimore NAACP, said he hopes the meeting with the vice president will prompt the administration to pursue tangible economic policies that improve the lives of black men.
An example Harris gave from the NAACP is how implementing theInflation Reduction LawIt affects black men in the US.
"Where are the tangible jobs for someone who may only have a high school diploma?" Harris said. "How do we get them into these blue-collar jobs? What's that like?
Biden Administration Faces Setback
Polls of black men after the 2022 midterms showed they still overwhelmingly approve of the Biden administration, but more work can be done.
ANHit Strategies December Survey, a public polling firm, found that 81% of black men approve of the work Biden is doing. But only 59% of black men said they were satisfied with the direction the country is taking and 41% said they were dissatisfied.
A June poll conducted by Hit Strategies on behalf of the NAACP found that a majority of black men trusted Democrats on issues like voting rights, health care and racial equality. But when it comes to the economy and inflation, only 48% to 42% of black men trust Democrats to do a better job than Republicans.
While black men are the second most loyal voting bloc for Democrats, political experts have warned that they are swing voters and cannot be taken for granted.
“One of the criticisms people have of general outreach to black voters is that it doesn't start until months before the election,” said Jermaine House, senior director of communications for HIT Strategies.
W. Mondale Robinson, founder of the Black Male Voter Project and mayor of Enfield, North Carolina, was not invited to Harris' meeting with civil rights organizers. But he said if it was, he wouldn't have attended.
Robinson emphasized that black men are not apolitical, as some experts have described them, but are exhausted by the transactional nature of election cycles.
“People come into our communities two or three months before an election, talking about the proverbial fried chicken and church freaks with nothing left to offer us, nothing to solve the problem that really plagues our lives,” he said.
Like other organizers, Robinson emphasized that black men need the Biden administration to pass legislative policies that positively benefit their lives.
“If the Biden administration wanted to effectively engage black men, it would have started two years ago, when it had the opportunity, when it controlled all three chambers in Washington, DC,” Robinson said. "They had an opportunity to do something about skilled immunity, one of the main issues for black men."
Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that protects government officials from civil liability for constitutional violations. legislatorsnominal immunity dropthe 2021 police reform negotiations; Congress of last resortwalked away from negotiationson police reform, a setback for the Biden administration.
While attendees said the problem came up, Harris of the Baltimore NAACP said he wished the meeting included more conversation about solutions for dealing with the detrimental impact the criminal justice system has had on black men.
“When I say the criminal justice system, I don't just mean those in prison,” Harris said. “But the residual impact of the criminal justice system on who is looking for work, on who needs housing. ”
Still, supporters said they saw the meeting as a positive sign from the Biden administration.
“To hear that the highest levels of government, the White House, are paying attention to black men in a more intentional and understanding way and doing so a year or two before the 2024 election… I think that's a really good thing. doing the White House," House said.