Joint Center Updates
President Biden addressed Americans during his first State of the Union: Tuesday night, President Biden gave his first State of the Union address. In his speech, he touted many wins from his first year in office, including rapid job growth, a post-COVID America, and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Additionally, he specified areas for investment and improvement during the remainder of his term. These include voting rights, healthcare reform, supporting Historically Black Colleges and Universities, increasing Pell Grants, and investing in sustainability to thwart climate change. A prominent theme throughout the speech was the importance of bipartisanship, especially after an extremely polarized election and aftermath. In encouraging bipartisanship, Biden urged the Senate to confirm his nominees, which include Drs. Lisa D. Cook and Philip Jefferson, to the Federal Reserve. In anticipation of President Biden’s State of the Union address, the Joint Center released a new survey of Black Americans’ priorities. The poll spotlights the opinions and attitudes of Black Americans on pressing issues and finds that more than half of Black Americans are pessimistic about the direction of the country, particularly regarding the economy.
Black leaders laud President Biden’s nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the High Court: President Biden’s nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to fill the vacancy created by Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement from the U.S. Supreme Court is being widely praised by Black leaders, NBC News reports. If confirmed, Judge Jackson would make history as the first Black woman to serve on the High Court. The Joint Center is among the groups who issued a statement praising Judge Jackson’s nomination. “President Biden made an outstanding choice in nominating Judge Jackson to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Her experiences clerking for Justice Breyer at the U.S. Supreme Court, practicing law, and serving as a federal judge at both the district and appellate levels give her deep insights into the federal judiciary. Judge Jackson’s brilliance, her strong work ethic, and her experiences building consensus while serving on multi-member institutions like the U.S. Sentencing Commission empower her to be an effective and influential justice,” said Spencer Overton, president of the Joint Center.
Prior to the official announcement, the Joint Center has consistently supported President Biden’s promise to nominate a Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court and has been working toward an increase in Black appointments through the organization’s Black Talent Initiative. The historic nomination of Judge Jackson was resoundingly praised by civil rights groups and civic organizations including Advancement Project, National Urban League, Color of Change, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the African American Mayors Association, Black Voters Matter, She Will Rise, and even lead to a letter of support to the Senate from a coalition of over 250 Black women law professors.
White House touts track record on advancing equity and opportunities for Black Americans: The White House closed out Black History Month by issuing a fact sheet summarizing actions taken by the Biden administration to support equity and opportunity for Black people and communities. The fact sheet specifically cited benefits to Black Americans as a direct result of the American Rescue Plan and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, among other policies and programs, as well as leveraging the federal procurement process “to narrow the racial wealth gap for Black entrepreneurs and families.” The Joint Center’s recommendations on pandemic relief for Black families were passed into law in the American Rescue Plan, which helped lift 18 million children out of poverty. And many of our broadband recommendations are in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, including a $65 billion investment in broadband infrastructure, provisions to end digital redlining, and establishing a permanent broadband benefit program for lower-income households.
White House condemns Texas anti-transgender measures: The White House recently issued a statement in response to the new Texas legislature targeting transgender youth. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced that state agencies must investigate parents of transgender children who support their child’s gender-affirming care, claiming that they are engaging in child abuse according to The Washington Post. This measure is intended to devastate transgender people’s lives throughout the state, especially Black transgender people. According to the National LGBTQ Task Force, Black transgender people already face higher levels of discrimination than the general transgender population.
House passes antilynching bill: H.R. 55, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, was overwhelmingly passed by the House of Representatives, The Washington Post reports. Introduced by Congressman Bobby Rush (D-IL), the legislation would make lynching a federal hate crime punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Passage of the bill comes after lawmakers failed to pass antilynching bills nearly 200 times. In 2020, the unanimous passage of a previous version of Congressman Rush’s bill, authored by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and then-Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), was blocked in the Senate by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).
Supporters say bill to study reparations has the votes to pass in the House: Supporters of H.R. 40, which calls for the creation of a commission to conduct a lengthy study of reparations for Black Americans, now have enough votes to pass in the House, The Washington Post reports. Introduced more than three decades ago, the proposed commission is being cited by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) as a potential “healing process.” While supporters are confident of House approval, doubt about the bill’s passage by the Senate has spurred plans to push President Biden to create the commission by executive order.
Upcoming congressional hearings include: The Neglected Epidemic of Missing BIPOC Women and Girls (House Oversight and Reform Committee, Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, March 3).
Color of Change and the National Urban League (NUL) cited the jury convictions of former Minneapolis police officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane for their roles in the murder of George Floyd as important progress toward greater accountability in policing. “This jury finally recognized in a court of law what we have always known to be true: The rules of policing are what make it racist, not just individual officers,” says Color of Change President Rashad Robinson. “Mayors and lawmakers continue to support a system that rewards police for consistently doing harm to Black people.”
The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF) condemned a decision by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to enjoin revisions to the admissions process for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology that created more equal access for Black, Latino/a, and underserved Asian American students. LDF joined with a coalition of civil rights groups to assert, “Today’s erroneous decision by the Court uses the Equal Protection clause to cement pre-existing inequalities and hinder school districts from removing unfair barriers to opportunity for many Black, Latino/a, and underserved Asian American students in direct conflict with the very purpose of the Equal Protection Clause.”
The LDF filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi in a redistricting case opposing the state’s recently enacted Congressional redistricting plan. LDF’s brief argues that Mississippi’s drawing of Congressional District 2 — the state’s one Black-majority district — is a racial gerrymander, in violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
The LDF also submitted written testimony to the Florida House of Representatives opposing H.B. 7061, a bill that would make changes to Florida’s elections laws and “likely diminish the voting rights of voters of color.” The bill would create the “Office of Election Crimes and Security,” a new law enforcement entity that would have the power to conduct investigations into alleged voting irregularities. LDF asserts that “the proposal raises serious concerns of voter intimidation and a potential chilling effect on political participation.”
The LDF joined with other civil rights groups to file an amicus brief on behalf of Black, Latino, and Asian American organizations in support of dismissing Association for Education Fairness v. Montgomery County Board of Education, a lawsuit that seeks to prevent school districts from promoting equality for all students through race-neutral admissions policies.
The NAACP condemned the treatment of African immigrants and other people of color during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, describing the police beatings and the pushing of those fleeing the war zone from trains as “reprehensible.” The NAACP is calling on President Biden and the United Nations “to protect the rights and ensure safe passage” of people fleeing the nation.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights commended the jury finding William Bryan and Travis and Gregory McMichael guilty of federal hate crimes for targeting and depriving Ahmaud Arbery of his rights. The three men were indicted on federal hate crimes and attempted kidnapping charges by a federal grand jury in April 2021.
The Leadership Conference released the “Civil and Human Rights Progress Report: The Biden-Harris Administration and the 117th Congress,” while calling on both the Biden-Harris administration and 117th Congress to continue to advance civil and human rights. The report documents the progress made and the issues still yet to be adequately addressed, per priorities announced by the Leadership Conference after the 2020 election.
The Lawyers’ Committee called for the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, which overwhelmingly passed by the House of Representatives, to be made law. “This important legislation sends a message that those who engage in racist violence will be held accountable,” said the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law President and Executive Director Damon Hewitt. “That message is especially important given the continuing white supremacist violence endemic to our nation.”
The Lawyers’ Committee condemned the U.S. Senate’s failure to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), a bill that would protect the right to abortion nationally, and block medically unnecessary restrictions and bans on abortion care. WHPA passed the U.S. House of Representatives in September 2021. “Restrictions on access to abortion particularly harm Black women and other women of color,” says Lawyers’ Committee President and Executive Director Hewitt, “as well as low-income women, whose health may be endangered by not having access to care in their home state. The Women’s Health Protection Act would remove those barriers.”
Black Voters Matter will celebrate the 57th anniversary of the historic Selma-to-Montgomery March at the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee, March 3-6.
Joint Center Workforce Policy Director Dr. Alex Camardelle will participate in Groundwork Collaborative’s #JobsDay Twitter chat March 4 at 1 p.m. ET. You can follow Dr. Camardelle at @AKCamardelle.
The Multicultural Media, Television and Internet Council will host a public panel on Black Churches Leading Digital Equity Conversations March 14 at 7 p.m. ET.
The 25th Annual Rainbow PUSH Wall Street Project Economic Summit will be March 21-23.
The National Action Network Convention 2022 will be at the Sheraton Times Square New York Hotel in New York City, April 6-9.
Joint Center Vice President of Policy Jessica Fulton will be a panelist at the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Race for Results report virtual event April 11 at 11 a.m. ET.
The National Organization of Black County Official’s 36th Annual Economic Development Conference will be in (Shelby County) Memphis, TN, April 20.
The National Urban League Annual Conference 2022 will be in Washington, D.C, July 20-23.