Analysis of Biden’s Black appointments at 100 days: A Joint Center report last week revealed the Biden Administration’s accomplishments on Black appointments (e.g., several historic “firsts,” five Black deputy secretaries, three Black women appellate judge nominees) and areas for growth (more Black representation in economic and tech policy top leadership as well as various types of Assistant Secretary and Senior Executive Service leadership positions, and data disaggregation and disclosure of Black appointments by agency, position, and gender). Other organizations also provided analysis on President Biden’s 100 days, including Brookings, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Movement 4 Black Lives’ Dr. Amara Enyia and Maurice Mitchell, and the National Urban League. Congressional Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty (D-OH) also shared her thoughts on the Biden Administration’s handling of race relations so far.
Racial equity in the American Families Plan: The Biden Administration released a fact sheet showing how the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan advances racial equity by closing “opportunity gaps for low-income children and children of color by providing universal access to preschool, and making quality, affordable child care more accessible across the nation,” “creating a right to paid family and medical leave to ensure working parents and caregivers, including workers of color and low-wage workers, can equitably access the time off they need to support their families,” and “extending the American Rescue Plan’s historic expansions of the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to provide income support and cut poverty among families and workers.”
Honoring Freedom Riders: On the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, President Biden released a proclamation to “honor the Freedom Riders who took a stand against injustice.”
Congressional Black Caucus encourages more Black people to get the COVID-19 vaccine: The CBC launched the “Get Out The Vaccine” initiative this week to help more Black people receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as several communities face barriers such as accessibility and misinformation.
Brookings fellow pushes back on Senator Tim Scott’s claim that America isn’t a “racist country”: Brookings David M. Rubenstein Fellow in Governance Studies Dr. Rashawn Ray provides a brief analysis rebutting Senator Scott (R-SC)’s statement by saying “systemically, we know that Black people compared to whites are more likely to attend schools with less funding per student, less likely to obtain a job because of our ‘Black-sounding’ name or even when attending an Ivy League university, less likely to obtain a home loan (even when having the same credit score), have their homes appraised for equitable value, more likely to experience pregnancy complications and maternal mortality, and more likely to have contact with police and the criminal justice system.”
Senator Manchin dampens DC statehood momentum: In an interview, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) said Congress “should propose a constitutional amendment and let the people of America vote” on whether or not Washington, DC is granted statehood. The Senate has a 50-seat majority, and would need at least 10 votes from Republicans to pass the legislation. If passed, the District would become Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, and would be entitled to two U.S. Senators and a Representative in the U.S. House. As mentioned in a previous Joint Center roundup, statehood for the District (which is 46 percent Black) could start to address some of the Senate’s diversity problems. Currently, African Americans account for 13.4 percent of the U.S. population, but only three 3 percent of U.S. Senators and 3.1 percent of U.S. Senate personal office top staffers who serve as chiefs of staff, legislative directors, or communications directors.
Sen. Schumer on his legislative agenda & Black communities: In an interview with BET, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) discussed his strategy to gain support from Republicans to pass the George Floyd Reform in Policing Act, and the status of the For the People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and the Minority Business Resiliency Act (which could help Black business owners).
Getting to know Ketanji Brown Jackson: The Washington Post profiled Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden’s pick to replace Merrick Garland on the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. If nominated and confirmed, Judge Jackson would be the third Black woman to serve on the D.C. Circuit, which is considered a stepping stone to the U.S. Supreme Court.
President Biden nominates Sylvia E. Johnson, Ph.D., for Member of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. Dr. Johnson currently works for the National Education Association (NEA) in the Government Relations department. Prior to working at the NEA, she was the Assistant Legislative Director of Legislative Affairs for the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW).
Biden nominates Lynnette Y. Overby, Ph.D., for Member of the National Council on the Humanities. Dr. Overby is a Professor of Theatre and Dance at the University of Delaware. She is also the Deputy Director of the Community Initiative, Director of the Partnership for Arts & Culture, and Artistic Director of the Sharing Our Legacy Dance Theatre.
An uneven recovery: While the economy shows signs of recovery, “Black and Latino adults were more than twice as likely as White adults to report in late March 2021 that their household didn’t get enough to eat in the last seven days,” according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). Black and Latino children were three times more likely than White children to live in a household with this kind of food hardship.
Filling gaps in access to paid leave: Improvements to paid leave programs should prioritize accessibility for workers of color, given that 11 percent of Black workers and 10 percent of Latina/o workers needed to take leave prior to COVID-19 but were unable to do so, argues the CBPP. Only 6 percent of White workers reported this dilemma.
Racial wage gaps: New data show that the typical White American has hit an all-time median wage high of $914 per week, which is 42 percent higher than Black Americans and 45 percent higher than Latina/o Americans.
More inclusive policymaking: At a Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs hearing on dignity in work, Heather McGhee, author The Sum of Us, provided evidence of the impacts of racism in policymaking, and Ohio State University Professor of Economics Trevor Logan called attention to inclusive opportunities to improve well-being for workers.
Equity in the workplace: Damon Hewitt of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Fatima Gross Graves of the National Women’s Law Center were among the experts who testified at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission hearing about the impact of COVID-19 on civil rights in the workplace.
Investing in Black-owned businesses: Pointing to data showing that only 17 percent of businesses in districts where people of color make up more than half the population received relief loans (compared with 27 percent of businesses in White-majority districts), the Brookings Institution highlights the importance of ensuring that investments reach Black-owned businesses so they can benefit from the American Jobs Plan. Building capacity in Black-owned firms and hiring Black workers in future infrastructure projects is a necessary first step.
Fighting gentrification with tax policy: Circuit breaker property-tax credits are a viable option to keep lower-income families in their homes in neighborhoods facing gentrification, finds the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
Narrowing economic inequality: President Biden’s American Rescue Plan and American Jobs Plan could be critical first steps toward reducing excessive income and wealth inequality, argues the Center for American Progress. The median income for Black Americans was $58,518 in 2019, compared with a median income of $89,663 for White Americans. The median wealth of Black families amounted to $24,100, or 12.7 percent of the $189,100 median wealth of White families.
Vice President to focus on broadband: President Biden announced that Vice President Kamala Harris has been assigned to lead the effort to ensure that affordable, high-speed internet services are available to every American. This move underscores the priority of the Administration to close the digital divide. Pew Research suggests that 71 percent of Black adults (versus 80 percent of White adults) reported having access to broadband.
Discount internet for low-income families: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced May 12 as the launch date for its Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program. Eligible households will be able to receive a $50 monthly discount off the cost of broadband services from an approved company. Research shows that only 57 percent of Americans who make less than $30,000 a year have access to the internet at home. Households eligible for the EBB Program can enroll through an approved internet service provider or by visitinggetemergencybroadband.org.
Advancing digital readiness and the utilization gap: The National Urban League’s plan to close the digital divide is being credited with bringing to light two key digital equity gaps: the digital readiness of users and the utilization gap (the difference between the capability of broadband networks and the ability to take advantage of these systems and features). The NUL’s plan also calls for a national digital skills program.
HBCUs critical for broadband access: Community colleges, technical colleges, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are being cited as critical resources for helping toprovide broadband access and increase digital skills in underserved urban and rural communities. Joint Center Director of Technology Policy Dr. Dominique Harrison served as moderator for FCC Commissioner Stark’s HBCU Presidents’ Roundtable on solutions needed to get HBCU students and surrounding communities connected to affordable, reliable broadband during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Algorithms and Section 230: A hearing of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law focused on algorithmic disinformation and Section 230 reform. The hearing included testimony from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Dr. Joan Donovan (Research Director at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University). Lawmakers focused on social media company business models as central to the problem of disinformation.
Dark patterns and deceptive tactics: Acting Federal Trade Commission Chairperson Rebecca Slaughter announced ending technology companies’ abuse of dark patterns—deceptive design cues and obstructive tactics that trick people into making decisions they don’t want to make online—as a new regulatory priority. Slaughter cites tech companies’ use of dark patterns among the offenses that disproportionately affect disadvantaged and marginalized communities. At a recent FTC workshop on the topic, University of Florida Associate Professor of Telecommunication Jasmine McNealy discussed the effects of dark patterns on communities of color.
The need for a civil rights audit at Google: Color of Change is pressing Google to undergo a racial equity audit in the wake of the tech giant’s firing of two women who led its Ethical Artificial Intelligence team, including Black researcher Dr. Timnit Gebru. The organization suggests that completing an audit will reveal strengths and weaknesses in racial equity, civil rights, and antidiscrimination at the company. In a recent blog post, Joint Center Technology Policy Director Dr. Dominique Harrison highlights the need for tech companies to complete independent civil rights audits to prevent harm and bias.
Antiracist technology solutions: MIT’s Solve, a social impact and social entrepreneurship organization, is searching for technology-based solutions by and for communities of color that help create antiracist and equitable futures in the U.S. The organization is interested in tools and systems to advance racial equity and access, economic opportunity, health, and safety. Among the solutions sought are ideas to create new approaches to public safety that provide alternatives to technologies such as biased facial recognition. Interested parties can submit a solution on Solve’s website.
Future of Work & Learning
Building worker power: President Biden signed an executive order to create a task force in support of labor organizing, aimed at helping workers both inside the federal government and in hostile locations and industries join labor unions and bargain collectively. The task force will be led by Vice President Kamala Harris.
Building Black worker power: The future for organized labor will feature Black, brown, and female workers more prominently than unions of the past did. In 2020, unions represented 13.9 percent of Black workers, compared with 12 percent of White workers.
Don’t call them unskilled workers: A new report by McKinsey and Opportunity@Work concludes that as many as 30 million U.S.workers without college degrees have the skills necessary to earn 70 percent more than they are currently making. Among these workers, defined as “skilled through alternative routes,” Black workers are cited as less likely to transition to higher-paying positions despite having the requisite skills.
Degrees not required: College degree requirements for job eligibility are barriers for those who have the necessary skills for employment but hold only a high school diploma. Sixty-five percent of Black workers have a high school diploma but no college degree.
HBCUs keeping students safe: HBCUs have demonstrated significant success in slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus on their campuses. For example, North Carolina Public Radio reported that a student attending a University of North Carolina System non-HBCU is more than twice as likely to test positive for the coronavirus than a student attending a North Carolina HBCU.
Vaccine gaps in North Carolina: Black residents in Mecklenburg County, NC make up 33.9 percent of the county’s population but only 21.3 percent of the residents who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. In comparison, White residents in the county make up 58.8 percent of the population and 58.5 percent of the residents who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to data on vaccination rates collected by North Carolina health officials.
Vaccine gaps persist nationally: Despite high demand in hard-hit communities of color in Philadelphia, only 23 percent of coronavirus vaccines are going to Black residents, who make up 40 percent of the city’s population. Black and Latina/o Philadelphians are being vaccinated at only half the rate of White residents. This reflects a national trend, including in Florida, where Black people make up 16 percent of the population but only 8 percent of those vaccinated.
NIH and CDC shift focus on prevention: As part of a shift in national coronavirus strategy focused on prevention, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the CDC are sponsoring an effort to distribute 2 million free at-home COVID-19 test kits to 80,000 families in Greenville, NC and Chattanooga, TN.
Civil rights and faith groups file suit over voting changes: A sixth lawsuit has been filed against Georgia’s new voting law, charging that some of its provisions, including drop-box restrictions and ID requirements, discriminate against Black voters and other voters of color. The Advancement Project National Office filed the suit on behalf of several groups, including Concerned Black Clergy, Faith in Action, the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Mijente, the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, and a coalition of churches.
Black women lead in Maryland: Prince George’s County, Maryland is drawing attention for entering an unprecedented era of leadership by Black women, including County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D). Black women hold 22 of 39 positions (56.4 percent) in Alsobrooks’ cabinet, in a county that is 64 percent Black.
Redistricting matters: More Equitable Democracy is offering a new resource to empower people of color to advocate for equitable redistricting lines by becoming experts in the political redistricting of their communities.
The 4 percent problem: Black participation in leadership across a plethora of companies and organizations, including academic institutions, tech companies, and venture capital firms, has stalled at around 4 percent, according to Jamal Simmons in the journal Democracy. The Joint Center’s August 2020 report found that this phenomenon also extends to personal offices in the U.S. Senate, where African Americans make up 3.1 percent of all top staff (chiefs of staff, legislative directors, and communications directors). In order to address this problem, Simmons argues for staged integration, which means changing recruitment strategies, establishing relationships with mainstream and Black-led organizations, and investing time to produce leaders.
The American Civil Liberties Union calls for President Biden to be “bolder on immigration” as current policies lead to “the disproportionate deportations of Black and Brown immigrants.”
Black Voters Matter announces a new voter outreach initiative on the 60th anniversary of the original Freedom Rides.
Color of Change renews its demand to “end the Senate’s ‘Jim Crow’ filibuster.”
NAACP issues a petition for uniformed police reform to end qualified immunity and collect data on police encounters.
Upcoming events include “Rethinking the economics of child care and paid leave: Policies to protect workers and families” (Brookings Institution, May 12); “REMI Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” (REMI, May 14); “The Benefits and Value of Becoming a Certified Women or Minority-Owned Business” (AARP, the National Minority Supplier Development Council, and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, May 19); “The Benefits and Value of Becoming a Certified Veteran-Owned or Small Business” (AARP, the Small Business Administration, and the Department of Veteran Affairs, May 20); “Advocating for Good Jobs as Workforce Practitioners” (National Skills Coalition, May 26)
The Joint Center thanks the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Boulé Foundation, the Democracy Fund, Toyota Motor North America, Inc., UPS, and the Walmart Foundation for additional support that has allowed us to do some of our COVID-19 and Black Communities work.