As President Biden announces a set of policies Tuesday aimed at combating racial inequality in Tulsa, Oklahoma, race-related issues continue to simmer in American politics, stoking partisan divisions and potentially stalling some of the measures the president will announce.
Biden will make his remarks on the 100th anniversary of a 1921 race massacre in Tulsa in which a White mob killed at least 300 Black people in the city’s Greenwood district. That area at the time was known as “Black Wall Street” for its thriving primarily minority-owned businesses. There, the president will announce a set of policies aimed at shrinking the “racial wealth gap.”
But sharp divisions remain on a litany of issues both race-related and not – all the way down to whether the United States itself is a systemically racist country. Biden himself acknowledged the major divisions in the country in his Memorial Day address Monday, saying that the United States is in a “struggle for the soul of America itself.”
“The soul of America is animated by the perennial battle between our worst instincts, which we’ve seen of late, and our better angels,” Biden said. “Between ‘me first’ and ‘we the people.’ Between greed and generosity. Cruelty and kindness. Captivity and freedom.”
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy at the Cuyahoga Community College Metropolitan Campus, Thursday, May 27, 2021, in Cleveland. Biden will be in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Tuesday, the site of the one of the worst race massacres in American history. (AP)
BIDEN SPEECH COMMORATING TULSA RACE MASSACRE TO DETAIL EFFORTS TO COMBAT RACIAL INEQUALITY
One of the animating issues on race this year has been voting legislation, both on the state and federal level. Republicans passing state election security laws say they simply aim to ensure elections run more smoothly and with less risk of fraud. Those who support these laws, particularly the most high-profile one in Georgia, often point to some fact-checks that say these laws expand voting opportunities when taken as a whole.
But Democrats say ID provisions and other elements of these laws are aimed at undercutting the ability of Black people to vote. Atlantic writer Jemele Hill said Republicans “resent that their power was taken away by black voters” and “want a rigged game.” Biden, meanwhile, called the Georgia law and others “Jim Crow laws.” And he took another apparent swipe at state-level election laws in his Memorial Day remarks Monday.
After warning that the U.S. is in the middle of a “struggle for the soul of America itself,” Biden continued to say that “democracy thrives when the infrastructure of democracy is strong; when people have the right to vote freely and fairly and conveniently… when the rule of law applies equally and fairly to every citizen, regardless of where they come from or what they look like.”
Conversely, a Democrat-backed voting bill in Congress that Republicans call a “power-grab” is nearly certain to stall in the coming weeks. But Democrats say the bill is needed to expand voting rights and protect minority voters. “Why are you so afraid of democracy?” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., asked Republicans in a hearing.
Some progress has been made on police reform in recent months, with top negotiators as recently as last week saying they were optimistic about the prospects for an agreement that could pass the Senate. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said “a lot of progress” is being made and “everybody wants to get something really meaningful done.”
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., the top negotiator for Republicans, added that “we can see the end of the tunnel.”
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., poses before a meeting with Seve
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