Ahead of Black History Month, Biden says America has never lived up to its promise of equality
In his proclamation marking February as National Black History Month, President Biden said part of celebrating the legacy of Black Americans means acknowledging that America has never lived up to its promise that all people should be treated equal.
“The struggles and challenges of the Black American story to make a way out of no way have been the crucible where our resolve to fulfill this vision has most often been tested,” Biden said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Black Americans’ struggles for freedom, equal treatment, and the right to vote; for equal opportunities in education, housing, and the workplace; for economic opportunity, equal justice, and political representation; and so much more have reformed our democracy far beyond its founding. Black Americans have made a way not only for themselves but also have helped build a highway for millions of women, immigrants, other historically marginalized communities, and all Americans to more fully experience the benefits of our society,” the president continued.
Black Americans continue to face discrimination in almost every institution: in schools, Black students are more likely to have less resources and opportunities, including advanced coursework and dual-credit programs, according to the Government Accountability Office. Black students are also more likely to face disciplinary action than their white counterparts.
Meanwhile, white households had homeownership rates at least 10 percentage points higher than Black and Hispanic households, according to the Department of Treasury. This impacts economic security and leads to less generational wealth within families.
And Black Americans also face disparities in employment; the typical white worker earns more than 24 percent per hour more than the typical Black worker, according to a 2019 report by the Economic Policy Institute.
Biden said his administration has been working to address these “long-standing disparities that hamper the progress of Black communities.”
“We are using every avenue to confront racial discrimination in housing and in mortgage lending and to help build generational wealth in Black communities,” he said, adding that his administration is working to end discriminatory appraisals of Black-owned homes.
But Biden also called on Congress to step up to secure voting rights for all Americans.
Allegations of voter suppression have increased over the last few years, with accusations that some GOP-led election reforms and redistricting are aimed at keeping Black voters from easily casting their ballots.
In 2021, the Brennan Center for Justice reported that Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 27, 19 states enacted 33 laws that make it harder to vote — and many of those laws disproportionately impacted Black Americans.
“Equal access to the ballot box is the beating heart of our democracy. Without it, nothing is possible; with it, anything is,” Biden said.
He added that he will continue to push Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, both of which expand voting rights and limit discrimination at the ballot box.
“During National Black History Month, we honor and continue the work of Black Americans who have created a more fair and inclusive democracy, helping our Nation move closer to the realization of its full promise for everyone,” said Biden.
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