What Black America can expect from President Biden’s State of the Union address

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Biden is expected to call for the passing of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act as the parents of Tyre Nichols watch from the audience on Tuesday night.

President Joe Biden is entering a moment of great consequence as he prepares to deliver his second State of the Union address Tuesday on Capitol Hill. The primetime address, which airs at 9 p.m. ET, will happen before the new 118th Congress, members of the president’s cabinet, and guests, and will be televised for millions of American viewers.

On the heels of the deadly Memphis police beating of Tyre Nichols, President Biden is expected to focus greatly on the issue of policing in America. Other themes for Biden’s speech to the nation, which will be delivered in the well of the U.S. House of Representatives, will range from women’s rights and national security to the nation’s economy.

US President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress in the U.S. Capitol House Chamber on March 1, 2022 in Washington, DC. During his first State of the Union address, President Joe Biden was expected to speak on his administration’s efforts to lead a global response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, work to curb inflation, and bring the country out of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Saul Loeb – Pool/Getty Images)

The fight for abortion rights will be of particular focus after the Supreme Court last year overturned Roe v. Wade, ending a nearly 50-year-old federal right to an abortion. Reproductive rights have been a major focus of the administration, largely led by Vice President Kamala Harris, since the court’s controversial ruling. Access to abortion and reproductive care is especially a consequence for Black women.

Biden’s focus on national security comes in the wake of the United States shooting down a Chinese spy balloon that flew above the continental U.S. Subsequently; the U.S. faces a diplomatic crisis after it destroyed the Chinese surveillance device. Russia’s war on Ukraine and its ripple effect are also expected to be part of the president’s address.

The economy is also a major focus of President Biden’s message to Americans. The nation’s financial outlook will loom large for Biden amid an ongoing debate in Congress over raising the debt ceiling. If Republicans continue to stall in passing a law to raise the debt ceiling past the June deadline, the impact on Americans’ pocketbooks will be severe. The economy was ranked as the number one concern for Americans leading into the 2022 midterm elections as the White House worked to stave off a recession, including Black Americans, according to a survey conducted by theGrio and KFF.

Biden will, without a doubt, renew his call for Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would enact federal police reforms. President Biden had hoped to sign the bill into law on the first anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. In the wake of the police beating death of 29-year-old Nichols, the president will make a new plea for Congress to pass the Floyd Act, which has been elusive on Capitol Hill.

President Joe Biden and a man holding up a sign protesting the police death of George Floyd. (Photo: Getty Images)
President Joe Biden and a man holding up a sign protesting the police death of George Floyd. (Photo: Getty Images)

The parents of Tyre Nichols will also be in attendance during Tuesday’s address in Washington, D.C. His mother RowVaughn Wells, and stepfather Rodney Wells, were invited by the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford.

Nichols’ police-involved death, most of which was captured on police body camera footage, has reignited calls for police accountability through the Floyd policing bill. There are also talks among lawmakers to include a measure regarding an officer’s duty to intervene in excessive or deadly force, as officers on the scene of the Nichols case did not try to prevent other officers from brutalizing him, nor was there an urgency to administer aid. Six Memphis police officers have been fired in the aftermath of the Nichols killing, and five have been charged with second-degree murder, among other charges.

Civil rights leaders and groups have been swift in their calls for police accountability in the wake of Tyre Nichols’ death. Leon W.  Russell, chair of the NAACP Board of Directors, told theGrio, “The NAACP is committed to working for real change in the way our communities are policed and how the culture of policing can be changed in order to prevent any more deadly encounters resulting in the murder of young Black men.”

Cicley Gay, who serves as chair of the Black Lives Matter Global Foundation board of directors, told theGrio in a written statement: “When Black people are harmed by the police, it’s certainly about those precious lives stolen, their families and our community. Yet, we must not only focus on the specific details of a specific incident or police force. It’s also about how this country keeps people safe.

Gay continued: “Until we start building a safety infrastructure that invests in root causes and in people, not in structures that are still killing people unjustly every day, we’ll never get to the genuine safety and care that all people deserve.”

Protesters march down the street Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, in Memphis, Tenn., as authorities release police video depicting five Memphis officers beating Tyre Nichols, whose death resulted in murder charges and provoked outrage at the country’s latest instance of police brutality. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Protesters march down the street Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, in Memphis, Tenn., as authorities release police video depicting five Memphis officers beating Tyre Nichols, whose death resulted in murder charges and provoked outrage at the country’s latest instance of police brutality. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The president’s State of the Union address comes as a CNN report notes that Democratic Party leaders like Biden but don’t “love” him. Those sentiments come as the president’s approval ratings are higher than they had been, but still relatively low. According to a Gallup poll, President Biden’s job approval stands at 41 percent.

TheGrio recently spoke with Terry Edmonds, who was the first Black presidential speechwriter. Edmonds, who penned several State of the Union addresses for then-President Bill Clinton, emphasized that Biden will need to tout his “accomplishments” amid political implications over his possession of classified documents, which is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice.

As it relates to the death of Nichols and frustration in Black communities over the issue of policing, Edmonds said President Biden will also need to assert himself as the “healer in chief.”

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