Can vs. Should: Biden’s Promise to America
In his speech at the Democratic National Convention, Presidential Nominee Joe Biden set the tone for both a restorative and proactive White House administration come 2021. His ascension to President of the United States isn’t certain, but Biden’s speech inspires the kind of reasonable confidence politics has lacked in recent years. However, many still doubt Biden’s commitment to change, despite his platform boasting some of the most progressive policies from any Democrat nominated to the presidency.
The progressives that oppose Biden push back against the popular notion that once Trump is evicted and the spread of Covid-19 is under control, we can return to life as normal. They do this largely because they recognize that a return to normalcy isn’t good enough. The social justice movements sweeping America have highlighted our society’s faults and deficiencies, and many fear a vote for Biden is a vote for a return to peace for some, while still ignoring the systemic hardships of others.
Politicians like to claim that America is the land of opportunity where anyone can succeed. They like to talk about boot-straps and free markets and true grit. However, America is finally waking up to the realization that this simply is not true. Politicians and lawmakers unconsciously or willfully ignore the inequities our history has created that make it far more difficult for many Americans to succeed. Therefore, in this election cycle, we are called to confront the elusive nature of America’s favorite promise.
Biden’s acceptance speech commits him to addressing America’s problem with inequity. Despite his comforting words, rational trains of thought, and comprehensive policy agendas, it’s one sentence in particular that made me think he truly understands this call to justice. When he spoke on his belief that America could be defined by possibility, Biden said, “[I]n America, everyone, and I mean everyone, should be given the opportunity to go as far as their dreams and God-given ability will take them” (emphasis mine). He didn’t wax poetic about the land of the free, nor did he make sweeping generalizations regarding what any American can do if they put their mind to it. Instead, Biden claimed America should provide equal opportunities, thereby acknowledging that America doesn’t currently ensure opportunity for all.
Whether it’s income, health care, civic engagement, or education, Americans of color are statistically and categorically cheated out of opportunities that too many white Americans don’t even realize they have. For example, the condition of black housing in America stems from the generational impact of redlining. While the government momentarily attempted to rectify the damage redlining did to housing opportunities for black Americans with the 1968 Fair Housing Act and the Housing and Urban Development Act, it was short lived.
In Race for Profit, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor details how our government failed black Americans by moving fair housing practices to the private sector. By allowing for profit organizations to provide the kind of financial assistance black Americans needed in order to succeed in a still largely segregated America, the government all but ensured the back-breaking debt and inopportunity that would befall black Americans for generations to come.
In an interview Taylor did with Mother Jones earlier this year, she refers to Newsday’s investigation “of a three-year investigation that showed the pervasive racism and discrimination of real estate agents in the Long Island housing market.” She then asks, “Why is a newspaper doing housing testing and not the federal government?” I believe Biden’s comprehensive plan to address housing inequality will make this question obsolete by providing the kind of government infrastructure necessary to solve the problem. Kamala Harris, Biden’s pick for Vice President, has also advocated for fairer housing laws and investing in communities that are still suffering from the effects of redlining.
This is just one area where Biden and Harris recognize a road block in pursuing the American dream. An affirmation of this caliber gives me hope that when the dust settles on the destructive force that was the Trump administration, we will not return to normal. There will be restoration and progress; healing and confrontation. With Joe Biden as America’s President, I believe we can truly move forward as a nation that lives up to its promises.