Like so many, I am relieved that Donald Trump’s tenure has come to a close, but his exit does not end the intolerable conditions faced by Black people in this country. It’s why the Black Lives Matter Global Network is urging President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris to prioritize a community-driven and fully resourced agenda that addresses the particular challenges faced by Black people.
Without the resounding support of Black voters, we would be saddled with a very different electoral outcome. In four of the states that flipped from supporting Trump in 2016 to Biden in 2020, all had huge turnout from Black voters: Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia. While early returns in those states cast doubt on Biden’s chances, it was the late surge from Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia and Atlanta—and the large Black populations—that provided his final cushion.
In short, Black people won this election. Alongside Black-led organizations around the nation, Black Lives Matter invested heavily in this campaign. “Vote and Organize” became our motto, and our electoral justice efforts reached more than 60 million voters.
Yet, Black people are living in crisis in a nation that was built on our subjugation. Whether education, healthcare, housing or jobs, the United States has refused to reckon with how it devalues Black people and devastates our lives. This neglect cannot continue. We can neither afford to live through the vitriol and alienation of a Trump administration nor through the indifference and passivity of a successor that declines to wrestle with the country’s most egregious and damnable shame.
During the presidential campaign, both Biden and Harris said addressing systemic racism was central to their candidacy, and they expressed regret about their record on criminal justice policies. I take them at their word and now it is time for them to honor their pledge. The best way for them to remedy missteps and work toward a more just future for Black people—and by extension all people—is to take more direction from Black grassroots organizers who have been engaged in this work for decades. Our collective insights, skills, and determination make us necessary and effective partners in the room as the Biden-Harris team makes key first decisions before and after Inauguration Day.
Black people are the strongest part of the Democratic Party coalition, and we cannot be taken for granted. We flex our electoral power year after year and must see accountability on the other side of the pivotal wins we make possible.
We want to work with the incoming administration on an agenda that would dramatically lift up Black lives by focusing on reforming the criminal justice system, improving access to quality and affordable healthcare, strengthening our public schools, restoring voter rights and equal access to the ballot box, and investing in our communities to ensure Black people have the same opportunities to thrive.
No longer can a Democratic president urge patience while he placates other constituencies. Our support helped clinch Biden’s victory and there is strong public support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Our most pressing needs must be addressed early in Biden’s term, signaling that we are finally being recognized for our support of the Democratic Party.
In a year of almost unparalleled pain and suffering, we transferred our anguish, energy, and joy to the polls to show that our power is growing, and that safe, strong, and healthy Black communities are our future. We are demonstrating to those who seek to oppress us that inclusion and affirmation will ultimately win out. We are building a democracy that works for all of us, and that effort must accelerate in a Biden administration.
Patrisse Cullors is a Los Angeles native, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Black Lives Matter Global Network, and founder of grassroots, Los Angeles-based organization Dignity and Power Now.
Byline image by Giovanni Solis