“The cry for justice 400 years in the making is ringing out across our nation,” Biden said as he addressed a virtual conference hosted by the National Action Network, a nonprofit civil rights organization founded by civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton.
The President said: “Parts of our country are backsliding into the days of Jim Crow, passing laws that harken back to the era of poll taxes — when Black people were made to guess how many beans, how many jelly beans, in a jar or count the number of bubbles in a bar of soap before they could cast their ballot.”
Last month, Biden called a sweeping Georgia elections bill that imposes new voting restrictions “Jim Crow in the 21st Century” and “an atrocity.” He noted at the time the restrictions disproportionately target Black voters, who were crucial to the recent Democratic victories in Georgia.
Georgia’s new law imposes new voter identification requirements for absentee ballots, limits the use of ballot drop boxes, makes it a crime for anyone other than poll workers to approach voters in line to give them food and water and gives state officials more power over local elections.
The President’s comments come days after Daunte Wright, a Black man, was shot and killed by police during a traffic stop in Minnesota. They also come amid the trial in Minneapolis of a former police officer who fatally knelt on the neck of George Floyd, also a Black man, last year, which sparked protests against police brutality across the country.
Biden did not name Wright or Floyd in his remarks.
Biden thanked Sharpton for his “courageous advocacy through these years.” He said NAN has “always been an essential voice, but never more essential than it is today, upholding and advancing the security and prosperity of health and well-being, dignity and possibilities for all Black Americans.”
The President added that the coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate Black communities, and said his $1.9 trillion Covid-19 emergency relief law will cut poverty in the Black community.
“We have so much work to do on criminal justice to police reform to addressing health disparities and voting rights,” Biden said.
The President pointed to his proposed infrastructure and jobs plan as a way to make “generational investments in rebuilding America, delivering good jobs, equity and opportunity to Black neighborhoods that never seem to get dealt in on the American dream.”
Biden’s jobs and infrastructure proposal is roughly $2 trillion and is aimed at improving the nation’s infrastructure and shifting to greener energy over the next eight years. Biden is also pitching his plan as an investment to benefit communities of color, rural Americans and others burdened by decay or lagging modernization.