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National Urban League Helping to Shape Biden-Harris Cabinet and Agenda

“You shape the lives of millions of Americans, as well as American history, and all for the better. I really mean it when I say the country needs you more than any time in the past. The Urban League has stared down some tough, tough periods in American history, and the Urban League has never backed down. You stuck to your core mission: A fight for economic justice and social justice. You’ve and you’ve done it in good times and bad times. You have boosted millions of Americans out of poverty into the middle class. You’ve kept your mission.” -- Joe Biden, 2019 National Urban League Conference, Indianapolis

In the days since the Electoral College officially elevated Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to President-elect and Vice President-elect, announcements of the new administration’s chosen Cabinet, senior advisors and policy initiatives has crowded baseless claims of election fraud from the headlines.

I’m proud to say these vitally important decisions are being made with the input and guidance of the National Urban League.

Last week, I was part of a group of civil rights leaders who met with the President-elect and Vice President-elect to discuss the critical issues of racial equity and diversity in their administration.

The meeting was positive and encouraging. The President-elect reaffirmed his commitment to racial justice. We underscored that our job as historical civil rights leaders is first, to help him and secondly, to hold him accountable for the commitments that were made.

It is essential that the incoming administration assemble a cabinet and advisors that reflect the nation’s diversity. The consent of the governed is conferred not only by an election, but by the people seeing themselves among those who govern.

Almost half of nominees for cabinet and cabinet-level positions announced so far are people of color, including African Americans General Lloyd Austin as secretary of Defense and Representative Marcia Fudge as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Among the selections for cabinet-level positions and senior staff, President-elect Biden has nominated four prominent women of color: Neera Tanden to direct the Office of Management and Budget; Katherine Tai as U.S. trade representative, Linda Thomas -Greenfield as United Nations Ambassador and Cecilia Rouse to chair the Council of Economic Advisors.

This is a welcome and encouraging development following the least diverse administration since Ronald Reagan’s first term. But during the meeting with the President-elect and Vice President-elect, we made it clear that appointing a diverse cabinet and advisors is not a substitute for a policy agenda that promotes racial justice and opportunity.

In the first 100 days of the Biden Harris administration, we would like to see action on voting rights, action on criminal justice reform and an equitable distribution plan for the COVID vaccine. We also would like to see an economic framework that makes a down payment toward reducing and eliminating the racial wealth gap.

Both Attorneys General under the current administration have refused to investigate misconduct among police departments, either individual misconduct or patterns of conduct. That should be reversed on day one: put the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division back in business and allow them to do their job.

Both President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris have been longtime allies of the National Urban League. We honored the Vice President-elect as one of the first recipients of our “Woman of Power” awards in 2004, just after she was elected District Attorney of San Francisco. In 2017, when she assumed office as California’s third female U.S. Senator, and the first of Jamaican or Indian ancestry, we honored her with the Hiram Revels Award for Achievement, named for the first African American to serve in the U.S. Congress. Both she and President-elect Biden have been frequent speakers at the National Urban League Conference and our Legislative Policy Conference.

The National Urban League is prepared to work closely with the Biden-Harris Administration to make sure they follow through on their commitments and to help them achieve these goals.


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