Biden to meet George Floyd’s family amid uncertain race progress

On Tuesday, a year after George Floyd was killed at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, his family members will travel to Washington, DC, for a private audience with President Joe Biden, their first in-person meeting with the President since their burial. Floyd.

While White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden was “eager to listen to their views and hear what they have to say,” a broken promise looms over of the meeting as progress on police reform stalls, including legislation bearing the Floyd name Biden had hoped for. would be law on the anniversary of his death.

Floyd’s murder and the graphic video that showed his last breaths sparked an often inflammatory conversation about the role race played in criminal justice, economics, education, and other aspects of American life. But a conversation about systemic racism doesn’t equate to action to dismantle it, and as the nation passes the grim anniversary, activists say the politicians who embraced the change have often failed to implement it.

“Even though I believe that stealing [Floyd’s family] and stuff like that, it’s a nice gesture, but it’s not the change we need, ”said Bernice Lauredan, an organizer of Tampa Dream Defenders, a group that aims to end the police and police. prisons that formed after the murder of Trayvon Martin. “We need deep and profound changes in the way we perceive public safety in these cities.”

Martin was a 17-year-old black man from Florida who was gunned down in 2012 by a local resident who considered him a suspect, sparking protests and making his death something of a precursor to Floyd’s.

Former President Donald Trump has regularly made racist statements and was hostile to the Black Lives Matter protesters, calling them violent “thugs”. Biden has in many ways framed his presidential race in opposition to this, placing racial fairness at the heart of his campaign. This raised hopes among civil rights leaders that he would adopt far-reaching and long-awaited changes.

Biden knelt in sympathy with the protesters during his first in-person campaign event during the pandemic, made history by selecting Kamala Harris as his first black vice president and, following his election, said all aspects of his administration would work to make American society more equitable.

In his first joint speech to Congress, he urged lawmakers to pass police reform by May 25. And when Derek Chauvin, the former cop who knelt at Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes, was convicted of murder, Biden told Floyd’s family, “We’re going to do a lot more. We’re going to stay there until it’s done. . . This will be the first attempt to deal with real systemic racism. ”

But the black community, like many other Americans, is divided over whether Biden and other national leaders have kept their promise to address the country’s racial issues.

Few dispute that Biden elevated black Americans and other people of color to higher positions than any of his predecessors, although some note that his inner circle is still largely white. He speaks regularly about structural racism and has designed his coronavirus relief program to tackle racial inequalities.

But a criminal justice reform bill that passed the House has stalled in the Senate, becoming a symbol of the unfulfilled hopes of many community leaders. Skeptical activists fear that the energy that has motivated millions of people to protest the change will not be enough to overcome Washington’s inertia.

Some have worried for months that Biden – a moderate who was criticized during the campaign for speaking kindly about segregationist senators, and who told the host of a radio show aimed at black audiences that he was ‘they were picking Trump over him t Black’ – was ill-equipped to tackle the issues.

Since Biden’s election, the rise in crime in American cities has made many politicians even more suspicious of proposals to withdraw funding from police services and redistribute it to schools and social services, a key objective of many protest movements.

Since Lauredan led protesters in street protests in St. Petersburg and Tampa, for example, the latter has voted to increase police funding by $ 13 million.

“The reality is that what we are currently doing is not working and we have to try something different,” Lauredan said. “And it’s a long and difficult conversation, and I think a lot of people get scared when they hear ‘defund the police’ because they feel like we’re going to go back to some kind of wild and wild life. . “

A sweeping franchise measure faces an even more difficult rise in Congress than a police overhaul, leading to more frustration over Washington’s inability to push through legislation that enshrines long-term changes.

Cedric Richmond, a senior Biden adviser who engaged minority communities on behalf of the White House, said critics should not judge the administration solely on its ability to push through a police reform bill by Congress.

Biden’s coronavirus relief program, for example, included billions for underprivileged farmers, about a quarter of whom are black. The money provides debt relief as well as grants, training, education and other assistance to acquire land.

“I just came from an event with black farmers where we educate them on how to get loan repayments,” Richmond said in an interview Monday. “That’s $ 5 billion in equity down payment in this space.”

He also cited statistics that the American Rescue Plan had reduced black poverty and closed the vaccination rate gap between black and white Americans. And while the Justice Department is independent, Richmond stressed that those named by Biden are taking a closer look at troublesome patterns and practices that lead to unequal treatment by police.

He also said Biden and other members of the administration continued to work with a bipartisan group of senators trying to find common ground on police reform.

“There is no magic wand in passing legislation,” said Richmond, a former congressman from Louisiana. “It is hard work. It is complicated and it takes time. Senator Booker said the talks had been meaningful, that he and Tim had entered into honest negotiations and that they were trying to get to a good place. , and we support that. We don’t want a rushed bill, we want a meaningful bill. ”

Sen. Cory Booker, DN.J., and Tim Scott, RS.C., along with Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., Released a statement Monday saying they are still working on a deal.

“While we still work on our differences on key issues, we continue to move forward towards a compromise and remain optimistic about the prospects of achieving this goal,” lawmakers said.

Lauredan said she and other protesters never expected the government to lead the change, suggesting it must come from ordinary people.

“I am encouraged because I see that people have continued to stay on the streets, as people have continued to be public, and more people than ever have been engaged in the Black Life movement,” Lauredan said. . “So for me that’s what’s optimistic and that’s what’s exciting. We just need our government to catch up with people’s situation. “

Copyright: (c) 2021, The Washington Post

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