As President Biden on Tuesday announces a set of policies aimed at addressing racial inequalities in Tulsa, Oklahoma, race issues continue to simmer in US politics, stoking partisan divisions and potentially delaying some of the measures the president will announce.
Biden will make his remarks on the 100th anniversary of a 1921 racial massacre in Tulsa in which a white mob killed at least 300 blacks in the Greenwood neighborhood. This area at the time was known as “Black Wall Street” for its thriving businesses owned primarily by minorities. There, the president will announce a set of policies aimed at reducing the “racial wealth gap”.
But sharp divisions remain over a litany of questions both racial and not – up to whether the United States itself is a consistently racist country. Biden himself acknowledged the main divisions in the country in his Memorial Day speech on Monday, saying the United States is in a “struggle for the soul of America itself.”
“America’s soul is driven by the perpetual battle between our worst instincts, which we have seen recently, and our best angels,” Biden said. “Between ‘me first’ and ‘we the people’. Between greed and generosity. Cruelty and kindness. Captivity and freedom.”
SPEECH BY BIDEN COMMORING THE MASSACRE OF THE RACE OF TULSA TO DETAIL EFFORTS TO COMBAT RACIAL INEQUALITIES
One of the animating issues on the breed this year has been the passing of legislation, both state and federal. Republicans who pass state election security laws say they are simply meant to ensure elections run more smoothly and with less risk of fraud. Those who support these laws, especially Georgia’s high-profile one, often point to certain fact-checks that indicate these laws expand the possibilities for voting when taken as a whole.
But Democrats say the identification provisions and other elements of those laws are aimed at undermining the ability of blacks to vote. Atlantic writer Jemele Hill said Republicans “want their power taken away by black voters” and “want a rigged game.” Biden, meanwhile, called Georgia’s law and others “Jim Crow laws.” And he took another noticeable blow to state-level election laws in his Memorial Day remarks on Monday.
After warning that the United States is in the midst of a “struggle for the soul of America itself,” Biden went on to say that “democracy thrives when the infrastructure of democracy is strong; when people have the right to vote freely, fairly and conveniently… when the rule of law applies equally and equitably to all citizens, no matter where they come from or what they look like.
Conversely, a Democrat-backed congressional ballot bill that Republicans call a “takeover” is almost certain to stagnate in the weeks to come. But Democrats say the bill is necessary to expand voting rights and protect minority voters. “Why are you so afraid of democracy? Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., called on Republicans during a hearing.
Some progress has been made on police reform in recent months, with key negotiators as late as last week expressing optimism about the prospects for a deal that could be passed by the Senate. Senator Cory Booker, DN.J., said “a lot of progress” is being made and “everyone wants to do something really meaningful.”
Sen. Tim Scott, RS.C., the Republicans’ top negotiator, added that “we can see the end of the tunnel.”
But Scott and Booker, both black, will have to negotiate the looming possibility that left-wing House Democrats defect from a bill if it stray too far from the Republicans’ position in the Senate. Last month, a group, mostly made up of progressive “squad” members like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y., said any police reform bill “must” end qualified immunity, a protection that protects government officials such as the police from personal liability in some cases when they violate a person’s rights.
THE TULSA MASSACRE DOCUMENTARIES OFFER A DEEP DIVE INTO THE TRAGEDY
“As police violence, as a weapon of structural racism, continues to have devastating and deadly consequences for the lives of blacks and browns across our country, we urge you not only to maintain but to strengthen the provision eliminating qualified immunity as Senate negotiations continue, “read a letter from left-wing House lawmakers.
Many Republicans drew red lines on changes to qualified immunity, signaling that a bill that changes it could not get the necessary 10 votes in the Senate. Members of the “squad” have not explicitly threatened to vote against anything that does not deal with qualified immunity. But if they do, they could potentially sink the legislation in the House if not enough Republicans walk across the aisle to vote for it.
These negotiations are taking place against the backdrop of a fundamental disagreement over whether the United States is structurally racist, as many Democrats claim.
“Listen to me clearly: America is not a racist country,” Scott said in his rebuttal of Biden’s speech to a joint session of Congress. “It’s a bit backward to fight discrimination with different types of discrimination, and it is wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly end debates in the present… Race is not a political weapon to solve every problem as a party wants it. “
Vice President Harris herself has said she doesn’t think the United States is inherently racist. Nonetheless, many Democrats criticized Scott for his comments.
Biden’s black wealth proposals on Tuesday include several provisions that could themselves fall victim to a divided Congress. A variety of funds, grants and tax credits will be included in the president’s “US Jobs Plan,” according to a White House backgrounder. But negotiations on this bill, ostensibly an “infrastructure” plan, have already been going on for weeks with Republicans in the Senate. They say they want a bill that deals with physical infrastructure rather than the broad definition of infrastructure supported by the White House.
All of this is happening as more and more race issues loom in the background. These include increased attacks on American Jews as some Democrats condemn Israel for its handling of Hamas rocket attacks. This question has divided the Democratic Party itself, with some alleging that those behind the accused anti-Israel rhetoric are not doing enough to quell anti-Semitism.
“I’ll say the quiet part out loud; it is time for ‘progressives’ to start condemning anti-Semitism and violent attacks against the Jewish people with the same intent and vigor demonstrated in other areas of activism, ”said Representative Dean Phillips, D- Minn., Tweeted last month, “The silence has been deafening.”
Meanwhile, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., Herself drew allegations of anti-Semitism with comments comparing wearing masks to the Nazis forcing Jews to wear yellow stars during the Holocaust.
And many parents and right-wing activists recoil from the “critical race theory” and other race-related lesson plans Democrats claim are taught in schools. This has led some Republican state lawmakers to support efforts to limit these lessons.
There is also the specter of the last year’s widespread protests against police brutality and racism, which often turned into riots and became one of many corner issues in the 2020 presidential election.
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The riots themselves might not return. But the debate about them seems almost certain to emerge, especially as the 2022 election approaches. A human embodiment of these riots, Mark McCloskey, is showing up in the GOP primary to replace the retired senator. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. McCloskey rose to fame when he and his wife Patricia brandished guns as they faced a wave of protesters marching through their neighborhood.
“God came knocking on my door disguised as an angry mob. It really woke me up,” he said on “Tucker Carlson Tonight”. “While I was campaigning for [Donald Trump], and we continued to organize rallies and events supporting our constitutional rights, what I learned is that people are fed up with canceling culture – and the poison of critical race theory and the big lie of systemic racism. “
Houston Keene and Thomas Barrabi of Fox News contributed to this report.
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