No scarcity of priorities as civil rights take heart stage

In last year’s campaign, President-elect Joe Biden stated that his number one legislative priority would be equality law, which would enshrine LGBTQ protection from discrimination in the country’s labor and civil rights laws.

Biden was in Ohio at the time, delivering a keynote address at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual gala. It was the first day of Pride Month. Biden cited his disagreement with many of President Donald Trump’s policies, including an attempt to ban transgender troops from the U.S. military. “It’s wrong and immoral what they do,” Biden said at the time, knowing the equality law would likely be ignored by the Republican-led Senate.

“It will be the first thing I want to do,” said Biden, referring to his legislative priorities if he were elected president.

Now Biden has announced that racial justice will be a top priority for his government. He will seek to bring the Department of Justice’s civil rights division back to its original purpose: it focuses on anti-discrimination laws that protect millions of people from minority groups who were largely ignored during the Trump years.

Biden’s background suggests that his civil rights agenda may be narrowly focused on two colors: black and white. He grew up in a black and white world and worked half his life as a senator in Washington, DC. Biden wrote the Crime Act in 1994. To combat rising crime, this has led to more prison terms, more prison cells and more aggressive policing. It hurt black and brown Americans who are disproportionately incarcerated. By making the criminal justice system more punishable, Biden tried to censure criticism that Democrats are “gentle on crime.”

In fact, there may be a third color in the Biden palette: blue. The president-elect has already published plans to reform the criminal justice system aimed at reversing some of the damage caused by the policies he previously advocated. After George Floyd’s death in May, Biden urged Congress to swiftly pass police reforms, such as banning chokeholds and introducing standards of violence. While not demanding that the police authorities be exonerated, Biden is sure to push for better local practices such as combating systemic racism and discrimination.

Finding Biden is easy. Who wouldn’t want to solve our nation’s persistent black-and-white and black-and-blue challenges?

But I also hope that Biden does not forget the civil rights of other groups:

  • All People of Color: Census projections confirm that racial minorities are the primary demographic engine of future growth for the nation, counteracting an aging, slowly growing, and soon to be declining white population. According to the Brookings Institute, statistics predict the nation will become a “white minority” by 2045, up from 60 percent of today’s population.
  • People with Disabilities: One in four American adults has a disability. According to the Center for American Progress (CAP), many face obstacles to employment and economic security that lead to disproportionately high rates of poverty. Often their contributions are seen as less valuable, which justifies a separate and unequal compensation structure. And even with the American With Disabilities Act passed 30 years ago, people with disabilities continue to face discrimination, from accessibility to homes to navigating businesses and public spaces.
  • Women: While the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected color communities, its impact on working women has been color blind. So many women juggle as full-time mothers and full-time employees. To be honest, childcare has already not supported our families. The CAP recently estimated that the risk of mothers cutting off hours to take responsibility for caring or abandoning the workforce entirely is $ 64.5 billion per year in lost wages and economic activity.
  • Voters: The most basic American right – voting – has been attacked, with poorly managed elections and maps designed to cement political power. In any case, the 2020 presidential election was better, even if Trump continues to question his legitimacy. Without scrutiny, efforts to suppress young voters and voters of color continue.
  • LGBTQ Community: Biden must keep the commitment he made a year and a half ago in Ohio to help advance the passage of the Equality Act. Americans should never have to sacrifice their civil rights because they are and whom they love.

It is great that President-elect Biden is making civil rights a top priority. Protecting the freedoms and freedoms of all Americans is hard work. And after the last four years there is so much to do.

Dinkin is president of the National Conflict Resolution Center, a San Diego-based group that works to develop solutions to challenging problems such as intolerance and civilianity. To learn more about NCRC programming, visit

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