Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and People For the American Way Foundation. (Courtesy Photo)
By Ben Jealous
My 104-year-old grandmother, Mamie Bland Todd, fought for civil rights her entire life. Now she and I are fighting to protect Black people and communities threatened by President Donald Trump and the people he has put in positions of power. We are working hard to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
There are many reasons for Black people to support Biden and Harris, an extraordinarily accomplished Black woman making a historic run for the White House. Here are a few of them.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Black people from every angle: we are more likely to get sick and more likely to die than white people. We are more likely to be suffering from the economic fallout of the pandemic, which has hit lower income workers especially hard. In response to the virus, Trump has denied, downplayed, and delayed. He mocks people who wear masks to protect their families and communities. He said the pandemic was governors’ responsibility and then he attacked governors who took it seriously. And even while cases are rising in 39 states and some hospitals are so full they have to turn away ambulances, Trump lies to the public and cusses at journalists for reporting on the virus.
Joe Biden, in contrast, has done the right thing. By word and by example he has encouraged people to wear a mask. He has a nationwide plan that includes help for workers and small businesses suffering from Trump’s failures and widely available free testing. A Biden-Harris administration will trust our top scientists, not insult them.
Biden would defend and improve the Affordable Care Act—Obamacare—which has helped millions of Black people get better access to health care. Trump? He’s urging the Supreme Court to abolish Obamacare and strip millions of vulnerable Americans of their health care coverage.
While Trump encourages violent policing and supports right-wing vigilantes—and his supporters deny that systemic racism even exists—Biden and Harris have a criminal justice reform plan to cut down on incarceration rates, strengthen oversight of law enforcement, and increase rights and resources for formerly incarcerated people.
Right-wing judges have not only gone along with right-wing voter suppression, they have encouraged it. When conservatives on the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act that my grandmother and so many Americans fought for, Republicans across the country—especially in the south where most Black people live—rushed to make voting harder. And they’re still doing that—even in the middle of the pandemic. Republicans in Florida imposed a new poll tax to keep formerly incarcerated people from voting—and Trump judges gave it their seal of approval. You can bet those are not the kind of judges Joe Biden and a Democratic-majority Senate would put on the courts.
While Trump and his Republicans favor tax cuts for the richest people—who are actually getting richer during the pandemic while so many families are suffering—Biden has a plan that will boost economic growth by focusing help where it’s needed most and by reducing racial inequities.
That’s not what Trump and his allies in the Senate are doing. They’re blocking desperately needed help for workers and communities while ramming onto the Supreme Court another hard-right judge who they are counting on to help them win any election challenges, overturn the Affordable Care Act, and roll back civil rights protections.
My grandmother spent her life carrying the torch that those before her had carried in their time. She championed racial equality and witnessed incredible gains in civil rights – the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act and many more.
In this final season of her life, I will not allow the blood, sweat, tears, and love that she and so many others have poured into our community’s advancement be torn down.
Please come alongside Mamie and me—or let us come alongside you. Make a plan. Vote.
Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and People For the American Way Foundation. Jealous has decades of experience as a leader, coalition builder, campaigner for social justice and seasoned nonprofit executive. In 2008, he was chosen as the youngest-ever president and CEO of the NAACP. He is a graduate of Columbia University and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and he has taught at Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania.