The same people who backed and took part in protests in cities across the United States in the name of racial justice are now pressuring President-elect Joe Biden to reward them for their votes with positions in his administration.
“There was a mandate,” Gladys Limón, executive director of California Environmental Justice Alliance, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “This is a litmus test.”
Biden’s first pick, for example, to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Mary Nichols, who is the head of the California Air Resources Board, drew opposition from this sector of Biden supporters.
“It’s encouraging that President-elect Biden appears to have listened to the concerns of the environmental justice advocates who reminded him of his campaign promises,” Limón said.
“The organizing forces that were putting these issues in front of people’s minds and on the front pages of media really did create a greater opening for the demands of racial justice advocates to be met through things like these appointments,” Miya Yoshitani, executive director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, said in the Chronicle report.
The Chronicle reported on how the pressure is playing out:
The result: Biden nominated Michael Regan, who has focused on justice issues as North Carolina’s top environmental official and would be the first Black man to head the EPA.
Biden said last week that his incoming administration “looks like America.” California Sen. Kamala Harris will be the first woman to be vice president, and state Attorney General Xavier Becerra will be the first Latino to lead the Department of Health and Human Services if the Senate confirms him. Biden’s other nominees include the first Black person to lead the Pentagon, the first woman to serve as Treasury secretary, the first openly gay man to be transportation secretary and the first Native American to be interior secretary.
However, Alicia Garza, a principal at the Black Futures Lab and co-founder of Black Lives Matter, told The Chronicle: “Are they a sign of the increased political power of BIPOC (Black, indigenous, people of color) folks? Yes and no.
“Firsts don’t always represent power,” Garza said. “Daniel Cameron is the first Black person to serve as attorney general in Kentucky’s history, and yet he attempted to blame Breonna Taylor for her own death.”
Garza was referring to the woman whom police shot in Kentucky during the execution of a search warrant as part of a drug investigation.
Garza said that Biden’s success “had to do with black people that helped him out along the way.”
“It is important,” Garza said, “not just to check the box, but to reward the communities that did push you over the finish line.”
“Representation of course is important,” Yoshitani said. “But it has to be backed up by a real agenda for racial justice. It doesn’t matter if the person just has the right skin color or gender or sexual orientation. It can’t be just cosmetic.”
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