WASHINGTON – With only weeks until a change in the nation’s leadership, civil rights leaders and advocacy groups are calling on President-elect Joe Biden to prioritize tackling COVID-19, systemic racism, food insecurities and other issues disproportionately impacting communities of color.
They also want to provide input as Biden crafts his agenda, selects people to head key agencies and fills top posts in his administration.
“The transition phase is perhaps one of the most important because it sets the tone for how everything else will operate,” said Derrick Johnson, president of the national NAACP. “We need to make sure the right voices are at the table.”
In a yearwhere protestors called for racial justice in communities across the country and a pandemic has hit Black and Latino communities at disproportionate rates, civil rights leaders, advocates and lawmakers say it's urgent that the administration listen to their concerns and act. They’re hoping Biden signals his priorities early and say that list should include immigration changes, criminal justice reforms, an accurate Census and voting rights protections.
“It’s an important moment. Changing the tone is pretty key,’’ said Eric Rodriguez, senior vice president of Policy and Advocacy of UnidosUS, a nonpartisan group advocating for issues important to Latinos. “We’re reaching an exhaustion point.”
Leaders of several national civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the National Urban League, are disappointed a meeting they requested with Biden three weeks ago to discuss issues such as the pandemic and his appointments hasn’t happened.
“You’re talking about the kind of issues that are of major concern for Black people,’’ said Melanie Campbell, president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, one of seven groups asking for the meeting. “We need to be… at his decision-making table. And the diversity needs to be reflected from the top, the Cabinet itself. Who is running the agencies? All of that matters.”
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