DETROIT – President-elect Joe Biden’s victory was celebrated by civil rights activists and Black leaders who warned that a tough road lies ahead to address America’s persistent inequalities and the racial division that Donald Trump fueled during his presidency.
Biden will take office in January as the nation confronts a series of crises that have taken a disproportionate toll on Black Americans and people of color, including the pandemic and resulting job losses. Many cities saw protests against racial injustice during a summer of unrest.
During a contentious campaign against Trump, Biden made explicit appeals for the support of Black voters. He pledged to unify the country, acknowledged systemic racism, criticized his rival for stoking division and picked Kamala Harris as his running mate, making her the first Black woman on a major party's presidential ticket. While those were all welcomed steps, Black leaders and activists say they will keep pushing the incoming administration to do more.
“This is just the beginning of change and the election of any one administration does not mean the work is done,” said civil rights leader Martin Luther King III, who noted the vision of his father, Martin Luther King Jr., has yet to be fully realized in America, 57 years after he delivered his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. “Dad and Mom wanted to eradicate poverty, racism and violence from our society and that will take a monumental effort. A Biden-Harris administration has to constantly be challenged and pushed to move."
Black voters powered Biden's successful campaign, particularly in critical states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia. Nine in 10 Black voters nationwide supported him, according to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of more than 110,000 voters across the country.
“Vice President Biden understands that we are fully formed American citizens who deserve to have full access to all the parts of progress in the United States,” said Stacey Abrams, a voting rights activist and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate. “He’s been willing to commit not only to plans, but he’s been willing to take responsibility for how those plans get lived out. … I want to see proper access to opportunity and I think fundamentally that is the wish, that is the hope, and that is the deserved right of every Black person in this country.”
Latino voters supported Biden over Trump, 63% to 35%, according to the survey. White voters, who made up roughly three-quarters of the electorate, were more likely to support Trump, 55% vs. 43% for Biden.
More than 74 million Americans voted for Biden, more than any other presidential candidate in history. But some Black political strategists and activists noted the 70 million votes for Trump, suggesting that some of those Trump supporters at a minimum turned a blind eye to the racism he demonstrated.