I celebrated this New Year’s Eve in Ghana, Africa. I’d grown up poor with a mom addicted to drugs but started this decade far from the South Side of Chicago and amongst some of the most “elite” black people in the world.
With me was one of my best friends, Nate, an executive for one of the largest technology companies in the world and a former Obama administration attorney; his brother-in-law, a surgeon who graduated from Harvard; a billionaire whose house party we all attended to ring in 2020; and many Hollywood celebrities, including Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker. This was to be the start of the best year of our lives.
Back home in the US, African Americans were experiencing the best economy we have ever seen: Unemployment for our racial group was the lowest in recorded history, black wages were rapidly increasing for the first time in decades, and people who’d been out of work long-term were being hired and suddenly able to take their families on vacations for the first time in years.
The Trump policies made it possible. Tax cuts and rocketing GDP growth meant companies were feeling financially stable for the first time in a decade and public confidence in our economy had never been higher. Trump’s re-election was on cruise control. Even Democrats were willing to admit that the chances of Trump losing were slim.
No one could have predicted what would happen next.
Since COVID-19, almost every economic benefit of the Trump presidency has evaporated. Unemployment has surged again — reaching numbers closer to the end of the Great Depression — and has impacted, as it has in every US downturn, African Americans the most.
All this, coupled with the issues of race which still plague our country and the media’s incessant narratives of Trump “being racist.” In some cases, these wounds have been self-inflicted, as with Trump’s recent retweeting of a white-supremacy video that used racist language, which the president later claimed he hadn’t heard.
The black vote will be the swing vote this year. And right now, it’s looking like it’s Joe Biden’s for the taking. This is despite Biden’s history, which is riddled with policies that have historically and devastatingly disenfranchised African Americans.
For example, the 1994 crime law, which Biden helped author when he was a senator, incentivized local police departments to lock up as many black people as possible, creating mass incarceration of African Americans, along with more prison cells and more aggressive policing.
In addition, Biden was responsible for a provision in the 1986 crack law which came to be viewed as one of the most racially slanted sentencing policies on record: a rule that treated crack cocaine as significantly worse than powder cocaine and ended up disproportionately punishing African Americans and sending them to prison but sparing white Americans who typically used cocaine.
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