President Joe Biden’s Senior Advisor, Cedric Richmond, who serves as the director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, attended a live streamed briefing for the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) on Wednesday to address a number of issues of concern in the Black community.
“It’s been a long fight,” Richmond said of the struggle for racial equality. “We’re not where we want to be, but we are making progress.”
The director noted that he was in the capitol on January 6 and understands how close the country came to experiencing a coup in this country. He noted that the President is vocally advocating and his administration is pushing the restoration of voting rights. An act to address the issue is now sitting in the Senate.
“We understand the importance of voting,” Richmond said, explaining that the first order of business is to craft an act which all 50 Democrats can agree on. With 50 votes the Vice President would be the tie breaker. “There are some challenges there.”
Richmond explained that the administration is fighting on this issue using a three-pronged approach – in the justice department, filing suits in the courts; pushing the act in the halls of congress; and organizing and educating voters on the street corners.
The advisor said that voter suppression happens in several ways—creating barriers to voting like requiring identifications and also persuading people that voting doesn’t matter. Voters become discouraged
“The best and most immediate thing we can do is restore the voting rights act,“ he said.
Richmond also addressed the administration’s promise to increase education funding – from pre-kindergarten to HBCUs—noting that the country’s public schools have turned into a system of haves and have nots.
“This is something that flies under the radar far too often,” he said. “We want to make sure three- and four-year olds go to school for free… It’s Time to invest in our children and put our money where our mouth is.”
Richmond also addressed the issues of home ownership, generational wealth and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which, among other things, directs the Department of Justice (DOJ) to create uniform accreditation standards for law enforcement agencies and requires law enforcement officers to complete training on racial profiling, implicit bias, and the duty to intervene when another officer uses excessive force.
The House passed the measure in May, but it sits in the Senate now, where it still needs votes.
“That process went on and on,” Richmond said. “Senate Republicans wouldn’t even go as far as President (Donald) Trump’s executive order. They were backtracking.“
“Where congress won’t act, we will,” he said, noting that the DOJ has banned choke holds. “We will do as much as we possibly can according to the constitution. The one thing this president is not afraid of doing is action with executive orders”
Richmond said the administration is not letting congress off the hook and will continue to push for legislation equity.
“We are intentional about investing in the African-American community,” he concluded. “Making sure African-Americans get to chart their own future.”