Biden, Harris emphasize equity at Black History Month celebration
President Biden on Monday highlighted his administration’s focus on equity in remarks at a Black History Month event at the White House, pointing to the diversity of his Cabinet and his historic nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.
Biden and Vice President Harris, who is the first Black woman to serve as vice president, spoke to a crowd of roughly 150 people on the final day of Black History Month.
Both leaders made note of the administration’s commitment to equity in their policies, while acknowledging ongoing challenges on voting rights and policing.
“Black History Month is more than a celebration, it’s a powerful, powerful reminder that Black history is American history. Black culture is American culture. Black stories are essentially an ongoing story of America,” Biden said, addressing civil rights leaders, state officials, Congressional Black Caucus members and Divine Nine leaders from historically Black fraternities and sororities.
The president was joined on stage by Black members of his Cabinet, who he recognized individually: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, acting Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young and United Nations ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
The president noted one of the first executive orders he signed upon taking office in January 2020 was that his administration “should pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all.”
Biden rattled off a series of efforts by his administration to improve life for communities of color, pointing to the American Rescue Plan’s investments in Black communities to cut child poverty, establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday and the nomination of Jackson to the Supreme Court, setting her up to be the first Black woman to serve on the high court.
When Harris mentioned Jackson in her remarks, she triggered a standing ovation from those in the East Room.
“Elections matter. And when folks vote, they order what they want, and in this case they got what they asked for,” Harris said with a smile, joking that she was going “off script.”
The mood was upbeat as Biden and Harris recognized the historic firsts and accomplishments of their administration for the Black community. But both conceded voting rights in particular was an ongoing challenge facing minority voters.
Biden reiterated his call for Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, two measures that have failed to garner enough support in the Senate.
“I know progress can be slow and frustrating, but I also know it’s possible,” Biden said.