Five challenges Black voters want tackled in 2023

Black Americans in 2022 saw several Black candidates make history and multiple pieces of landmark legislation become law.

The Emmett Till Antilynching Act, introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and signed by President Biden in March, made lynching a federal hate crime. The Respect for Marriage Act also passed, extending federal protections for interracial marriages.

Other key measures for Black voters were caught in the legislative gridlock and never made it to the president’s desk. 

Here are five challenges Black voters want to see addressed in 2023. 

White Supremacy and Racism

Black Americans want the government to do more to confront white supremacy after a gunman targeting a supermarket with largely Black shoppers killed 10 people in Buffalo, N.Y., in May.

A poll found 43 percent of Black voters wanted Biden to declare similar attacks as domestic terrorism, while 33 percent said white supremacy needs to be declared a national security threat. 

Black Americans are disproportionately more likely to be victims of hate crimes than any other race, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Pew Research Center survey from April found that 32 percent of Black adults said they worry almost every day that they might be threatened or attacked because of their race. 

As these fears have grown, they’ve impacted Black voters’ feelings about gun control. Some said those who have a history of committing hate crimes should be barred from purchasing firearms in the future. 

Concerns over white supremacy tie into the larger issue of racism and discrimination. 

In October, an NAACP survey found that 44 percent of respondents believe racism and discrimination to be the most important issues facing the Black community today. The repercussions lead to fewer job opportunities, economic insecurity, health care inequities and voter suppression, the survey found.

Biden vowed to address these issues during his 2020 campaign, but with hate crimes on the rise in 2022 and the racial wealth gap persisting through the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of progress is raising questions.

In June, about 32 percent of Black voters said Biden is not sympathetic to the problems facing Black Americans, according to a Washington Post-Ipsos poll

Still, Black voters remain overwhelmingly more supportive of Democrats than Republicans — in part because Democrats are more willing to tackle some of their other top concerns. 

Voting Rights 

Voting rights became a major concern for Black voters during the 2022 midterms. Widespread changes to voting practices, redistricting, polling place changes and voter identification laws all disproportionately affected voters of color. 

Two voting rights bills are now stalled in the Senate.

The Freedom to Vote Act would expand mail-in voting, early voting and automatic voter registration, while the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in response to a Supreme Court decision.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Act also would address racial discrimination by requiring that any state changes to voting that might discriminate against people based on their race are federally reviewed.

Most Republicans are opposed to both measures, leaving little hope for passage with a GOP House and a narrowly-divided Senate.

Police Reform

More than two years after the killing of George Floyd led to nationwide calls for reform, there’s been little progress on enacting federal police reform.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed the House twice, but legislation has stalled in the Senate even though at least half of Americans believing “major” changes are needed, according to the Gallup Center on Black Voices.

Democrats in Congress have argued that GOP legislation did not go far enough, while Republicans say Democrats want to go too far.

Among the most hotly debated topics in the bills was whether to end qualified immunity, a doctrine that essentially protects law enforcement officers from lawsuits that claim police violence.

“In a year unlike any other, when the American people spoke up, marched, and demanded reforms in policing, law enforcement unions and partisan politicians chose to stand on the wrong side of history,” Derrick Johnson, NAACP president and CEO, said in a statement after Senate negotiations fell apart. “They have chosen to stand with those who have lynched the very people they are meant to protect and serve.”

Seventy-two percent of Black Americans believe major changes to police forces are needed, according to the Gallup Center on Black Voices. Black Americans want to see police officers face legal action for abuse of power or for enacting unnecessary harm on those they have sworn to protect. 

The George Floyd policing act would limit qualified immunity, prevent racial profiling by law enforcement and limit the use of no-knock warrants, chokeholds and carotid holds.

A majority of Black Americans also want to see an end to stop-and-frisk policies and the removal of military weapons and equipment from police forces, according to the Gallup poll. Half of Black Americans believe in reducing police department budgets and 88 percent believe in reallocating police department funding to social programs and community-based alternatives, like violence intervention programs. 

Student debt relief

While organizations like the NAACP successfully lobbied Biden to forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt, concerns remain that this is not nearly enough to address economic inequity. 

Black college graduates on average hold nearly $25,000 more in student loan debt than white graduates.

Black students who graduate with their bachelors have an average of $52,726 in student loan debt, while white students graduate with $28,006 in debt, according to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. The disparities increase when it comes to graduate degrees. 

For months, the NAACP urged Biden to forgive up to $50,000 in debt in order to truly make a difference in addressing the racial wealth gap. Graduate borrowing makes up 45 percent of the total debt gap between Black and white Americans.  

“President Biden, student loan debt is a racial and economic justice issue that stains the Soul of America,” the organization’s national youth and college director, Wisdom Cole, said in an April statement. 

The NAACP and Congressional Black Caucus said the $20,000 forgiveness enacted by Biden was a step in the right direction – though many are still advocating for $50,000 or even full student loan forgiveness.

However, even Biden’s action now faces challenges before the Supreme Court

Mobilization for 2024

Campaigning for the 2024 presidential race will go into full swing this year. Though Black voters were key in critical races for Democrats during the midterms in 2022, they want to see more from politicians before 2024 hits. 

While there have been some successes for Black voters throughout 2022 — including Biden’s new push to move South Carolina up in the primary calendar — time and time again, Black voters say, they are asked to show up for legislators only to be ignored or forgotten once an election is over.

This year, they are demanding leaders show up in their communities, engage them early on and listen to their top concerns. 

They’re also pushing for leaders to invest more not only in their communities, but in rising political stars like Mandela Barnes, who ran and lost in the Wisconsin Senate race, Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, told The Hill last month.

“It’s not enough just to say we care about you as voters but to really fight for and advocate on all of these issues, whether it’s infrastructure or environmental justice or police accountability or voting rights,” said Albright. “There’s a whole agenda of issues that Black folks want to see. At the end of the day, that’s what’s going to determine whether or not we feel like we’re being truly valued and respected.”

Tags Biden Black Lives Matter Bobby Rush Joe Biden NAACP police reform Student loan relief voting rights

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