By Hazel Trice Edney
(Trice Edney Wire) – Cedric Richmond, senior advisor to President Joseph Biden and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, says he never has to bring up the needs of African-Americans in his conversations with Biden because he usually gets to it first.
“I don’t have to bring it up because he brings it up and the vice president brings it up. They are very intentional,” Richmond said in an interview with the Trice Edney News Wire. “And you have a president who talked about racial equity in his inaugural address; that talked about it in his joint address to Congress. So, just like he talks about it in front of the camera, he talks about it in the back of the camera.”
In the exclusive interview the day after Richmond attended a meeting between Black civil rights leaders, President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, Richmond listed a host of examples of how the President is targeting and specifically addressing issues that directly and often disparately affect Black people.
On Voting Rights:
He said he thought the meeting with civil rights leaders that largely focused on voting rights legislation now before Congress “was a great meeting.”
Richmond said, “Our African-American civil rights leaders were very succinct and clear in their assessment of where we are and what people in the community are saying what they need what they need to hear what they need to see, how we need to help educate them, how we need to help motivate them to get past this while we fight it in the courts and in the halls of Congress. So, it was good,” he said. “The president listened. He talked to them about what he saw, what he wants to do.”
President Biden has tapped Vice President Harris to lead the Administration’s efforts on voting rights “because it’s so important,” Richmond said. “He reauthorized the Voting Rights Act himself while he was in Congress and got every senator to vote for it.”
According to Richmond, the leaders were on one accord in the White House meeting, acknowledging Biden’s past record on voting rights. “But they also articulated the challenges that we face now with these real threats to democracy. And this is not hyperbole, this is not exaggeration, but when you have people saying that the legislature will decide who won an election, that is dangerous. It really puts our democracy at risk.”
On Gun Violence:
It was about a year ago that Biden announced his “Build Back Better” campaign, focusing on issues across the board as he ran for President. Now, seven months into his administration, he is facing some unexpected crisis; including a rise in gun violence in most major cities.
Richmond says Biden believes his addressing economic and social issues across the board in Black and other communities will impact crime as well as targeting the dissemination of guns.
“I think if you’re going to deal with violence and gun violence in any community, especially in the Black community, you have to invest in the community – period. So, we’re giving money that can be used in technology such as gun spotter programs,” he said. “I think the President says the idle mind is the devil’s playground. So, we have to give our kids something productive to do. So, summer jobs reduce the likelihood of kids dropping out of school; also, after school programs. We have to invest in our families and that’s how we look at it. At the same time, we do have to look at where these guns are coming from. So, DOJ [Department of Justice] has announced that ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] is going to go after these rogue gun dealers that are flooding our streets with guns.”
Richmond says it takes a “very comprehensive approach” to deal with crime and violence in the streets. That includes investments in families, youth, and cities, he says.
“What we also did was we gave money to cities and now we just went back and gave them new guidance that says, ‘Look, you can take that money that we gave you, you can invest in community violence intervention. So those interceptors to make sure that we stop crime before it happens. We want you to invest in summer jobs programs for our young people. We want you to invest in after school and recreational programs. We came up a really comprehensive way to invest in communities to help them – through economics and other means, technology and others – to fight this rising gun violence that we see.”
On COVID 19:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African-Americans, at the height of the pandemic, were nearly three times more likely than White Americans to be hospitalized with COVID and about twice as likely to die from it.
Richmond said the struggle for racial equity in the fight against the pandemic was in access to the vaccines.
“So, you saw us come in quickly to get equity in the vaccine distributions. We did community health centers; we did our own vaccination centers; we did mobile vaccination centers.
Poverty, Economics and Racial Wealth Disparities:
Vaccines without economic relief would not have begun full recovery from the effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic, Richmond said.
“So, we gave out $1,400 checks to 168 and a half million households. Then, we increased the child tax credit and made it half refundable and paid it out in monthly installments,” he recounted. “And so, starting July 15, Black children and their parents, all children and their parents, they’re going to start receiving a check for $250 for every child that they have under the age of 18, per month. And every child under 7, they will get $300 a month. We figure that families shouldn’t have to wait until the end of the year. That there are bills that become due every month and that we should help them,” he said, “That’s going to reduce Black child poverty in half. This year, it’s going to reduce poverty in the Black community – period – by 30 percent some numbers say. So, that’s what we did.”
Richmond indicated that among Biden’s proudest achievements thus far has been funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
“We gave HBCUs a historic amount of funds – $4.2 million – $1.6 in debt forgiveness and $2.6 in direct aid – to help them through the pandemic. So, we’re doing a number of things to be very intentional about making sure the interests of African-Americans are being met.”
Still, the wealth gap between Black and White Americans is “staggering” according to the Brookings Institute. A Brookings report says the net worth of a typical White family is nearly 10 times greater than that of a Black family.
Richmond says Biden has been on top of the leading wealth creators in the Black community – entrepreneurship and homeownership.
“We talk about both of those, and we act on both of those,” he said. “The plan is to put $35 billion more in the SBA [Small Business Administration] to help with the small, Black disadvantaged businesses, help them with access to capital, we’re pushing the private sector and the federal government to provide access to contracts; so, we’re going to go from 10 percent to 15 percent, which is $100 billion over five years,” he said.
“As for homeownership, we’ve directed the secretary of HUD, Marcia Fudge, to root out systemic barriers and racism in housing policy. For example, the president specifically called out appraisals and other redlining where two homes in two different neighborhoods – one Black and one White – are worth different amounts simply because of where they are. So, we are going to tackle all of those things. We’re going to help people buy a home because we know that that is the sound way to pass wealth off from generation to generation. And we’re going to make sure that we invest in building those affordable homes that people can buy. So, we have a really all hands-on deck comprehensive approach to dealing with it all.”