On June 10, former Vice President Joe Biden participated in an NAACP town hall to discuss the impact of COVID-19 and police violence on Black Americans. Journalist Ed Gordon moderated the event.
In their opening remarks, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson and U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) both stressed that systemic racism has compounded the public health crisis for Black Americans. “We have been in a pandemic [of racism] for a very long time,” said Fudge.
Biden commended the millions of Americans who are protesting against police brutality and outlined his commitment to advancing justice and equity for Black Americans. He said that he supports police reform legislation and measures to improve transparency in police departments, and promised to withhold federal funding for police departments that violate national standards.
After his comments, Biden took questions from the audience on a number of issues, the first of which was about fair courts. The caller emphasized that while changes in policing are overdue, “we have to get to the root of the problem” within the criminal justice system. She pointed out the discrimination that Black people face in the court room at the hands of extremist judges, and asked Biden what changes he would make to the judiciary to ensure fairness and justice for Black Americans in our judiciary.
Biden responded, “One of the reasons I ran is that [Trump is] stacking the courts with conservatives who don’t think there’s such a thing as the Ninth Amendment; don’t read the Constitution expansively … The first appointment I will make is a Black woman on the [Supreme] Court.”
Biden also rebuked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for fulfilling Trump’s campaign to pack federal courts with narrow-minded nominees who are simply not fit to serve. Once confirmed, these judges have chipped away at our civil rights and enabled or defended police violence, racial profiling, voter suppression and other forms of racial discrimination – and they’re on the bench for life.
“Presidents come and go,” Biden continued, but “the courts will remain for generations … Mitch McConnell is calling senators back [right now] to move on judges that are not qualified to be in the court because he has the majority to do it now. It must change.”
Johnson and Fudge both underscored the urgency of voting to begin to remedy the systemic and pervasive racism in our country. The work ahead is profound, Johnson said, but “we are done dying. The next march we must organize en masse is to the polling place.” Fudge urged apathetic voters and those who believe their votes doesn’t make a difference to “remember how George Floyd was killed. Remember eight minutes and 46 seconds. And if you want to do something about it, you must take an action. And that action right now is voting.”