Opinion: Biden’s VP Selection Shows Mass Incarceration of Black Americans Is Overlooked

Biden
Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris

After much anticipation, Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden confirmed speculation that Sen. Kamala Harris will accompany him on the ballot in November. For weeks, we had been hearing how Biden would select a female African-American to be on the ticket with him — a thinly veiled attempt to appease newly woke activists and play into racial politics.

Sen. Harris ultimately got the nod for what we think are a few reasons: Sen. Harris seems woke enough in Senate hearings to satisfy the mob; she is quick to employ catchy soundbites; and, oh yes, she has been incredibly hard on Black men and Black youth while district attorney of San Francisco and later, as California’s attorney general.

Simply put: It has been the Democrats who in recent decades have endorsed the systematic mass incarceration of Black Americans despite their narrative. Harris’ selection makes Biden look sympathetic to Black issues and Black people, while the truth is, we’d likely face more harm by voting for the pair if we go off of Harris’ previous record (to say nothing of all of Biden’s gaffes and racist policies, which have been well documented).

Harris was a self-proclaimed “progressive prosecutor” in name only and used the term during her unsuccessful presidential bid to cloud the mirror with smoke. While in state and regional office in California, Harris kept arcane policies on the books that unfairly targeted those who committed mild offenses and made retrial nearly impossible. She did nothing to enforce police accountability and curb misconduct. She also defied the Legislative Black Caucus in 2015 by refusing to support the use of worn body cameras during policing.

In Baltimore, we already struggle with inconsistent enforcement of our crime laws, which keeps guns and murderers on our streets while putting weed dealers behind bars. Our young men are caught in a cycle of incarceration and debt, made worse by the poor education system that precedes their criminal time.

We’re told to vote with our checkbooks and based on the issues that impact us most. So, if a Black woman in the top seat of our biggest state’s legal system did not use that platform to advance the cause of Black justice then made things worse, what makes anyone think she’ll do it as vice president? Are we supposed to excuse the mass incarcerations and abuses that took place under her watch simply because she’s BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) and says the right things in other areas of her policies?

We can see through the games of the Democrats to seemingly appease us with race politics and nothing else, which is why we walked away from Democratic politicians over the past couple of years. No longer can Nancy Pelosi kneel in Kente cloth and think that’s enough for us, or Joe Biden use the tired tact of tokenism by selecting Harris.

We need real action taken to address the core issues — jobs, crime, deterioration of the family — plaguing the Black community, and leaders who are willing to act rather than pontificate.

What’s our remedy on crime?

In previous months, we have examined the current state of affairs and have drawn upon plans from across the aisle to identify what is most effective for Baltimore City. We have backed measures like:

  • Forgiving government debt for returning citizens to break the cycle between poverty and prison.
  • Leveraging the Justice Reinvestment Act’s “Opportunity Compacts,” which reduce prison stays for those convicted offenses and invests savings in recovery services, job training and employment.
  • Supporting treatment-not-jail diversionary programs such as the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion for non-violent, low-level drug offenders.

The severity of Baltimore’s crime problem requires us to put party alliances aside, and while we back measures sometimes supported by Democrats, we don’t trust anyone but ourselves to actually implement it given city leaders’ track record over the years. We know that because we want the job done, we have to do it ourselves; that’s why we are running for office.

On the national stage, we have no reason to believe actions that positively impact the Black community will take place with the Democrats in power.

As such, despite Joe Biden’s best efforts to give us Kamala Harris as his VP choice, it’s too little too late. Their records on mass incarceration of Blacks precedes them.

Come November, we as Black people will show you just how much we value tokenism over policies that really impact our communities.

— MICHELLE ANDREWS AND CHRIS ANDERSON

Michelle Andrews and Chris Anderson are third-generation, Black American Baltimoreans and GOP nominees for city council in the 6th and 7th districts, respectively. Andrews is a financial literacy educator, and Anderson is a nonprofit manager, chaplain and U.S. Coast Guard veteran.