President Donald J. Trump participates in a prayer with African American Leaders and Pastor Paula White Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020, in the Cabinet Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)
The coincidental timing of the protests against police brutality with the 2020 U.S. election campaign trail has shone a spotlight on the presidential candidates and the potential effects of their proposed policies on African-American communities.
Former Vice President and presumed 2020 Democratic nominee Joe Biden has laid out his plan to “lift every voice” in America for his 2020 campaign strategy.
With his signature hyperbole, President Donald Trump defiantly maintains that he has accomplished more for Black Americans than most presidents- with the exception of Abraham Lincoln.
Donald Trump has spent almost a total of four years in politics and public office. In contrast, presumed Democratic candidate Joe Biden has been working in politics for about 45-years; 38-years as a U.S. Senator and 8-years as Vice President.
Throughout their tenure in office, both candidates have shifted stances on contentious issues. As uprisings against police brutality continue throughout the nation, Trump and Biden have been thrust into the spotlight of racial discrimination in America; its causes and potential solutions.
On the other hand, President Trump recently passed the most comprehensive criminal justice reform bill in decades: The FIRST STEP Act.
This bill eased sentences for nonviolent crimes and allowed those sentenced under racially-motivated mandatory minimums to have their sentences re-evaluated and potentially overturned.
Retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the 100 to 1 crack cocaine sentencing disparity to 18 to 1 in 2010, combined with the FIRST STEP Act retroactivity provision, has benefited over 2,000 people with sentence reductions that average nearly 6-years.
91% of the people re-sentenced under the FIRST STEP Act retroactivity provision were African-American.
The FRIST STEP Act included measures to improve conditions for incarcerated pregnant women. It banned the use of restraints on women during pregnancy, labor and postpartum recovery in federal prisons, and it requires the Federal Bureau of Prisons keep data on the number and outcomes of pregnancies.
The Trump administration mobilized the Department of Justice and Bureau of Prisons, the Department of Education and the Department of Labor to help incarcerated people prepare to return home and find jobs.
The White House launched a “Ready to Work Initiative” to connect formerly incarcerated individuals with non-profits and potential employers. Prior to the Covid-19 shut-downs, people released on parole and eager to rejoin the workforce found historically low unemployment numbers.
According to the White House, Trump’s order bans the use of chokeholds by federal law enforcement officers unless their lives are in danger, mandates information sharing to track officers who have serious complaints against them and contains federal incentives for police departments to deploy non-police experts for issues involving mental health, homelessness and addiction.
President Trump has appropriated more money than any other president in history for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Trump has also taken steps to increase the visibility of the HBCU community.
The President established the Presidential Board of advisors on HBCUs and physically moved the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities from the Department of Education to the White House- two moves requested by the HBCU community.
The Trump administration has called on Congress to pass a school choice program. President Trump has called it “the civil rights statement of the year, the decade and probably beyond,” saying, “A child’s zip code in America should never determine their future.”
President Trump recently called on Congress to pass the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act, which would give 1 million children an opportunity to attend the school of their choice.
Biden, however, is a candidate deeply flawed by his history of authoring the 1994 crime bill that saw so many young African-American men serve unfairly long sentences for non-violent drug crimes. Biden is a Washington insider of the deepest dye. What he has failed to do for Black Americans during his over four decades in office is a strong indictment against him.