With the presidential election in the United States now less than three months away, the candidates are heading into the final stretch of the campaign. Although the coronavirus has significantly altered the trajectory of the campaign season, Joe Biden has at least one big announcement yet to make as the election nears: his running mate.
Although Biden has explicitly said he would pick a woman for the position, reports indicate that the Biden campaign may be looking to specifically nominate a Black woman. Over the past several months, various African American women have been vetted, including Stacey Abrams, Kamala Harris, Susan Rice and Karen Bass.
Biden has also considered other women for the post, including Tammy Duckworth and Elizabeth Warren, but there has been pressure from some Democratic leaders and activists for the former vice president to nominate a Black woman.
According to an open letter sponsored by Sisters Lead Sisters Vote, an African American women advocacy group, and signed by over 1,000 people, there are many well-qualified Black women that would excel in the position.
The group argued that experience, trust and competence are important, but also made it clear that political loyalty should play into Biden’s decision, with the group stating that “Black women are not only the most loyal voters for the Democratic party—we are key to igniting Black voters across all demographics to show up in record numbers.”
While the announcement is expected to come within the next week, a debate has surfaced over the pros and cons of looking specifically at a narrow demographic for the position.
Although some political observers, like The Boston Globe’s Renée Graham, have argued that a Black woman should be on the ticket, especially amid the country’s renewed focus on racial and gender-based inequalities, others are more critical of superficial or electoral-based arguments.
According to Matt Bai, a columnist with The Washington Post, Biden should only make his vice presidential decision on the personal and professional qualities of “grace and warmth and political instinct” to help unite a divided country.
The need for racial equality
Speaking with TMS, Janice Elliott-Howard, an American author, argued that choosing an African American woman for vice president would be an important step forward for racial equality in the country.
“Seeing as how Mr. Biden is campaigning on unity, I can’t say that racial equality wouldn’t be part of his plan,” she said.
She did concede that an important part of the thinking in nominating a Black woman might be considerations for votes, but suggested that the pick would still be historic and important.
“I believe that his Vice Presidential post is a political move more so than closing the racial divide. However, having a Black woman Vice President will keep the issue of working towards racial equality front and center,” she added.
Clarence McFerren II, an author and TEDx speaker, agreed with this sentiment, arguing that Black women have qualities to help lead the nation just as much as any other demographic group and have historically been marginalized.
“A Black woman as the Vice President nominee is a step forward to straighten racial equality in the midst of systemic racism and deeply rooted social injustices in this country,” he told TMS.
“Political move or not, this is supposed to be the land of the ‘free’ and when will Black women have the opportunity to exercise this very right? The time is now.”
“Think outside the box”
For Quintin Scott, a local campaign strategist from Chicago, Illinois, while Biden’s pick will almost certainly be a Black woman, it won’t necessarily help heal racial divisions.
In order to help strengthen racial ties over the long run, structural inequalities must be addressed at the root, he suggested, adding that a pick from outside the political establishment with fresh ideas could help improve racial issues over the longer term.
“The well earned mistrust and anger felt by Black people won’t be eased by his choice,” he told TMS.
“The divisions are too deep and wide. Biden would have to choose someone truly out of the box and not currently an elected official to potentially mend racial ties,” Scott concluded.
As it stands, Biden’s polling numbers with African Americans are high and he currently leads Trump by some 75% among Black registered voters.
However, there is still widespread discontent when it comes to racial progress in the country, especially in the Black community.
According to Pew Research data from 2019, 71% of Black Americans said they felt race relations were “generally bad” in the country.
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