“Imagine what it’s like to lose a child at the hands of the law. Imagine having to worry whether your son or daughter will come home from walking down the street or playing in the park or just driving their car. … Imagine having to worry like that every day in America. Here’s what Tyre’s mom shared with me when I asked her how she finds the courage to carry on and speak out. With faith in God, she said her son ‘was a beautiful soul and something good will come from this.’ Imagine how much courage and character that takes. It’s up to us. It’s up to all of us.” — President Joe Biden
Just before Tuesday’s State of the Union address, my fellow civil rights leaders and I asked President Biden to use his platform to call for a robust and impactful federal response to the killing of Tyre Nichols and the continuing disproportionate police killings of Black and Brown people.
Tyre’s parents, RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, were given a place of honor alongside the first lady and second gentleman, so the nation could not look away from their grief.
Their presence, and the words of RowVaughn Wells as shared by President Biden, made a powerful case for transforming the relationship between police and the communities they serve, reminding the nation that their anguish of is an ever-present specter for Black families.
We asked the president to call on Congress to implement a transformative police accountability framework to address systemic police violence, whatever the legislative vehicle. As he noted in the address, we must “give law enforcement the training they need, hold them to higher standards, and help them succeed in keeping everyone safe … And when police officers or departments violate the public’s trust, we must hold them accountable.”
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act represents a vision of what President Biden called “the covenant we have with each other in America” and the National Urban League stands with him in demanding its passage into law.
While President Biden assailed the January 6 insurrection and the Big Lie that fueled its violence, his call to honor the results of our elections did not specifically call on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act or other comprehensive voting rights measures. The National Urban League remains committed to this legislation and will continue to advocate for its passage.
We were pleased to hear the president’s praise of the Child Tax Credit, which has given “tens of millions of parents some breathing room and cut child poverty in half, to the lowest level in history.” The National Urban League is a staunch advocate of expanding the CTC, which would reduce poverty among children of all racial and ethnic groups and specifically cut Black child poverty in half.
With regard to consumer data privacy, the president endorsed “stricter limits on the personal data these companies collect on all of us.” The National Urban League continues to prioritize the need for comprehensive federal privacy legislation with strong civil rights protections to protect our communities online.
The National Urban League appreciates our collaborative relationship with the Biden-Harris administration and looks forward to advancing our priorities of racial justice and economic opportunity in the months ahead.
Morial is president/CEO of the National Urban League.