Credit: (dreamstime.com)

Last Updated on March 7, 2022 by BVN

S.E. Williams

The earliest state primary of the 2022 Election cycle was held Tuesday, March 1 in Texas where despite strong resistance from Democrats in the state’s legislature, the state has enacted a slate of repressive voting laws in an attempt to suppress the electoral power of its rising minority population.

Also, on March 1, President Joe Biden, during his first State of the Union address stated the obvious, “The most fundamental right in America is the right to vote – and to have it counted. And it’s under assault. In state after state, new laws have been passed, not only to suppress the vote, but to subvert entire elections.” 

The president then declared, “We cannot let this happen.” What? Not to be disrespectful but come on Joe, haven’t 49 states introduced more than 440 pieces of legislation with provisions restricting the right to vote, and haven’t 19 states already passed 34 laws making it more challenging for minorities, students and seniors to cast their ballots?

A hollow request and convenient pivot

Biden then proceeded to ask the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act as well as the Disclose Act even as we know, his plea fell on deaf ears and passage of the legislation is not likely to happen with “brick wall” Republicans and two complicit Democrats–Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Lea Sinema (D-AZ) who appear to have no concern for anything beyond filling their personal and political fortunes with corporate sponsorships and to garner more political favor with other financial power brokers. 

For this reason, it was difficult to hear Biden’s comments as anything beyond pandering from which he quickly pivoted to discuss his history making nomination of the first Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court Ketanji Brown Jackson.

“I trust that you will so live today as to realize that you are masters of your own destiny, masters of your fate…”

Marcus Garvey

We celebrate and support Brown Jackson’s nomination and yet know the reality of what it really means in the near term. When approved by the U.S. Senate and Brown Jackson, takes her place on a 6 to 3 court where ultra conservative Republicans hold the majority and with most of them in these lifetime positions being relatively young in age, it is likely it will be years before her vote may be able to sway the court away from conservative rulings—unless Biden has courage to expand the court, which by the way, has happened six times in the nation’s history–but it is unlikely he will. 

In the meantime, Brown Jackson’s judicial acumen and brilliance will be reflected in what most of us hope will be her profound and compelling dissents that will help build a roadmap for constructive, mainstream and inclusive judicial guidance in the future.

As the court stands today, to expect Brown Jackson will be able to persuade the six Republican justices to abandon their mission to further establish and embed White conservative order on a rapidly, demographically changing nation (with the help of racially confused Justice Clarence Thomas) is a hopeful but unrealistic expectation.

So, as much as we celebrate Brown Jackson’s appointment it does not numb us, nor does it erase from our consciousness the administration’s failure to protect the voting rights of those who saved Biden’s campaign and buoyed him to office after White voters in Iowa and New Hampshire turned away from him during the early days of the 2020 primary.

More police funding no police reform

It was also during the 2020 Election cycle that Black people and their supporters raised their collective voices for justice and police reform. Biden said all the right things in 2020 but during his State of the Union the other day he was mute on the issue of police reform. We also have not forgotten his failure to pass the 2021 George Floyd Justice in Policing Act—a failure abetted by the same two democrats who killed voting rights legislation and that he probably spent more time with last year than he did his own wife, though he rarely met with the Progressive Caucus or the Congressional Black Caucus.  

Despite this omission the president spoke loud and clear about his support for the nation’s police and of course, he did not miss an opportunity to take a swipe at the concept of defunding the police” mantra even though he knows full well its intent is to realign police funding. He criticized the ‘defund the police’ mantra as he had from the beginning—rather than take the narrative away from Republicans and fearful Democrats and making it clear what it really means and fight aggressively for a realignment of police funding, the nation remains on the historic pattern and practice of using a rise in crime rates to justify an open wallet policy toward policing.   

Last year $350 billion in COVID-19 funding from the American Rescue Plan was earmarked to fight crime and on Tuesday, he spoke of even more funding.

Even though the Biden Administration failed to pass Build Back Better legislation and the promises it contained including universal preschool, in-home care for seniors, and pulling millions of kids out of poverty by extending the American Rescue Plan’s Expanded Child Tax Credit, among other key provisions largely because Republicans and those same two Democrats felt Congress had given Americans enough assistance; and even while millions of children have fallen back into poverty and working mothers continue struggling unable to return to work because they cannot afford child care, the president added insult to injury on Tuesday when he exuberantly announced, “We should all agree: The answer is not to Defund the police. The answer is to FUND the police with the resources and training they need to protect our communities.”

Quite frankly, I, for one, do not agree.  

In reviewing Biden’s budget for Fiscal Year 2022 the Brennan Center for Justice, “found some $1.3 billion earmarked for reform-related grants,” which are among the main tools the federal govern­ment has historically used for pouring police funding to state and local agencies. “The number repres­ents a 78 percent increase from the previ­ous year.

In addition, Biden’s budget includes $388 million for a hiring program run out of the Office of Community Oriented Poli­cing Services. This is double last year’s funding.  In fairness, the Biden budget does include $100 million in new Community Viol­ence Inter­ven­tion initi­at­ive grant funds within DOJ and $100 million within the  Centers for Disease Preven­tion and Control (CDC).

Regarding police reform, like voting rights and the provisions of Build Back Better, it is obvious that despite Biden’s promises, he needs strong support in the House and Senate to make progress on all of these issues of importance to Blacks and other communities of color.

This year we have another unprecedented opportunity to work for meaningful change in the Inland Empire.  

We can reimagine policing in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties

Riverside’s Sheriff Chad Bianco, former Oath Keeper Extraordinaire who squandered more than $4.6 million of the COVID-19 relief funding on furniture, door keypads, cameras and bulletproof windows for the Sheriff’s Department even as his deputies continue shooting down citizens in remarkable numbers. 

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco. (chadbiancoforsheriff.com).

San Bernardino voters on the other hand will finally have an opportunity to select their own replacement for retired Sheriff John McMahon he left office last summer. This is because once again, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors in partnership with an outgoing Sheriff has strategically hand-selected a retiring sheriff’s replacement this time with  Shannon Dicus. This is a pattern for San Bernardino County where the ruling elite takes the opportunity to put their choice for sheriff  in place and in the process ensures all the advantages of an incumbent—in essence taking the choice away from voters. This is not surprising in a county where the leadership does not reflect the demographics of the people they represent.  

San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus. (shannondicus4sheriff.com).

This year we have an opportunity and responsibility to make change at the local level beginning with who each county selects to serve as sheriff as well as those who serve as County Supervisors. We need to ask hard questions of the candidates. We need to show up at the polls and not give the far right the gift of sitting this election out— because we are disappointed that everything has not gone our way … we learned in 2010 and again in 2016 how disastrous that can be.

What became clear over the last year is that more of us must show up in 2022 than in 2020 to elect national, state and local representatives in even greater numbers who are willing to fight for the change we need. We can exercise our collective power here in the inland region by electing sheriffs who see themselves as servants of the community not tyrants who believe they are above reproach like Chad Bianco or entitled, like Shannon Dicus, who stepped into his job as sheriff as if it were his birthright.   

A wise man once said,  “Take advantage of every opportunity.” The political disappointments of 2021 should serve as fuel propelling us to work harder, to press more intently for change. I offer my criticism of Biden not because I believe we should give up on him but instead because we should continue to press him and his administration to deliver on the promises he made.  

Let’s not be discouraged but rather encouraged. Were our long quest for equity in the areas discussed not so closely at hand, the change we seek would not be met with such staunch resistance. We must persevere. 

Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.

S.E. Williams

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. A longtime champion for civil rights and justice in all its forms, she is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. Stephanie has received awards for her investigative reporting and for her weekly column, Keeping it Real. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at myopinion@ievoice.com.