President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris met with the leaders of seven legacy civil rights groups—including the National Urban League, the N.A.A.C.P. and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights—on Tuesday to discuss what steps the incoming Administration should take to move toward racial equity.
“I said to [Biden] that he must not take light that he is succeeding the most racist, bigoted administration in memory,” Rev. Al Sharpton, who was present on behalf of his National Action Network, said in a media briefing after the meeting. “So it is not even just about going forward—we must repair this damage that has been done by [the Trump] Administration.”
Sharpton told Biden and Harris that he would like to see them appoint a Black attorney general, while N.A.A.C.P. president Derrick Johnson urged Biden to form a White House civil rights envoy position. Several present at the meeting called for Biden to increase representation in his Administration, among many other demands.
Advancing racial equity is one of the four core pillars in Biden’s Build Back Better plan, his broad agenda for COVID-19 economic recovery, and he has stated that he will directly address the racial wealth gap, police reform and affordable housing issues. Speaking to reporters on Friday, the President-elect made a promise that the legacy civil rights groups are pushing him to live up to: “I promise you, it’ll be the single most diverse Cabinet based on race, color, based on gender, that’s ever existed in the United States of America,” he said.
Biden has already made a number of diverse selections, including an all-female White House communications team and transition teams staffed with nearly 50% people of color. Biden plans to nominate Alejandro Mayorkas to head the Department of Homeland Security, who, if confirmed, would be both the first Latino and immigrant in the position. He’s picked Gen. Lloyd Austin to run the Pentagon; if confirmed, he would be the first Black defense secretary. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a Black woman who led the Bureau of African Affairs during the Obama years, was chosen as his pick for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. And Biden is expected to announce Ohio Democratic Representative Marcia L. Fudge, former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, as his pick for secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
The waves of appointments have been widely welcomed by civil rights organizations, and several groups want to see Biden bring more diverse representation into his administration. On Monday, members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus met with the President-elect to call for more Asian Americans to be chosen for his higher-level appointments.