U.S. President Joe Biden says that the idea that all people are created equal and should be treated equally is an “idea that America has never really lived up to.”
His assessment of the nation’s racial dynamics was part of his presidential proclamation on National Black History Month which touts the administration’s successes in delivering tangible results for black Americans.
Biden’s proclamation notes the administration’s focus on diversity in Cabinet nominations, as well as the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first black woman to serve on the Court.
“We are also working to address centuries of neglected infrastructure in Black American communities,” referencing the high-profile water crises plaguing residents of Flint, Michigan, and Jackson, Mississippi — two predominantly black cities. “My Administration is leading the replacement of lead pipes embedded in cities across America so that every child can safely turn on the faucet and drink clean water.”
Flint’s water crisis began in 2014 when the city enacted the cost-cutting measure of switching its drinking water supply from the system used in nearby Detroit to drawing water from the Flint River.
“Inadequate treatment and testing of the water resulted in a series of major water quality and health issues for Flint residents — issues that were chronically ignored, overlooked, and discounted by government officials even as complaints mounted that the foul-smelling, discolored, and off-tasting water piped into Flint homes for 18 months was causing skin rashes, hair loss, and itchy skin,” according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Despite Biden’s pledge to address Flint’s water infrastructure, as of Jan. 19 — a week before the proclamation and one week before his State of the Union address — the crisis continues, with health officials recommending homeowners use water filters to remove lead. At the same time, officials in Jackson are preparing residents to go without water periodically for up to 10 years, Fox News reported.
The Biden administration also sought to draw attention to actions aimed at addressing discrimination in housing and lending.
“We are working to ensure that any housing agency that receives Federal funds will reach beyond the simple promise not to discriminate and will instead take meaningful, affirmative steps to overcome historic patterns of segregation, giving every person a fair chance to live where they choose,” the proclamation reads. “We are addressing the negative impacts of redlining and other forms of financial discrimination.”
Despite attempts by staffers to position him as the next Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Biden has been losing black support for most of his presidency.
After just one year in office, one poll showed Biden’s support among black Americans had tanked 23 points.
By the end of March 2022, other polling data showed his support from black Americans had plummeted 32 percent (down to 56 percent from 88 percent).
As of the date of the 2023 proclamation, only 60 percent of black voters approve of Biden’s handling of his job as president.