Playing It Safe? Biden, Harris & Police Reform.
Staying informed on the Democratic ticket.
(@joebiden / Instagram)
On Tuesday, Joe Biden announced that his VP pick for the 2020 presidential election is Senator Kamala Harris. History was made as Harris is the first woman of color to ever be on a major ballot and is a child of immigrants.
These rivals turned running mates are essentially the only hope for getting Trump out of office. However, while Biden and Harris may be the default vote, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have an immunity to criticism. Many have claimed that these candidates aren’t progressive enough to make imperative change. It’s unfortunate when voters feel reduced to choosing between the lesser of two evils, but that being said, another four years with the Trump administration could be cataclysmic.
Over the last couple of months, we’ve been lifting the veil on systemic racism and the injustices rooted within America’s very being. Specifically, the police. From the harsh truth about mass incarceration to adopting the ACAB mentality, as we learn more, our expectations for leaders change. As Maya Angelou says, “when you know better, you do better”.
So, what’s Biden’s stance on police?
Historically, Biden’s outlook on the police has been less than promising. Back when Biden was a senator in 2002, the national crime rate was on the rise. His solution? More cops!
“Put a cop on three of four corners and guess where the crime is going to be committed? On the fourth corner, where the cop isn’t. More cops clearly means less crime,” he said.
Oh, Joe. Don’t you know that there is no correlation between increased funding and less crime? Sure, a jump in spending leads to a higher placement of cops, but this concentration directly impacts low-income communities that have since become over-policed. There is undoubtedly a relationship, however, between increased funding, gentrification and criminalization.
One of the more complicated parts of Biden’s history is the 1994 crime bill. While it set great things into action, such as the Violence Against Women Act and a federal assault weapons ban, some say that the COPS Program element actually contributed to mass incarceration with a direct impact on minorities. With a recent shift in his platform, there may be an opportunity to rectify these actions.
Presently, Biden makes no claims of defunding, which is disappointing to say the least, citing that federal funding should be, “based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness.”
Not sure how he plans to measure those ideals, but it’s better than the fear-inducing commercials and meaningless executive orders from Trump, who’s running on a campaign that relies on dog whistle narratives and outdated heritage.
On the more progressive side of his campaign, Biden does believe that when it comes to criminal justice issues, there needs to be a focus on communities. For example, improvements in education, mental health resources, social services and more. Which is quite literally the intent of defunding but…anyways. He also plans to decriminalize — not legalize — marijuana, to lessen the incarcerations related to possession charges.
What about Harris?
Let’s talk about Kamala Harris and how she compares to her running mate. If you don’t know, Harris has a complicated history when it comes to law enforcement, as she was once a cop herself. Gifting herself titles such as ‘top cop’ and ‘progressive prosecutor’, Harris always claimed that she wanted to change the system from within. However, many say that her history as an officer had lasting and negative impacts on minorities.
She is notoriously known for not taking a stance back in 2014 on ballots that aimed to change certain drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Her silence locked away countless lives. On the other hand, her activism was on full display when she confidently opposed the death penalty as it’s ‘disproportionately applied to people of color’. It’s hard to say how her past will impact her politics today, but it’s surely an aspect of who Harris is.
Presently, she’s been vocal about the Black Lives Matter movement. When she was running for President, her plans included, “ending mass incarceration, cash bail and the death penalty; creating a national police systems review board; making attending historically Black colleges and universities debt-free for students; and many other measures.”
It’ll be interesting to see how Biden and Harris handle the rest of the campaign trail. Are they the candidates we deserved? Not really. Their current stances on a lot of issues are far from bold, as they attempt to appeal to the masses.
Ultimately, this could potentially be a new era, one that leaves the Trump administration in the dust. It’s important that while we may vote for the democratic party, we need to hold them accountable and mold them into the leaders we need in order to protect Black lives.
Madeline Murphy is an Online Writer at Rowdy Magazine. She’s currently studying Journalism with a minor in Women’s Studies. Madeline can be found making Apple Music playlists, trying Nigella Lawson recipes and binging SATC. She’s fiercely passionate about social justice and the power of words.