For many Black Americans, the presidential election on November 3 is a referendum on race relations’ an opportunity to move toward healing or the potential of a deeper divide.
The coronavirus pandemic, joblessness and police brutality has forced the US to confront its legacy of systemic racism.
Democrat Joe Biden is relying on strong turnout among Black voters in cities such as Detroit, Philadelphia and Milwaukee to tip critical swing states in his direction. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, is focusing on appealing to his core base of white voters.
“Another four years of Trump would completely set us back and the advancements that we’ve made towards equal rights, human rights and civil rights,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, a longtime civil rights leader.
“I definitely think the soul of the nation is at risk. We are looking at the ultimate white backlash in history of this… in the history of this country,” he added.
Trump points to criminal justice reform, opportunity zones and funding for historically Black colleges and universities as examples of what he’s done for Black Americans, but many critics argue his claims are exaggerated or undermined by his comments.
After a summer of nationwide unrest led to millions marching in the streets, Trump billed himself as a leader who will restore “law and order” — a perceived attempt to appeal to white grievances and allay white suburban fears.
Biden has his own vulnerabilities on race, including a 1994 crime bill that has been blamed for incarcerating a generation of Black men and the poor treatment of Anita Hill at Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation hearing.
In the final stretch of the campaign, Black voters are organizing to make sure their ballots are counted.
“We have to make this progress real and we have to remember that we are not simply voting for the president of the United States as vital as that is,” politician and voting rights activist, Stacey Abrams said.
“We need to elect people down the ballot who are going to make choices about the investments that are made, about the distribution of dollars that will come from COVID recovery.”
More than 80 million Americans have cast ballots in the presidential election, setting the stage for the highest participation rate in over a century.