Black women helped put Joe Biden in the White House. What can he do for them in return?
TORONTO -- When considering factors that helped make Joe Biden the president of the United States, it's hard to overstate the importance of Black women.
Nine out of 10 Black women who voted in last November's presidential election backed Biden, according to CNN polling data. The organizing efforts of Black women were key to achieving the voter turnout that was necessary to push Biden to victory in battleground states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Biden acknowledged his Black supporters in his victory speech, telling them "you've always had my back, and I'll have yours."
Having the backs of the Black women who pushed him into the White House starts with addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, author and political commentator Avis Jones-DeWeever said Wednesday.
"It disproportionately kills within the Black community. That's an issue that Black Americans care greatly about," she told CTV's Your Morning.
On Tuesday, the U.S. passed 400,000 deaths related to the coronavirus, equivalent to one death per 833 Americans. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Black Americans were 3.7 times as likely as white Americans to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 as of last November, and 2.8 times as likely to die from it.
Once the country is winning its battle against the pandemic, Jones-DeWeever said, Black supporters want Biden to address issues with the Voting Rights Act that disproportionately make it more difficult for Americans of colour to vote.
"In spite of all the roadblocks that were put up, the Black community showed up and showed out in force in order to hand him that victory," she said.
Jones-DeWeever said she would also like to see Biden improve the lives of his Black supporters by launching the sort of nation-wide infrastructure-building drive that Trump often talked about but never did, ensuring universal access to quality education, and taking down white nationalist groups.
"They represent a clear and present danger to this nation writ large, but specifically they present a clear and present danger to the African-American community," she said.
The transition to a Biden administration has also featured a debate over representation.
Kamala Harris was sworn in Wednesday as both the first Black vice-president and the first female vice-president in American history.
Fearing that might be the extent of Biden placing Black women in high-level positions, a group of more than 1,000 Black women wrote an open letter last month, urging the then-president-elect to appoint more Black women to his cabinet, including to senior positions.
Biden intends to have 26 people in his cabinet, half of whom are people of colour. Three of the 26 are Black women: Marcia Fudge is his nominee for secretary of housing and urban development, Linda Thomas-Greenfield is his pick for ambassador to the United Nations, and Cecilia Rouse has been tapped to chair Biden's council of economic advisers.