WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday underscored his determination to address concerns about policing, prisons and massive economic disparities faced by Black Americans, saying every agency of his government was focused on those challenges.
Biden, speaking before a meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, referred to what he called the “God- awful shooting” of a 20-year-old Black man in Minnesota by a police officer just miles away from where the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former white Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd, is taking place.
“We’re in the business – all of us meeting today – to deliver some real change,” Biden said, adding that every part of his government and every agency was focused on improved equity.
“We have an awful lot of things that we have to deal with … when it comes to police, when it comes to massive inequality of economic opportunity,” the Democratic president said before the meeting.
Biden said Black lawmakers had already helped secure big changes by helping pass his $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue plan, which will reduce child poverty and poverty in the Black community through a child tax credit and other measures.
He said his $2.3 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan would ensure further “significant, significant changes” in improving economic opportunity for Black Americans and all communities.
Representative Joyce Beatty, who heads the Congressional Black Caucus, told reporters the groups had a productive, wide-ranging meeting with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris that focused on the need to protect voting rights, reform policing, eradicate systemic racism and consider reparations for slavery.
She said the group asked Biden to appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court if a seat became vacant, and also to back tax credits for grocery stores to move into underserved communities.
Asked what he could deliver on his promises to African-Americans to change how they interact with police, Biden said, “A lot,” but gave no details.
Biden on Monday called for increased accountability through a full investigation of Sunday’s shooting by a police officer of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, but also warned against looting or acts of violence by angry crowds.
Beatty echoed that message on Tuesday, urging protesters to remain peaceful in the spirit of Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders.
The city’s police chief and the officer who fatally shot Wright after a traffic stop both resigned on Tuesday after two nights of protests in the city of 30,000.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday said Biden would keep pushing to enact overdue reforms of policing.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Dan Grebler and Richard Chang)