Civil Rights for Black Americans Just Had the Best Month Ever

President Biden and the Department of Justice made a statement — but there’s still more work to be done

You’d be hard-pressed to find two weeks of American history more honorable to the civil rights and lives of Black people than the last 14 days. The 2020 murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd didn’t slow the rate of police killing Blacks; more than 200 have lost their lives to “bad apples” since former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin suffocated Floyd last May, according to data from research group Mapping Police Violence. That figure includes the six Black people killed by law enforcement since Chauvin’s second-degree murder and manslaughter conviction on April 20.

These despicable statistics illuminated the answered prayers in President Biden’s televised speech last Wednesday night. The 46th POTUS addressed Congress with a $1.8 trillion plan to upgrade the country with infrastructure and civil rights legislation, placing an emphasis on jobs and education from preschool through college. The highlight, though, was Biden’s acknowledgment of those whose civil rights have been and continue to be violated.

Biden demanded equality for Asian, Black, and transgender people, while calling out the metastasized cancers inside our police departments. Most impressively, Biden forewent the low-hanging fruit available to all politicians behind a podium. He got specific, championing the George Floyd Act while simultaneously vilifying domestic terrorism by racists in and out of uniform. He implored that the United States “root out systemic racism in our criminal justice system and enact police reform in George Floyd’s name.”

While Biden’s words Wednesday night were full of audacity and hope for an inclusive tomorrow, they were ultimately delectable icing atop an unprecedented couple weeks of enacted justice. April has resembled a Christmas holiday for the exhaustive and at times presumably interminable fight for African-American civil rights. Never before had karma kicked crooked cop culture in the pant seam harder than it did last month.

At this present moment, the real MVP for Black America is the Department of Justice. Its recent crackdown on constitutional violation has seen police departments and officers of varied ranking exposed, probed, and even charged with murder.

Days after Pasquotank County deputies killed Andrew Brown Jr. while attempting to make a warrant arrest last month, the FBI launched a civil rights investigation into why the unarmed Black man was shot several times, the fatal bullet entering the back of his head. The North Carolina community is demanding answers as to why the Brown family was only permitted to watch 20 seconds of footage from one of the officer’s bodycam.

There’s absolutely no logical reason why the Anti-Lynching Act still hasn’t passed. Its unapproved status stokes a fear in the Black community that its oppressors want to keep the noose option alive.

What’s promising about the DOJ’s recent siege on America’s ugly is that it has been nationwide. While Minneapolis and Louisville are cities widely known for racist cop infestations, both are now under the microscope. A federal investigation into the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department began on Monday, more than 13 months after the force came under severe criticism following the murder of Breonna Taylor. One week prior, the DOJ began taking a “pattern or practice” look into the Minneapolis Police Department. It’s safe to assume that the government’s recent aggression was inspired by Daunte Wright being killed by a veteran officer a week before the Chauvin verdict.

Even crooked Black cops faced the wrath of the Department of Justice. On April 19, Georgia Sheriff Victor Hill was indicted on civil rights charges for using unreasonable force on pretrial detainees. Hill is being accused of strapping those in his custody to restraint chairs for hours. Although the sheriff’s indictment rang loud in Georgia, it was dwarfed nationally when the state became home to the DOJ’s greatest triumph in 2021: compounding the murder and false imprisonment counts the state handed to Ahmad Aubrey’s killers with federal hate crime charges. Unfortunately, the three men (the eldest being a retired law enforcement officer) can’t receive additional hate crime charges from the state because at the time of Aubrey’s murder there were no hate crime laws established in Georgia. Surprise!

It’s quite possible that President Biden’s tough talk was due to his justice department’s historic run. More specifically, because of the work laid by the DOJ’s new blood, Lisa Monaco, who may have had the most successful first week in U.S. Deputy Attorney General history. The former head of Homeland Security was appointed by President Obama, who nicknamed her “Dr. Doom” because she was usually the first to inform the White House of existing and projected trouble. Having made a name for herself as a member of the prosecution team that took down Enron’s executives, she handled colossal cases like the Boston Marathon bombing as well as the U.S.’s response to the ebola outbreak in West Africa. Monaco could’ve been a great asset to public safety at the onset of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. Instead, she — along with U.S. AG Merrick Garland and Associate AG Vanita Gupta — are currently tending to the country’s civil health.

Albeit third in U.S. attorney general ranking, Gupta could possibly be the driving force in the DOJ’s recent onslaught. A career civil rights attorney who was also an Obama appointee as the head of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Gupta is now the first woman of color to hold the title of Associate Attorney General. She is also the GOP’s least favorite AG. This due to her penchant for making anti-Republican public statements and lobbying for the decriminalization of marijuana and police reform. Conservatives were so against her appointment, some ponied up for a $1 million smear campaign against Gupta. The one who delivers your enemy the most discomfort just may be your biggest angel.

The women running the U.S. Attorney General’s office saved Biden’s first 100 days as commander in chief. Before Wednesday night’s speech, it appeared that even under the rule of the 46th president, Black lives mattered the least. During Biden’s first day in office, he produced 17 executive orders, the most controversial protecting transgender men and women from discrimination. Two months later, he delivered the Anti-Asian Hate Crime Bill. While Asian racism has certainly been the year’s most talked about civil rights fight, it’s difficult to comprehend how the over 3,800 cases of Asian harassment or assault take priority over a centuries-old plague of African-American extermination at the hands of their own law enforcement.

There’s absolutely no logical reason why the Anti-Lynching Act still hasn’t passed. Its unapproved status stokes a fear in the Black community that its oppressors want to keep the noose option alive. The irony is that while Biden pushed for LGBTQ bill protection, he noted that “transgender Black Americans face unconscionably high levels of workplace discrimination… and fatal violence.” Protecting a sector of a certain race before the entire race is backwards. Especially when the first line of the bill combating gender identity and sexual orientation states: “Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and be able to live without fear.”

President Biden needs to understand that this has been an African-American dream since 1619.

Bonsu Thompson is a writer, producer, Brooklynite and 2019 Sundance Screenwriters Lab fellow.

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