In effect, they are asking President Biden to take a cue from candidate Biden. During the primary and general election, and under pressure from activists who cast Mr. Biden as an artifact of the political past, his team embraced a plan for Black Americans called “Lift Every Voice,” which would seek to close the Black-white income gap, expand educational opportunities, invest $70 billion in H.B.C.U.s and reimagine the criminal justice system and policing.
Mr. Biden’s selection of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, the first Black woman on a major party ticket, was — with the campaign’s encouragement — taken as a symbolic affirmation of these commitments. Former President Barack Obama, the country’s first Black president, had to assure white America he would be a president for all races. But Mr. Biden repeatedly asserted that Black communities would get special attention in his administration.
The Presidential Transition
Dec. 23, 2020, 5:45 p.m. ET
Black political leaders believe that the biggest barrier to Mr. Biden’s commitment to address systemic racism is his own instinct for compromise, bipartisanship and deference to the idea of Washington civility. Mr. Biden has consistently restated his belief that congressional Republicans will work with his administration in due time, though some of them continue to cast doubt on the legitimacy of his victory and President Trump shows no signs of loosening his grip on the party’s base.
“Bipartisanship is how the president-elect and vice president-elect plan to get things done from Day 1,” said Ramzey Smith, a spokesman for Mr. Biden’s transition team. “They’ve made it abundantly clear that in order to combat the systemic inequities that Black Americans have faced for generations, it is imperative to work across the aisle and engage with all groups to reach a consensus that doesn’t compromise our principles or priorities.”
Some Black leaders who have met with Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris during the transition have been frustrated by this sentiment, according to several people familiar with the discussions. Mr. Biden, the leader of the Democratic Party, is one of the few Democrats left who believes that the Republicans who reflexively opposed Mr. Obama’s every action and have been slow to acknowledge Mr. Biden’s legitimacy are simply an aberration.
Leaders are asking him to consider unilateral action like executive orders to enact his agenda, claiming that Washington horse-trading has rarely prioritized the needs of Black communities. Mr. Biden has been steadfast: Republicans will come around.
“We will see if he’s right, and we’ll see very shortly,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., who has met with the Biden transition team. “If he’s not, we’ll also see it very shortly.”