So, Joe Biden Won. Now, Activists Look at the Work That Still Lies Ahead

Chelsey Sanchez
·12-min read
Photo credit: Art by Ingrid Frahm
Photo credit: Art by Ingrid Frahm

From Harper's BAZAAR

Photo credit: Art by Ingrid Frahm
Photo credit: Art by Ingrid Frahm

For many, President-elect Joe Biden's triumph over President Donald Trump in the 2020 election ended an era marked by division, misinformation, and racism. Yet for others—especially those who have been in the trenches across various administrations fighting for a truly equitable and just world—the road ahead is still a long and winding one.

BAZAAR.com speaks to seven activist organizations about the work that remains once Trump leaves the White House come January. The consensus: The country's modern turmoil will take much more than just a new commander in chief to fix.

Coming from the (often, overlapping) circles of reproductive justice, the environment, immigrant rights, and criminal justice, these organizers are more than prepared to take on those tasks under a Biden administration. Read on to see how.

United We Dream

Greisa Martinez Rosas, Executive Director

What we saw from Donald Trump was an attack. Day after day, him, his administration, and Republican enablers laid attacks on immigrants, whether it was the Muslim ban, the criminalization of immigrants, or putting children in cages.

A Biden victory is a delivery from Latinos, young people, Black women, and women of color. For us, that then translates into a very clear mandate for bold, swift action from the Biden administration to undo what we've seen under Trump.

That means we need permanent protection and citizenship for all of our community. We need to ensure that we're stopping the deportations of people. We need to abolish ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and CBP [Customs and Border Protection], which are the agencies that, for nearly 20 years, have been able to grow into billion dollar agencies that must be checked.

From day one, a Biden presidency should advance the many forms of justice we need for immigrant justice, racial justice, climate justice, social justice, and economic justice. All those things are interconnected. We're proud to be part of The Frontline, which is a coordination space between the Movement for Black Lives Electoral Justice Project, the Working Families Party, the Sunrise Movement, and March for Our Lives. All of us are united about a co-governing agenda that puts working-class people, our environment, and Black and Brown people at the center to be able to live with dignity and thrive. We see our issues interconnected, and we'll be fighting together. That is one of the great hopes, that no matter what happens, the social justice movements that you've seen led by Black and Brown young people will continue.

I'm confident in what a future Biden administration will make. I am even more confident in our movements. We've won under Obama. We've won under Trump. We will win under a Biden administration.

Indigenous Women Rising

Nicole Martin, Cofounder and Sex Education Developer

We know this country disenfranchises Indigenous people daily. On a national and global level, we are described as "something else," or not even taken into account for our contributions to this country. Indigenous people and the organizations we lead are always an afterthought. Our "what now" is the reason why Indigenous Women Rising was created, because when it comes to inclusivity, we're tired of being the afterthought.

Indigenous Women Rising will continue to work toward and embody collective community care. We have always been guided by our traditions, so in many ways, our work won't change. Therefore, we will continue to raise funds for our relatives seeking Indigenous midwifery for their birthing plans, for relatives seeking abortion health care, and our menstrual care packages. This is our responsibility: to be good relatives. Extending compassion and care during a pandemic and overall in a settler-colonial world is what we will keep doing.

Community Justice Exchange

Pilar Weiss, Director

So much of the work to radically change the criminal legal system and build new visions of community safety happens at the local level. Under a Biden administration, some of the dynamics and contours will change to be less openly hostile, but the challenges and opportunities will continue to be very locally driven. The dire economic situations that the COVID-19 crisis has created will be an added challenge that any criminal justice work will have to face, as local and state budget crises will impact how much we are fighting for basic survival before we push forward.

Center for Reproductive Rights

Nancy Northup, President and CEO

The election of former vice president Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the 46th president of the United States presents an opportunity to put human rights and human needs at the center of a new U.S. domestic and foreign policy agenda. Biden ran on a platform committed to an America that respects and embraces its broad diversity, and promotes health care as a human right, including protecting and advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice. The Center for Reproductive Rights looks forward to the opportunity to transform these commitments into reality so that every person has access to the full range of reproductive health care, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability status, national origin, age, or zip code.

Even with the seismic shift coming to the White House in January, access to contraception and abortion care remain vulnerable because of the relentless assaults by state elected officials hostile to reproductive rights. Since 2011, more than 500 state restrictions on access to abortion have been passed, and the Center for Reproductive Rights is currently litigating more than two dozen cases challenging these dangerous laws. Recent years have seen ever-more extreme measures that directly defy the clear constitutional guarantees of Roe v. Wade and are intended to set up a showdown in the Supreme Court to overturn or gut the landmark decision. Such restrictions disproportionately harm people already facing obstacles to health care, including Black, Indigenous, and people of color; rural communities; and people living in poverty.

As we look to the future, the lawyers and human rights advocates at the Center for Reproductive Rights will continue to advance reproductive rights as fundamental human rights in the United States and around the world, no matter the obstacles. We will partner with civil society, government, and the private sector to build legal guarantees to the right of every person to access reproductive health care and to make their own decisions about their reproductive lives. We will defend against efforts to roll back legal guarantees, and we will hold governments accountable for living up to their commitments to protect, defend, and advance reproductive rights.

Indigenous Environmental Network

We, the Indigenous Environmental Network, are celebrating the defeat of Donald Trump as a reminder of our collective power to confront white supremacy and fascism. A national effort of grassroots organizing by Black, Indigenous peoples, LGBTQIA, and people of color provided the essential votes needed to sway this election. We cannot say this enough: This is our victory, we did this for our communities. We will not mince words: The United States is a settler state that has always exploited the land, its people, and resources. Even with the change of executive power, we know that the systems that commodify our people, lands, water, and sky will not be the ones to save them. As such, we celebrate this moment as a bellwether of BIPOC leadership and strategy, and keep our eyes focused on the prize of radically imagining a better future for us all. A future that depends on a new economic and environmental paradigm.

The United States has a new president. Our network will continue to be a driving force in holding the powers in office accountable to the original peoples of these lands and territories. All across Turtle Island, Indigenous peoples are rising up to assert our inherent sovereign rights, defend our territories, and protect future generations. For the health and respect of the sacredness of Mother Earth and Father Sky, we will not falter; Indigenous voices will be heard.

We demand climate justice, we demand a just transition, we demand an economic just recovery driven by environmental justice and ethics, we demand our sovereign rights be respected and strengthened. The new presidential administration must embrace the rejection of an extractive economy and build a relationship to the sacredness of Mother Earth and all her relations.

We must see systemic change in the relationship between Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and this federal government. We must see the full recognition and enforcement of our treaty rights, the return of our lands, and the full implementation of free, prior, and informed consent.

We envision a new paradigm that recognizes the territorial integrity and rights of Mother Earth and the self-determination of the first peoples of this land. And we stand with Black, people of color, the poor, migrants, LGBTQIA, and other marginalized people who are demanding the very same systemic change.

We only have one Mother Earth and one Father Sky. For the sake of the next seven generations of life on this planet, we will continue to build power toward a better tomorrow.

National Lawyers Guild

The National Lawyers Guild expresses its deep gratitude to the work of Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color around the country who have led the way to the end of a fascist Trump presidency.

It is the hard work of community organizing—not any single politician, celebrity, or political party—that has led us to this moment. We are breathing a collective sigh of relief as we welcome an end to the Trump administration, but we remain vigilant and will not let this election fool us into complacency. We refuse to return to the status quo and will continue to fight for a world in which everyone can thrive. Our demands for transformative justice, accessible health care and education, and an end to the carceral state remain as urgent as ever, even as the country changes leadership.

The results make clear white supremacy remains alive and well in the so-called United States. As they always have, the rights of our most marginalized communities hang in the balance. There is much more work to be done to address the damage inflicted by the last administration—and the many before it that have advanced racism, transphobia, misogyny, ableism, capitalism, and imperialism. As has always been the case, it is up to us, the people, to fight for the world we need. As Angela Davis reminded us, “We know now that we can, indeed, forge our own futures.”

Struggles for liberation will continue under a Biden administration. The NLG remains committed to working in the streets and in the courtroom to continue our 83-year-long tradition of providing legal support to people’s movements.

Immigrant Defense Project

Mizue Aizeki, Interim Executive Director

Under Trump, immigrant rights advocates, along with allies working on a wide range of social justice issues, fought unimaginable attacks and hate-filled politics with deep roots in systemic racism and xenophobia. Over the years, the Immigrant Defense Project has fought back against the increasing vilification and criminalization of immigrants, including the pervasive notion that certain people present a perpetual threat. Defeating insidious narratives and reimagining a humane immigration system for all will take more than just a change in the White House.

Since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2002, the United States has deported more than five million people—almost twice as many as in the previous 100 years. DHS effectively merged aspects of the "homeland security state" with the prison industrial complex, normalizing mass deportation and criminalization of immigrants.

Under Trump, the calls to #AbolishICE and dismantle DHS became more widespread. Indeed, Trump's ethno-nationalist agenda was particularly dangerous, because he inherited the world's largest exclusion and deportation policing apparatus—DHS—and a robust police-to-deportation pipeline. He also inherited the political justification for migrant policing and deportation—the widely held consensus that the borders must be "secure" and that immigrants with criminal convictions are a worthy "national security" target. This consensus falsely presents issues of movement and migration as a matter of threats and playing defense.

Undoing the damage of the last four years will take hard work—that much is clear. But it is not enough to simply go back to the practices of the Obama administration and the rhetoric of "felons, not families." It is time to undo the harms of this massive system of exclusion and expulsion. If we are to build a humane world, there is no place for ICE or DHS, which have caused profound human suffering. To fully address the challenges we face, we need to take stock of what made our current moment possible.

The success of this cruel system depends on the dehumanization of whole social groups, including strategically deploying labels such as criminal, illegal, or felon to shape public attitudes. The government has exploited the harmful ideologies and tactics of the War on Crime to escalate the racialized policing, mass imprisonment, surveillance, and excessive punishment of immigrants and other socially marginalized groups. The lines between the criminal legal and immigration systems have become dangerously thin. These policies have harmed millions and are at odds with the current forward-thinking movement to reduce the harms of over-policing and mass incarceration.

Despite the enormity of this system, it is not without its weaknesses. A system that creates so much human pain, erodes fundamental fairness and human rights, and threatens the safety of millions is unsustainable. As the oppression grows, so, too, does the number of people who organize to reject its dehumanization and to uphold dignity and justice. We will continue to learn the key lessons, shift our tactics accordingly, and support the leadership of communities on the front lines. This election is just one stop in our march toward justice for all.

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