WASHINGTON. — Racial inequality in the United States came into sharp focus this year, and became a defining topic of the national debate, after police killings of Black Americans ignited months of widespread protests and galvanised the nation to demand racial justice and police reforms.
The unrest has forced US President Donald Trump, a Republican who is running for re-election on a “law and order” platform, and his main challenger, Democratic nominee Joe Biden, to wrestle with the complicated issue of race in America, and try to appeal to Black voters.
But with less than two months before the election, in the middle of a pandemic and record-high unemployment rates, whether Black Americans will be energised to come out in large numbers to vote remains uncertain — potentially defining the outcome of the 2020 election.
A recent poll shows Biden by far outperforming Trump among Black voters, with 78 percent support.
“Most Black voters are going to support Joe Biden,” said Ravi Perry, professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at Howard University, a historically Black university.
“But there are differences in enthusiasm,” Perry tells Al Jazeera, “where Black women, for instance, have far more enthusiasm towards Biden, and many young people, support him but with far less enthusiasm.”
Earlier this month, both candidates visited Kenosha, Wisconsin, a battleground state, and the site of the most recent turmoil following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who remains hospitalised after being shot in the back seven times by a white police officer while authorities were trying to arrest him in late August.
Speaking at a local church in Kenosha after a private meeting with Blake and his family, Biden said the latest events would help Americans confront centuries of systemic racism.
In contrast, Trump did not mention Blake by name, refused to acknowledge systemic racism and instead blasted the protesters and offered his unequivocal support to law enforcement.
Data shows that Black voters have overwhelmingly supported the Democratic Party since at least the 1960s, when the party passed civil rights legislation that outlawed racial segregation and prohibited racial discrimination in voting. — Al Jazeera.