The country saw its third remarkable Wednesday in a row with the historic inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Just a few days into the new administration, big changes are already underway.
A theme of unity permeated Biden’s inaugural address, and while La Raza Director and General Manager Jesus del Toro says the repeated calls for unity are important, they are ultimately limited in their utility.
“It’s useful as a symbolic mission first, because the climate we were experiencing before was so harsh, so polarized,” said del Toro. “Of course, it’s not enough, we will need a lot more to be able to start some sort of reconciliation and to heal.”
Beyond the “firsts” that Harris’ inauguration represents — she is the first woman and the first woman of color to hold the office of vice president — South Side Weekly Editor-in-Chief Jackie Serrato believes she is symbolic of a new era in America.
“Overall there’s a palpable sense of relief – we had four years of lies, four years of racism, four years of fearmongering, which culminated in an assault of the nation’s capital,” said Serrato. “People want to see the Biden-Harris administration succeed in undoing a lot of the harmful policies under Trump.”
Del Toro says there are two issues Biden must deal with right away: the COVID-19 crisis and immigration reform.
“COVID-19 relief is critical. It’s an immediate threat to the lives and the health of our communities. But immigration is very important too, because it’s a long struggle that all our communities have been experiencing for many years, with many promises that were unfulfilled, many believing the idea of immigration reform was not something that was going to come but just a tool for politicians to control the vote of the Latinx communities,” he said.
Among Biden’s earliest immigration actions, Serrato notes, was imposing a 100-day moratorium on deportations. Along with becoming the first president to mention white supremacists in an inaugural address and ending former President Donald Trump’s 1776 Commission promoting “patriotic education,” Serrato sees this move as a harbinger of things to come in terms of social justice.
“I think that the country is going through a reckoning right now, where we are reevaluating our values. Just because Trump is gone doesn’t mean that we’ll automatically have justice, because the Democrats had a lot to do with Trump winning. But I think there are good indicators that things will improve,” she said.