Treasury Secretary-designee Janet Yellen and Deputy Treasury Secretary-designee Wally Adeyemo “reaffirmed their commitment to placing racial equity at the center of economic recovery, focusing on the households, businesses and communities hardest hit by the pandemic, and to pursuing economic policies that address the long-term, systemic and structural issues that have led to the racial wealth gap and economic disparities that exist today,” the Biden-Harris transition team said about the virtual roundtable.
Among the participants were activists who have supported the “defund the police” movement, such as Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, Color of Change President Rashad Robinson and National Director of the Working Families Party Maurice Mitchell.
Biden and other Democratic leaders have criticized the phrase “defund the police” recently.
“That’s how they beat the living hell out of us across the country, saying that we’re talking about defunding the police. We’re not. We’re talking about holding them accountable,” Biden said in a meeting with civil rights leaders last week, according to leaked audio first obtained by The Intercept. “We’re talking about giving them money to do the right things. … We’re talking about spending money to enable them to do their jobs better, not with more force, with less force and more understanding.”
Former President Obama told Snapchat host Peter Hamby earlier this month that the “snappy” slogan may draw attention to the cause, but it “makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done.”
House Majority Whip James Clyburn, the highest ranking Black member of Congress, told NBC News last month that the slogan hurt Democratic candidates in the election and that “these headlines can kill a political effort.”
Black to the Future Founder Alicia Garza, who met with Yellen and Adeyemo Monday, has defended the movement.
“This movement, which really helped to push [Biden’s] campaign over the finish line, was used as a political football all throughout this election cycle and that was true in 2016 as well,” Garza told Politico last week.
“There’s a lot of valuable airspace that was used to be condescending to the very people who have opened the imagination of what this country can be — and how we can get closer to the promise that this country has offered to so many.”
The Treasury nominees and racial justice advocates also discussed helping communities of color recover from the coronavirus pandemic Monday.
“The conversation was positive, and covered a range of topics, including the powers that the Treasury has to help hard-struck communities, especially communities of color, recover equitably from the pandemic and the recession; and longer-term ways to improve racialized wealth disparities in the United States,” Felicia Wong, president and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute, told Fox News.
Yellen said at an event earlier this month that the Biden administration has an “obligation” to “address deeper structural problems” like racial and gender inequality.
“Out of our collective pain as a nation we will find collective purpose to control the pandemic and build our economy back better than before, to rebuild our infrastructure and create better jobs, to invest in our workforce, to advance racial equity and make sure the economic recovery includes everyone,” Yellen said.