President Joe Biden and other Democrat heavyweights, including former President Barack Obama, are making last-minute stops on the campaign trail as their party may lose control of the House and its 50/50 split in the Senate.
During a recent Rickey Smiley Morning Show appearance, Smiley asked Biden what he’s done for Black Americans, specifically.
He responded with a list of actions, including the recent pardon he issued for simple marijuana possession, student debt relief, $6 billion in funding to HBCUs, the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and making Juneteenth a national holiday, among other things.
“I hope I’ve improved the lives of African Americans like I said I would do. … We got more to do, but look, I made a commitment,” Biden said. “It’s a matter of making sure that every Black organization and the Black community is treated as fairly as possible and still has economic opportunity. … We got to make sure African Americans have the same chance everybody else does and that’s not happening until we got in office. It’s a big change.”
Some criticized Biden’s list as not being political fluff with no real change for Black Americans.
“It’s hilarious how they make their rounds during election time,” YouTube user @GiftedTottie502 commented on the audio recording of the interview. “Everything he just spoke about has done little to nothing for the black Community as a whole at the end of the day.”
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“Dam Rick I thought you were solid brother. You know he ain’t don’t nothing for us. None of the democrats have done anything. I understand though it’s your job,” another user identified as Alisha Evette commented.
“Biden’s announcement today is kinda smoke and mirrors,” attorney and legal analyst Rebecca Kavanagh tweeted at the time. “Most federal prosecutions for marijuana are for sale or trafficking, not possession — even when the amount of weed involved is very small. The number of people covered by this ‘mass pardon’ is approx. 6,000.”
An analysis by the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) confirms Kavanagh’s words, showing a total of 6,577 U.S. citizens and 1,122 resident and legal aliens are affected by the pardon.
Biden told Smiley his pardon would ensure anyone arrested for simple marijuana possession had their record “expunged,” which isn’t necessarily correct.
“For example, too many African Americans were denied everything from Pell Grants, student loans, housing, et cetera, because they were arrested for possession of marijuana —many too many. Whites as well,” Biden said. “So anybody who was ever arrested just for the possession of marijuana, their record is expunged. They don’t have to list it anymore, and it’s going to free up a lot of opportunities.”
While pardons were more like expungements in the 19th century, current interpretations of a presidential pardon derived from proceeding Supreme Court cases make the pardon’s reach subject to interpretation.
According to a report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), “there are three prevailing views regarding the effect of a presidential pardon.”
The CSR report states: “The first view … “holds that a pardon obliterates both conviction and guilt which places the offender in a position as if he or she had not committed the offense in the first place.” The second view “is that the conviction is obliterated but guilt remains.” In deciding the effect of pardons issued by the President or a state governor, many courts appear to adhere to this second view, as discussed below. The third view “is that neither the conviction nor guilt is obliterated.”
As a result, even with a pardon, one can be subject to certain biases and lose employment and other opportunities.
“The continued presence of a conviction on a person’s record, notwithstanding a pardon, could still raise barriers with respect to such person’s suitability … an expungement of one’s records generally appears to go a step beyond the effect of a pardon and removes the record of the conviction as well as the underlying guilt,” the CSR report states.
This reality further fuels those critiquing Biden’s highlighting his marijuana pardon as evidence of his accomplishments for Black Americans.
Also, Black people only make up 23.6 percent of federal offenders with marijuana convictions, further analysis by the USSC. Hispanics make up 31.8 percent and whites make up the highest percentage at 41.3.
PHOTOS: President Joe Biden speaks during a rally for Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore at Bowie State University in Bowie, Md., Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) / Rickey Smiley. (Photo: Courtesy of Hot 105)