The head of the NAACP is taking President Biden to task for not including student debt forgiveness in the proposals he’ll unveil Tuesday to mark the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre.
In a statement, NAACP President Derrick Johnson argued that not doing so was a missed opportunity, noting how people of color are disproportionately impacted by student loans compared to white counterparts.
“Student loan debt continues to suppress the economic prosperity of Black Americans across the nation. You cannot begin to address the racial wealth gap without addressing the student loan debt crisis. You just can’t address one without the other. Plain and simple,” Johnson’s statement read.
“President Biden’s budget fails to address the student debt crisis,” he added.
His comments come ahead of the commander-in-chief’s Tuesday speech to mourn what was lost in the carnage of the Oklahoma massacre, as well as unveil a new effort to narrow the racial wealth gap by investing $100 million into minority-owned businesses.
The massacre took place in the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, starting in the evening of May 31, 1921 and continuing into the next afternoon.
The neighborhood was home to great economic prosperity for black residents, often referred to as “Black Wall Street,” before white rioters burned the area to the ground.
Of the more than 30 blocks that originally made up the entirety of the black neighborhood, burned bricks and a fragment of a church basement are all that were left.
White mobs killed an estimated 300 black residents, injured about 800 more, left 8,000 residents homeless — yet saw no punishment from law enforcement.
The massacre, like other atrocities of the pre-civil rights movement era, has received renewed attention in the wake of nationwide protests last year sparked by the police killing of George Floyd.
When then-candidate Biden gained the Democratic nomination in March last year, the presidential hopeful did not believe a chief executive had the authority to cancel any federal debt without Congress.
Facing pressure from the progressive wing of the party as the general election race heated up, Biden eventually opted to support canceling $10,000 of student debt, a compromise compared to the $50,000 pushed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
In February, the president asked the Justice Department to review his legal authority to cancel $10,000 in student loans. It is not clear what conclusion it returned to him with.
Asked during an April press briefing about the difference between the Senate Democrats’ $50,000 proposal and Biden’s $10,000 cancellation effort, White House press secretary Jen Psaki explained that the president was certainly willing to support canceling $50,000 in debt — just not without Congress.
“The president continues to call on Congress to cancel $10,000 in debt for student loan borrowers. That’s something Congress could take an action on, and he’d be happy to sign,” Psaki said.
The press secretary went on to say that the administration was “still taking a closer look at” its “options on student loans.”
“This includes examining the authorities we have, the existing loan forgiveness programs that are clearly not working as well as they should. This includes borrower defense, total and permanent disability charges. There’s a lot of steps we’re looking at, and we’ll continue to review those and be in touch, of course, with Leader Schumer about our process,” she continued.