If It Ain’t Woke, Don’t Fix It: Biden Urged To Use Baltimore Bridge Rebuild For Race Reparations

In an aerial view, cargo ship Dali is seen after running into and collapsing the Francis S
asos Katopodis/Getty

President Joe Biden is being pressed to use the reconstruction of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore as an opportunity to remedy alleged racial discrimination against blacks in the construction industry.

Biden said this week that he had told his administration officials to “move heaven and earth” to reopen the port of Baltimore and rebuild the bridge. The reconstruction efforts, however, may be complicated by demands that the project further leftwing ideas about racial justice, the treatment of immigrants, climate change, and wealth redistribution.

An op-ed in The Hill underscores that some of these demands may be irreconcilable. For example, demands for more black representation in construction can conflict with demands that the U.S. continue to welcome the surge of migrants at our borders.

An employer preference for immigrant labor has resulted in “high rates of displacement and discouragement” of black workers from construction, according to professor emeritus of American Studies at Emerson College Roger House.

House’s piece in  The Hill urges the president to “show concern for rebuilding a vital bridge — and for building a bridge of inclusion for Black American workers in the construction industry as well.”

From the Op-Ed:

President Biden has struggled to link the benefits of his signature infrastructure laws to disaffected Black labor. When he touts the jobs created by federally backed construction projects — such as his recent remarks in Arizona about a semiconductor chip factory — it only reminds some Black working-class men about their exclusion from the industry.

The collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge is an opportunity for Biden to change the storyline. The bridge, a major conduit over the Baltimore Harbor, collapsed after being struck by a cargo ship Tuesday. It spans more than 1.5 miles across the Patapsco River and, as a major connecting point for the region, will need to be rebuilt.

House claims that “the administration has failed to hold states to account for equity planning as encouraged in the infrastructure legislation.”

House says that Biden has “fumbled moments to crusade for racial reforms in construction and, in particular, to stand with Black men seeking skilled jobs and contracting opportunities.”

Black workers are kept out of construction jobs because of “union racism” and “contractor preference for immigrants.” The construction sector is 60 percent white, 30 percent Hispanic, and just five percent black, House writes, citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the U.S. population overall, 59.3 percent are non-hispanic white, 18.9 percent are Hispanic, and 12.4 percent are black.

House argues that “the surge of immigration since the 1980s provided a source of cheap labor that contractors desired and unions could not hold off, and Black labor was the odd man out. Even during disasters like Hurricane Katrina, federal contractors opted to use the labor of immigrant work crews rather than hire and train Black men from the region.”


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