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NAACP urges Biden to appoint Cabinet members with "civil rights policy priorities"

NAACP leader on Biden's Cabinet and priorities
NAACP leader on Biden's Cabinet and prioritie... 06:41

NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson is calling for President-elect Joe Biden to restore "the priority of civil rights" to the White House. The NAACP and six other civil rights groups are hoping to meet with the president-elect about his commitment to promoting equality.

"We have to save the morality of this nation and make sure that the historical and decades-long caste system, the racism, is done away with. You can only do that through public policy," Johnson said in an interview on CBSN Thursday.

As Biden continues to weigh his Cabinet choices, civil rights groups have been advocating for diverse representation in high-profile positions — but Johnson says that alone is not enough.

"This is not about individuals and seats alone," he said. "We are more concerned with civil rights policy priorities, no matter what the race of the individual is who is holding the seat."

Johnson referred to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson as an example.

"We have had, over the last four years, the head of HUD be an African American who did along with the Trump administration gut civil rights protections," he said.

The goal now, according to Johnson, is "to restore the protections no matter who is holding the seat."

"We have an opportunity, with this administration, to turn the tide of what we have seen over the last four years," he said. 

Johnson also said a potential meeting with the president-elect would set "a tone and cadence" for future conversations with the incoming Biden administration.

"President-elect Biden has been a member of the NAACP for as long as many of us have been alive. He has always shared that," Johnson said. "He is not, you know, anyone who is new to the conversation."

He also urged Mr. Biden to use the power of executive orders to push a civil rights agenda along.

Johnson lauded the announcement of John Kerry as climate envoy, saying that it signaled "a focus on renewable energy and environmental justice." 

The NAACP has publicly stood against the potential appointment of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whom Mr. Biden is reportedly considering for transportation secretary. In a statement to Huff Post, Johnson said Emanuel was "not a principled leader or person." 

Emanuel, a former Obama chief of staff, was criticized during his tenure as mayor for the delay in releasing video showing the police shooting death of Laquan McDonald, a Black teenager, until after his 2015 reelection. 

"The police violence in this country has been rampant, and individuals who have participated in the cover up or the actions, they shouldn't be considered here," Johnson said. "That is not the type of individual that should be a part of any administration. 

He added that the NAACP's goal is to "provide as much support" as possible to Mr. Biden's administration.

"We are also aggressive in our tone to ensure that we reverse the problems of the past," Johnson said. "We don't need to retread old tires. We need to get some new tires."

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