It’s payback time for our support; Biden should nominate a Black U.S. attorney for South Florida

“To the victor goes the spoils.” This is how any government sustains its influence with supporters. The spoils system of American government has been historically exploited by the financial backers of presidential candidates, whether Democrat or Republican.

But money does not win elections, people do, and as we prepare for the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, both would do well to remember that.

African Americans supported Biden way before he entered the race for president. They were dissatisfied with the field of Democratic candidates, despite the presence of two well-qualified African-American U.S. senators — Harris and Cory Booker. By the time Harris ended her campaign in December 2019, only 6 percent of African Americans supported her candidacy, compared to Biden’s 44 percent, Bernie Sanders’ 10 percent and Elizabeth Warren’s 8 percent.

We all know that South Carolina and the African-American vote saved the Biden campaign from an embarrassing end during the primary. We also know that African-American ‘bloc voting’ in Georgia, Pennsylvania and Michigan saved America from four more years of the President Trump.

So it’s time for the big payback.

The American spoils system creates opportunity and progress, and there is no greater venue for this progress than the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

We have a racial imbalance among federal judges in South Florida; in other words, there are not enough of them. It’s also time for the district to boast an African-American U.S. attorney. Surprisingly, of the merely eight Black federal judges that Trump appointed — out of 200 — one of them was from South Florida, Judge Rodney Smith, a kid from Liberty City and a graduate of Miami Northwestern High School and Florida A&M. His appointment got bipartisan support and was championed by Sen. Marco Rubio.

But its also noteworthy that the local African-American community was shocked that Harris, the a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, voted against Smith ‘s nomination — and Booker, also on the committee, didn’t vote at all. This is why we must demand better communication between the Biden-Harris White House and our local Congressional Black Caucus delegation. The African-American community’s voice must be consulted on appointments to the Southern District of Florida.

As we move forward, we must also keep our eye on the selection for U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. Members of other ethnic communities are lining up for this appointment, and we must do the same. We need to ask ourselves: Is there an African-American lawyer among us that is not only qualified, but who also has the respect and commitment to public service who is deserving of this high appointment? Of course, there is. In fact, there are several.

Markenzy Lapointe is the only Black attorney among those said to be in consideration for the post. A native of Liberty City, he has the support of several Black bar associations and U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson. Lapointe is supremely qualified, a former federal prosecutor, a well-respected trial lawyer and a combat veteran who fought as a Marine in Operation Desert Storm. He put his life on the line for our country in the Persian Gulf War, for which he received the National Defense Service Medal and the Southwest Asia Service Medal.

With recent unjustified police killings of Black men, which resulted in protests nationwide, prosecutors, including those at the federal level, must be more cognizant of and sensitive to Black concerns as they pursue justice. It’s astounding that we have never had a Black state attorney in Miami or U.S. attorney in this federal district. Ever.

Biden could change that next year if African Americans simply flex their muscle and demand that he answer: “If not now, when?”

Christopher Norwood J.D. is spokesman for the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida and a member of the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee.

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