As the presumptive Democratic nominee, Biden has been attempting to stay out of the media spotlight, probably on behest of cautious campaign advisors who know that the guy is a walking gaffe magnet who says something dumb every time he opens his mouth.
Well, they weren’t wrong.
During an interview with The Breakfast Club yesterday, Joe Biden got into a heated conversation with Charlamagne Tha God, the host of the program, on a number of issues relating to race. I recommend watching the interview in it’s entirety, as it clearly demonstrates Biden’s condescending attitudes towards people of color, but the incident that stirred the most controversy was when Biden claimed that “if you got a problem figuring out whether you are for me or Trump, then you ain’t black”.
Biden best encapsulates all of the problems with the modern Democratic Party, but one of their biggest issues is their unfounded belief that minorities and people of color are required to support them by default. Democratic politicians take their votes for granted, as they spout the nonsense that, because the Republicans are worse, you must support our team instead.
Not only is this view completely and utterly racist, as voting groups are not monoliths that simply blindly support one party over another, but it also ignores the fact that, in recent memory, the Democratic Party does not govern to the benefit of marginalized communities, including people of color, and while Republican politicians are more likely than their Democratic counterparts to spout bigotry and hatred, the Democratic Party is not immune to societal racism by a long shot.
Even a cursory overview of Biden’s own record and public behaviors proves this to be the case, as described below.
First, let’s talk about education: there is a common belief that the “achievement gap”, the term most commonly used to describe the discrepancy between educational outcomes for white children and people of color, is the fault of marginalized communities themselves and not due to socio-economic pressures and a long history of oppression. Unfortunately, Biden seems to take the more racist view, arguing that black kids are exposed to less words than their white peers growing up, a theory that has been debunked long ago, and that black parents are at fault for these disparities, also pointing the finger at them for not being able to “read or write themselves”.
How about busing? This was a tool used in the 1960s and beyond to force schools to desegregate, busing children of color to predominately white schools to ensure racial integration. During the 1970s and 1980s, though, Biden fought against these legitimate efforts to desegregate schools, introducing measures to torpedo busing efforts, referring to busing as an “asinine concept”, and attacked busing as a “liberal train wreck”.
Biden, a notorious liar who is willing to say anything to accumulate political power, spent his entire career lying about his involvement in the civil rights movement, arguing until the late 1980s that he was greatly involved in the movement before backtracking, stating that he wasn’t that involved after all, before reversing himself again prior to the 2008 presidential election season.
Of course, we can’t forget about the time he praised Republican segregationist senator James Eastland, a white supremacist who advocated for racial genocide, and having the audacity to demand that Cory Booker, one of the only 2020 presidential candidates of color, apologize for attacking his praise of an avoid racist.
Or how about Biden’s long track record of advocating for tough on crime policies? He spent much of the 1980s and 1990s successfully pushing legislation that, among other things, imposed mandatory minimum sentences, treated crack cocaine usage more harshly than powdered cocaine, expanded the use of the death penalty, and allowed children to be tried as adults for violent crimes. All of these measures disproportionately punished black men and destabilized countless families of color.
On the broader issues, we know that minorities in this country are much more impacted by our devastating state of affairs that white people, and Biden has no plan to fix any of these systemic issues. African-American families, for example, are more likely to have trouble paying for prescription drugs, and they are at greater risk of dying from medical issues such as heart disease, diabetes, HIV, and cancer due to a lack of healthcare access, and yet Biden’s mediocre healthcare proposal merely makes small improvements to the Affordable Care Act instead of implementing a true universal healthcare system that guarantees healthcare as a human right for everyone.
On climate change, communities of color are disproportionately impacted by global warming, the increased intensity of storms, and toxic pollution. Yet despite this, Biden’s climate change plan hardly scratches the surface of what is needed to begin reversing the devastating impacts of climate change before it is too late.
The Great Recession that began over a decade ago also disproportionately impacted African-Americans. Guess who helped pave the way for the economic collapse? Joe Biden, when he joined his colleagues in dismantling Glass-Steagall, a Great Depression-era law that separated commercial banks from investment banks. By getting rid of this law, financial entities were able to grow immensely and become “too big to fail”, to better trick people (once again, disproportionately communities of color) into buying homes with terrible interest rates, sell toxic assets with artificial AAA ratings, and place unsafe financial bets, comforted by the fact that they’d get bailed out if they crashed the economy (which they did).
On student debt, African-American students generally have more college debt than their non-black peers, and African-Americans with a college degree are five times more likely to default on their student loan debt than white people. Despite this, Biden fails to introduce a comprehensive student loan forgiveness plan that would lift an entire generation of Americans out of financial ruin caused by merely seeking an education.
And on Social Security, African-American senior citizens are significantly more likely than other retirees to rely primarily or entirely on this benefit in order to survive in old age. Despite the stability that Social Security brings to aging Americans, Joe Biden has spent his career trying to slash these benefits, and then having the audacity to lie about it later on national television.
So why does Joe Biden, and the rest of the Democratic establishment, hold the racist, irrational, and condescending view that they are owed support from the black community? While Republican politicians don’t even pretend to care about their needs, the Democratic Party has all but lied to marginalized communities, telling them that they will continue to support their struggles when, at the end of the day, they’d rather support measures that disproportionately benefit the rich and powerful.
Someone should tell Biden that voting groups are simply not monoliths who must be shamed into supporting one side or the other. If you want the support of communities of color, you need to earn it, and while many Americans will always vote for the Democratic Party, regardless of race, one cannot take the ill-founded assumption that certain groups are sure to support you. By doing this, you not only fail to attract those within these communities who are alienated and disillusioned by politics, but you also repeat a never-ending cycle of vague, empty promises to guarantee basic needs and failing to deliver every time, a damning cycle that is sure to break eventually.
The Democratic Party is foolish if they believe they can simply count on people to vote for them purely because the other side is worse, and Biden seems to exemplify this perfectly. He has spent his entire career pushing policies that have negatively impacted the lives of people of color, and in order to actually build a coalition to beat Trump this November, he needs to stop taking black voters for granted and actually address the multitude of priorities that, if acted upon, would actually benefit the most socio-economically disadvantaged members of society. Mediocre false promises will not drive the turnout needed to beat Trump this November, and lying to communities that you desperately rely on for electoral victories will only further exacerbate alienation, particularly from those who have been harmed the most by corporatist, neo-liberal policies implemented by both parties dating back to the 1980s.
While I give credit to Biden for immediately apologizing for his condescending comments on The Breakfast Club, the former vice president needs to do a lot more to ensure that he would actually benefit communities of color if elected, namely by apologizing for his long, negative track record and authentically promising to push a progressive agenda that would improve the lives of the working class.
Anything less brings us many steps closer to a Trump victory this November.