Opinion Jun 3, 2020 5:19 PM EST

Joe Biden can't 'heal racial wounds'—he helped create them

Joe Biden has tried to pitch himself as the answer to America’s race problem. But it’s hard to see how voters can trust Biden to fix racial inequities he helped create.

Joe Biden can't 'heal racial wounds'—he helped create them
Brad Polumbo Washington, DC
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After the unjust murder of an innocent African American man named George Floyd at the hands of the police and the breakout of riots across the United States, it’s clearer than ever that American society still has deep-lying racial issues to resolve. Unsurprisingly, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has recently tried to pitch himself as the answer to America’s race problem — but it’s hard to see how voters can trust Biden to fix racial inequities he helped create.

In a speech on Tuesday, Biden lamented Floyd’s death, blasted police brutality, condemned violent rioting, and spoke about the problem of racism in American society. Much of the speech was unobjectionable, agreeable, even. Yet it quickly turned partisan, invoking Obamacare and “economic justice.” Biden went on to accuse U.S. President Donald Trump of “doing violence to the pursuit of justice,” and promised to “reverse systemic racism with long-overdue concrete changes.”

“I won’t traffic in fear and division,” Biden promised. “I won’t fan the flames of hate. I will seek to heal the racial wounds that have long plagued our country, not use them for political gain.”

Sounds great, right? Well, the Democrat’s long record of racially tone deaf to outright racist comments, one made as recently as two weeks ago, undercuts his noble promises.

During a May 22 interview on The Breakfast Club, Biden made a blatantly racist comment. Speaking to African American host Charlamagne tha God and a largely black audience, Biden said: “If you have a problem figuring out if you're for me or Trump, then you ain't black.”

That’s right: The same guy promising to heal the racial divide if elected president just told black people they aren’t really black if they don’t vote for him. It’s hard to think of a more reductive or racially dehumanizing remark than that. (Biden has offered a weak, half-hearted non-apology, for what it’s worth).

This wasn’t Biden’s first time trafficking in “fear and division,” either. In the 2012 U.S. presidential election, running for reelection as Barack Obama’s running mate, Biden warned a racially diverse audience that if the Republicans won, their agenda would “put you all back in chains.”

How unifying and healing is that?

But even worse than Biden’s history of racially inflammatory rhetoric is his legislative record and the harm it has imposed on the black community. The Democrat is promising to heal and resolve racial bias and the flaws of the criminal justice system if elected president, but as a U.S. senator, he helped codify many of these injustices into law.

Biden supported a series of “tough-on-crime” bills in the late 1980s and early 1990s that disproportionately and unfairly harmed minorities. Even the left-leaning New York Magazine surmised:

It is hard to name an infamously unjust feature of America’s criminal-justice system that Joe Biden didn’t help to bring about. Mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, civil asset forfeiture, and extensive use of the death penalty — the Delaware senator was involved in establishing them all.

Biden defenders really have no response to these criticisms other than “but Trump is worse!” Yet whataboutism is a logical fallacy, not an argument. If Biden wants to convince Americans that he can pave the way on racial healing and unity, he sure has a lot of explaining to do.

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