Last week, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden made quite the gaffe. At the end of an interview with Charlamagne tha God, Biden said, “I tell you, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black."
Needless to say, this took social media by storm. A whirlwind of perspectives ranging from defensive to disappointed to disinformation followed. The Republican Party has already tried to exploit these comments in a repeat of 2016 tactics. Their goal is to depress black voter turnout. We shouldn't fall for it.
Obviously a 77-year-old white man was not the right messenger for this, but I believe Biden was trying to say that black people who support President Trump do not care about the black community; otherwise, they wouldn't support a president who behaves like he does. Nonetheless, the way Biden worded the comments hurt some black voters, who have carried the Democratic Party for decades and handed Biden his primary wins this year. Biden did immediately clarify and acknowledge regret for his remarks, saying that he shouldn't have been so cavalier. The phrase "I shouldn't have" is something you’ll never hear come out of Donald Trump's mouth, and that’s important to bear in mind.
Many of the reactions to Biden's comments were measured, advocating that the former VP should do more to assure the black community he isn't taking them for granted. Some used this as an opportunity to increase pressure on Biden to pick a black woman as his running mate. Others were less charitable.
The Trump campaign launched a website selling "You Ain't Black" apparel and their "Black Voices For Trump" online show spent hours trying to paint Biden as a racist while ignoring Trump's own racist history. We shouldn't play their game. They simply fear the fact Biden wins the black vote in poll after poll. Almost all black people know there’s no comparison between Trump and Biden when it comes to racism, but the GOP will try and falsely equate them so black voters don’t turn out to the ballot box — just like they did with Hillary Clinton.
In 2016, the Trump campaign, with the help of Russian disinformation, targeted black voters with ads on Facebook highlighting Clinton's “super-predator" comments about gang members. They dishonestly depicted the comments as if she was speaking about black men generally. This sought to deflect from Trump's own racist record and give the impression that both sides are equally racist, so what's the point of voting? The result was a 59 percent black voter turnout in 2016, which was down compared to 2012's 66 percent. How much of that was tied to the misinformation, the lack of Barack Obama on the ticket, or voter suppression is unclear. Either way, the desired outcome was delivered. Clinton lost.
After Biden's remarks, some alleged progressives on Twitter have claimed they will sit out the 2020 election. There were even remarks from young influential black people like Chance The Rapper, who took to Twitter to push false equivalencies: "Trump and Biden need to just do a ig verzuz battle for black policies cuz I aint never heard either of they hits,” he wrote. If Chance visited Biden's website, he would see he released an incredibly detailed plan for black America earlier this month, while Trump has nothing detailed on his site dedicated to improving the lives of black America at all.
As a black man who has to watch white Republicans feign outrage over Biden's comments, I'll tell you I'm far more outraged by a man who has pushed blatantly white supremacist policies as president, was discriminatory in business, and racist in day-to-day life. I understand the concern regarding Biden's involvement in the 1994 crime bill, but he has called it a "big mistake." If you're black and reading this, this is why your vote should not be deterred by Biden's comments.
President Trump smeared the first black president as being born in Kenya, spent his presidency trying to undo his legacy, and is now leading calls to imprison him. Trump's policies, such as the Muslim immigration ban and migrant family separation, were crafted by Stephen Miller, a white supremacist whose influence has only grown in the White House. While Trump has signed criminal justice reform, the DOJ has also rolled back civil rights protections. And then there's the rhetoric.
Just last week, Trump praised the well-known eugenicist and anti-Semite Henry Ford as having “good bloodlines." The president has called black NFL players “sons of b****es”, called African countries “s**tholes", praised Robert E Lee, told four American congresswomen of color to “go back to their countries”, still won’t admit the Central Park Five are innocent, and called neo-Nazis "very fine people.”
Of course, this isn't new. Trump is simply the natural outcome of the GOP’s southern strategy. For decades, they gaslit their base into believing minorities are to blame for their economic woes, all while serving the white, wealthy 1 percent. That is who they serve today and who they will serve for the next four years if re-elected. Trump and the GOP are also continuing to wage their decades-long voter suppression campaign attacking African Americans’ right to vote. If they were so pro-black, why wouldn’t they want our votes to count?
Black people are dying at alarmingly disproportionate rates due to Covid-19. Minorities will also bear the brunt of the economic depression caused by Trump‘s negligent response to this pandemic. We need a new administration that is willing to offer up economic justice to the black community, and that is not the Trump administration. It's simply not "progressive" to sit out this election.
Is it progressive to enable four more years of denying and exacerbating climate change, which minorities are also most affected by? Four more years of attacks on healthcare? Four more years of trickle-down Reaganomics? More conservative Supreme Court Justices and conservative judges? We simply can’t afford that.
You know why Biden has high support among older black voters? Having lived through the civil rights era, they understand we have to work with imperfect allies to create meaningful progress. And the next step towards meaningful progress is removing Trump from office and replacing him with Biden.
So, who will we pick, black America? The racist authoritarian conspiracy theorist who doesn't believe in climate change and pushes policies that disproportionately harm minorities or Biden, who has an inclusive agenda that actually helps all Americans?
The bottom line is this: Joe Biden wants to help, and Donald Trump is actively seeking to erode the rights of minorities. Trump is a bigot; Biden is not. The choice ahead of us is clear. We make progress or continue to regress. I choose progress.