New York Times Can’t Help Noticing Joe Biden Focused On Black People In His Black People Speech
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden acknowledged in an address to the nation Friday that racism refuses to shelter in place. He challenged white people to at least try and empathize with the grief and anger black people feel after a police officer brutally killed George Floyd ... and some thugs lynched Ahmaud Arbery ... and cops shot EMT worker Breonna Taylor in her own bed. (This all happened over the past few months.)
“The pain is too intense," he said, for black people to bear alone. It's a good speech, so of course the New York Times went “both sides" on it.
What was just as revealing about Mr. Biden's address Friday, and his underlying political wager, is what he did not say.
He made no attempt to soothe the fears of those white Americans who, while sympathetic to the plight of people of color, are just as uneasy about the kind of disturbances that left parts of Minneapolis in flames Thursday night.
Well done, Joe! I'm glad the next president didn't waste time coddling scared suburbanites. It's not as if these “disturbances" occur every other Wednesday. They usually happen after the state-sanctioned killing of a black person. There's probably a connection. White Americans aren't some ancient tribe that can't figure out why it rains, so they periodically sacrifice a random virgin for the sake of the crops. They are capable of tracing this unrest to the actual death of a human being.
Biden delivers remarks on George Floyd and recent events in Minneapoliswww.youtube.com
If you're “just as uneasy" about “disturbances" that'll end in a few days as you are "sympathetic to the plight" of black people who'll remain indefinitely dead, your “sympathy" goes no deeper than a Facebook meme with that Martin Luther King quote about how “hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."
Over nearly a half-century in politics Mr. Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has carefully balanced appeals for racial justice with tough-on-crime rhetoric.
Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Katie Glueck, who I don't think are black, seem to imply that “racial justice" is incompatible with a “tough-on-crime" position. I only attended "Law & Order" University, but I believe killing black people is a crime. Conservatives might have framed Black Lives Matter as anti-police, but what inspired all those protests over the past few years were crimes against black people. There is no racial justice when police officers or white vigilantes can kill black people and just exit stage left.
It's true that most of the tough-on-crime rhetoric directly resulted in the over-policing of black people that gets us killed for penny ante shit like suspicion of selling loose cigarettes, possession of a counterfeit $20, or smelling like the marijuana. Black people exist in that episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" where they execute you for breaking a greenhouse. White folks are fine with us living in that world but they don't want to visit. It's why Amy Cooper went Amy Cooper on a black man who dared suggest she obey leash laws. Sandra Bland died in jail because she wasn't deferential enough to the officer who stopped her for failing to signal a turn.
[Biden] is wagering that the necessity for on-the-other-hand politics, the sort he and his party have long practiced to appeal to the center, has been obviated by a pandemic that is disproportionately sickening and killing people of color.
It's weird that the Times considers Biden centering black people during a traumatic period for us "a political wager." He's not Donald Trump, who ended the week promoting violence against protesters and quoting white supremacists. Biden wouldn't have won the primary without black voters, and he won't win the presidency without them. Even now, while presiding over literal plague and famine, Trump is still leading Biden among white voters.
The former vice president's address wasn't a soothing balm for fragile white people. Instead, he challenged them to confront a white supremacist system that apparently makes them less “uneasy" than a trashed Apple Store. Biden's BFF, Barack Obama, saw his poll numbers drop whenever he commented on racial issues or made such inflammatory remarks as stating that a dead black teen could've been his son. Hillary Clinton arguably lost white voters because she said racism existed.
Maybe by the Times's standards Biden is taking a big gamble, but if so, I applaud him for it.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."