It is probably safe to say that many to most people do not consider former Vice President Joe Biden to be a racist.
The definition of what is “racist” seems to be fluid in this country. Just last week, Gregory Cheadle, an African American who has supported the president, said that he wouldn’t call the president racist because racists are violent. He said, though, that he believes that Trump has a “white superiority complex,” and he noted that the president’s words and policies adversely affect African Americans more severely, as noted by the Washington Post.
Die-hard Trump supporters insist he is not racist, either, in spite of his calling out women of color and deciding recently that the United States needed to be careful not to let Bahamians who lost everything in Hurricane Dorian into the United States because of his belief that they were drug dealers and gang members, according to Newsweek. In my mind, the president’s behavior has been more than ample proof that he is a racist.
But Biden is different. The vice president, it seems, is a product of his upbringing, as are we all. His latest statements about how Black children could be better educated were appalling.
New York Times columnist Charles Blow suggested that Biden’s words last week revealed his belief that Black parents do not know the correct way to raise their children, and that’s why they are not “good” parents.
He said, “We bring social workers into homes and parents to help them deal with how to raise their children. It’s not that they don’t want to help. They don’t – they don’t know quite what to do. Play the radio, make sure the television – excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the – the – make sure that kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school – a very poor background will hear four million words fewer spoken by the time they get there.”
He was sincere. He was not spouting hatred and denigration. He was spouting American cultural belief system, which is racist.
Biden gets defensive when people remind him of his past statements and stances as concerns race. Sen. Kamala Harris seemingly infuriated him during the first Democratic debate when she reminded him of his position on busing some years ago, The New York Times also reported. He was offended and said he had stood for the rights of Black people his whole life.
The thing is, Biden is an American who has been taught, as have all of us, no matter our race, color or ethnicity, that “White is right,” and that anything White is better. He has internalized the “fake news” that Black people are inherently inferior.
The beliefs he grew up with are a part of his psyche. They are a part of the psyches of all of us. The oppressors have taught the history and the perspective of history they want us to believe.
I keep thinking that Biden should exhale and get rid of his desire to defend himself when it comes to race. I keep thinking that he needs to exhale and just admit that he has evolved. I think everyone who listens to him can hear and feel that he has good intentions; there is none of the spirit of denigration that we hear from the current president.
Biden has compassion for all people, and he wants to do right by all people. Part of “doing right,” however, has to be that he drops the defensiveness. He needs to own his implicit bias, his prejudices and the actions he took in perpetuating racist policies in the past.
White supremacist thinking is a moral and spiritual illness. It compromises the ability of people to see anything but their own belief in white superiority. Just because one does not use the N-word or participate in KKK rallies does not mean one has not contracted the illness of the soul called white supremacy.
Many people would feel better if Biden would just say, “I’ve changed. The positions I took in the past were the positions I took in the past. I cannot change them. But I have evolved and am still evolving on the issue of race, and I ask for your patience.”
I would bet many people who are cringing at his statements on race would breathe a sigh of relief. None of us heal until we own that we have something to heal from. And many of us have a need to be healed from the spiritual damage done to us by this yoke called white supremacy.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. She is available for speaking. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her latest book, Rest for the Justice-Seeking Soul, is now available for preorder through Barnes and Noble at http://bit.ly/RESTBN or through Amazon at http://bit.ly/RESTAmazon.