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The Guardian - May 22, 2020

"Despite attempting to cut social programs and increasing mass incarceration, Biden claims to care about black families. But he doesn’t seem to know many. During the September 2019 Democratic debate he claimed that poor families should put on arecord playerso their children will know more words. Recently, during an interview with the New York Times editorial board, he argued that poor black parents feel ashamedbecause they cannot read and skip parent-teacher conferences. He was hoping to encourage them to be better parents. But his assertion is incorrect. Black and white parents have comparable participation rates overall and attend parent-teacher conferences at theexact same rates. In fact, black parents and poor parents are the most likely to check their children’s homework andmeet withguidance counselors. Biden instead relied on stereotypes that black people are not involved in their children’s lives."

I am very tired of Joe Biden. My vote for him was already hanging by a thread before his disastrous interview with Charlamagne tha God on Friday. Interrupting the Breakfast Club host’s explanation that black people needed assurances that our communities will benefit from his presidency, Biden asserted: “If you’ve got a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or for Trump, then you ain’t black.”

Again, I am very tired of Joe Biden. Not because I am a purist, or have inflexible ideological commitments of what it will take to remove Donald Trump from office. But rather because Biden’s condescension towards black communities is intolerable.

I want to believe that Biden’s condescension started after the respected Representative James Clyburn called the former vice-president an “honorary black man” at a private dinner in March. But his mistreatment of black people, verbally and politically, is decades old, and is a reflection of the Democratic party in general.

Throughout Biden’s career, he has boasted about his ability to bridge partisan divides by sacrificing the needs of black people and poor people in the name of “compromise”. For the last 30 years, Biden has repeatedly talked about freezing, cutting, or raising the age for social security and other benefits – as much as $2tn one time. His response to concerns that these cuts would hurt the poor? “We’re going to do lots of hard things … we might as well do this.”

Social security is an important program for black people, especially as we age. Among African Americans receivingsocialsecurity, 35% of elderly married couples and 58% of unmarried elderly persons relied on it for 90% or more of their income. The reliance is not due to laziness or spending habits – people of color and white people make similar choices and contributions to retirement – but due to racism, lack of workplace retirement plans and barriers to accessing high-paying jobs.

“They know where my heart is,” Biden has said, of black voters.

But do we?

Senator Kamala Harris was severely scrutinized for her treatment of poor black women as a prosecutor – yet Biden’s criminal justice record makes Harris look like Thurgood Marshall. Biden authored and successfully passed the $30bn 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. Besides putting 100,000 additional police officers in the streets, the crime bill distributed funding for new prison construction, encouraged prosecutors to charge children as adults, and even added the death penalty for 28 new areas, including drug-related offenses. Pushing for further criminalization, then senator Biden argued that George HW Bush’s crime plan did not go far enough because it did not “include enough police officers to catch the violent thugs, not enough prosecutors to convict them, not enough judges to sentence them, and not enough prison cells to put them away for a long time”. An older black generation fought through Jim Crow only for Biden to help make sure that their children and grandchildren lived through a new Jim Crow.

On the House floor, Biden compared his criminal justice approach to Richard Nixon’s law and order stance: “I would say, ‘Lock the SOBs up.’” Black people were arrested in droves following this bill, despite comparable drug use rates to white people; many are still sitting in prison today. Biden has since acknowledged flaws in the bill, but last summer he reiterated his support for the bill. The law spent $30bn but contributed to only a 1.3% decline in violent crime. He has yet to call for it to be repealed.

Today, some cities plan to expunge marijuana records and hope to pay reparations to black people formerly incarcerated for marijuana offenses. But Biden can’t seem to let go; he is inconsistent and ambivalent about marijuana legalization. He has argued it may be a gateway drug, a statement he has since dialed back. Of course, keeping marijuana illegal at the federal level does not mean that people will not use it, but rather that the extra police that he put on the street will send people of color to jail for using it. Ironically, the police were probably nowhere to be found when Biden’s friends George W Bush and Barack Obama used marijuana. If anything, the drug seems to be a gateway to the White House. ...
Read full commentary at The Guardian