Racism is a ‘white man’s problem’
WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Joe Biden called out lawmakers and others Tuesday for not taking President Donald Trump to task over his rhetoric, saying institutional racism in the country is “overwhelmingly a white man’s problem visited on people of color.”
“What presidents say matter … They can make markets rise and fall. They can send people to war,’’ Biden told a small group of reporters at a briefing Tuesday in Washington, D.C. “They can, in fact, also appeal to the worst damn instincts of human nature.”
Race and racism have been major issues in the 2020 presidential campaign, particularly among the Democratic candidates. Criticizing Trump over his comments on race has been a central part of Biden’s campaign, with the former vice president often referring to this presidential race as “a battle for the soul” of the country.
And Biden has faced his own criticisms. Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, who are both running for president, each had pointed exchanges with Biden during previous Democratic debates regarding his comments about working with segregationists in the Senate and previous comments on public school busing.
Still, Biden has maintained frontrunner status in most national and early-state polling, and has benefitted from strong support among black voters.
Black voters are expected to be a key voting bloc in the 2020 presidential race, and Democratic candidates have been aggressively courting them, particularly in the early-voting state of South Carolina. Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus have endorsed Biden. Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond, former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, serves as co-chair of Biden’s national campaign.
“I think people know me or at least they think they know me,’’ Biden said Tuesday, adding “warts and all.”
Biden said his campaign will focus its get-out-the-vote efforts on voters in black and Latino communities. That effort will include visits to states in the South and stops on the campuses of historically black colleges and universities.
During the more than hour-long interview that focused on a range of issues, including criminal justice, voting rights and race, Biden said “white folks are the reason why there’s institutional racism.”
He said there’s always been racism in America, and white supremacists have long been here.
“They still exist,’’ he said, noting he doesn’t know what percentage among the white population. “But it’s real, it’s there.”
Biden also stressed that “silence is complicity” when is comes to challenging Trump over his comments.
“The only way … you deal with it is you attack it, you expose it, you embarrass … You call them out,” he said. “Most of all, you call them out to our children.”
Trump’s campaign defended the president’s work.
“President Trump’s policies have produced results for all Americans, regardless of region, race, or gender,” Erin Perrine, a spokesperson for Trump’s campaign, said in a statement. “As a failing candidate continues his meteoric fall, Biden is grasping at paper straws to try and stay relevant. He can’t attack President Trump on his policies so instead he goes to the oldest and saddest plays in the book. They didn’t work for him in 1988 or 2008 and won’t work now.”
Trump has also argued his rhetoric “brings people together.”
“I think we have toned it down,’’ Trump told reporters at the White House earlier this month. “We’ve been getting hit left and right from everybody.”
If nominated, Biden said he would consider a woman or a candidate of color as his pick for vice president. But he said first that person must be someone he could “completely thoroughly trust.”
Biden also said his campaign will ramp up get-out-the-vote efforts in the South and other places across the country.
He pledged if he’s elected president he will beef up the Justice Department to enforce voting rights laws and block state efforts to suppress voter turnout, a key issue for voters of color.
John Fritze contributed to this report.