September 16, 2019

Joe Biden was asked a debate question about his thinking on the legacy of slavery, the responsibility of white people to address it, and if it has changed from his statements on the matter from 40 years ago. He responded with gobbledy-gook, ending in the assertion that Black people don't know how to parent, and need to park their children in front of the TV and record player more, and that sometimes social services needs to go in and help them do that. We are still talking about this because of the answer Joe Biden gave, not because we are fixating on something unimportant, before anyone throws out "We have to stop eating our own!" or "This is why Trump will win!" deflections.

Author Anand Giridharadas joined Joy Reid on Saturday to expand on his justifiably angry tweetstorm in response, wherein he called Biden's answer "appalling," "disqualifying," and "racist." The discussion with Reid that followed was one of the most in-depth and high-level analyses of what is happening with Biden, race, racism, and the Black community that (in my admittedly less important white lady opinion) has happened thus far.

After explaining the difference between flagrant racism (the kind with the white hood) and insidious racism ("Can I touch your hair?") Giridharadas told an alarming story about what happened after he tweeted his response to Biden.

GIRIDHARADAS: It is "Thanksgiving Uncle" racism. And if you are running against a guy whose big idea is tax cuts, maybe it's fine. When you are running against a white nationalist what you are going to do is you are going to neutralize the central issue in this race by putting forward someone who has simply not changed from the Mad Men era.

Last night, yesterday during the afternoon something interested happened to me. After I had done these tweets and talked about this, I was approached via Twitter privately by a Trump campaign organization, an official Trump campaign-related organization that privately messaged me to try to share additional videos from other times about Joe Biden saying similar racist things. Now, I'm not interested in amplifying trump campaign talking points. Why is that significant? They are ready. They know this is a good issue for them because if they can show that you know what, he's kind of said a lot of things also, he kind of said white people don't owe anything for the past in this country, he also said bussing is a bad idea. He also has said you know, some African-American, he also said, you know, one candidate is clean and articulate, apparently in contrast to some others. He also said the thing about the Indian accent. He also gave a lot of women too many back rubs. It neutralizes the contrast. And they are very excited about this.

Got that? This point is SO important. The Trump camp is just salivating at the opportunity to draw similarities between him and Biden, and show us Dems to be hypocrites. Reid pointed out, of course, that they aren't even in the same universe, just like it was absurd to paint Hillary Clinton and Trump as two sides of the same coin. But wouldn't a country that would elect Trump, in fact, be more comfortable with a Biden, who is more representative of the kind of view towards race they have? Like it or not, that seems the reality. Giridharadas dug in.

GIRIDHARADAS: I don't think the antidote to the poison of outright white supremacy is milquetoast unconscious bias and a kind of white default. You know, what Joe Biden, yes, I think there are -- I think this is actually the whole point. There are a lot of people in America. I think there are not all that many people in America who are like Donald Trump. There's a lot of people in America who are like Joe Biden. But the reality is, many of them, millions of them actually, and we don't talk about this enough, have been on a path in the last 10 or 20 years of getting better. There's some other people pretty close to Joe Biden's age, in this race, and they don't have the same problem.


Joe Biden has so clearly not changed. He's not changed. He is the person that we all know who -- who is so steeped in the idea that americanness means whiteness. His policies are great. His policies are fine. That's not the issue here. This is someone who can't see and when you are asked one month after the 400 year anniversary of the first enslaved africans coming to these shores which is in The New York Times in a prominent enough way that hopefully even Joe Biden saw it. one month after that, you are asked, "What do we do about that legacy, sir, since you made a comment 40 years ago saying you're not responsible for that, what do we do about it sir?" And when your answer is (a) a morally obtuse point, and an evil point in my view given the history of this country, that Black people's parenting skills are the problem, which is what he said, and secondly, you make an absurd point which is Black people don't play enough music. I'm not sure what Black people Joe Biden has encountered in his life that he thinks music is not enough a part of the Black experience. But between those two things and the rest of that rambling answer, this was not a story of just rambling and incoherence. This was a story of someone whose ideas belong back in the 1950s where they came from.

Reid zeroed in on the biggest reason Biden continues to thrive in the polls despite his insidious racism and lack of growth. Black women are still supporting him. 100%. Every Black women she spoke to AFTER the debate were still for him, and fervently. And it's not because they don't see or care about Biden's racism. It's because they see everyone else's racism. Giridharadas remained adamant that name-recognition and Obama's coattails have a lot to do with that support, too, and that a year is a loooong time in an election cycle. So much can happen. Biden is not only NOT a given, Giridharadas believes his behavior towards the Black community disqualifies him. Reid stood her ground, without disagreeing.

REID: The polling shows that Joe Biden among African-American voters has nearly half, which is what you need to get the nomination. Black voters, right now, are the reason he is ahead. It is literally Black voters who have him ahead and I think that's partly because Black voters don't have a lot of confidence in the electorate, who you said a lot of them have those same dings as Biden or sometimes Bernie Sanders, they have these dings that are generational about race and a lot of Black voters don't trust the electorate to do another Obama-type election. They just don't trust the electorate. So their argument is this is the only kind of a person that this country, the way it really is, not the way we wish it is, but the way it is, would elect. What do you say to those voters who say yeah, you're right, this is how the country is and that country is not going to elect any of these other progressive candidates or candidates of color? They're only going to elect Joe Biden?

GIRIDHARADAS: Look, first of all, we are early in this race. No votes have been cast, and I think particularly with older voters of all races frankly, with all voters actually, name recognition is an enormous advantage and this early on in a race someone who is the Vice President of the United States for eight years and by the way, a very loyal servant of the first Black president in this country, a person who was a good man for that president. He's going to have this kind of support. The question is what kind of support is he going to have a year from now? And the reality is the Black community has been far more respectful of Joe Biden than Joe Biden has been of the Black community. This wasn't someone using a term wrong. We have to be really clear. The whole trope for like all of American history when you have asked questions about systemic racism, what has been done to Black people for 400 years in this country, the basic trope of racism has always been what you are observing is actually their own fault. And on Thursday night, Joe Biden, who wants to be the President of the United States and run against the white nationalist, reprised that theme, and basically blamed Black people's parenting skills and lack of music for the legacy of slavery. He has to -- he has to drop out.

"The Black community has been far more respectful of Joe Biden than Joe Biden has been of the Black community." That's the quote. Giridharadas was not telling Reid, or any other member of the Black community anything they don't already know. They have been voting for people who sacrifice the well-being of the Black communiity in the name of incremental progress as long as they've had their fragile hold on the vote. Black people are hyper-aware that white peoples' compassion is expendable if it means they have to sacrifice ANY of their own comfort, believe me. What Joy Reid did was charge him and the rest of us with something big if, indeed, we want someone with more evolved views on race than Biden as our nominee:

REID: [H]ow do you convince black voters, particularly black women voters who are the most consistent and most determined and the most civically minded voters in America? They ARE going to vote. How do you convince them that the country is better than doing better than that. Because right now, I gotta tell you, people are very cynical about this country and about what it's willing to do and whether or not electing President Obama was a statement about what the country is or about a moment when the country tried to be different but really fundamentally is not different, which is why Trump is here.

We can only convince Black women voters by being less racist. By being respectful of their pain and their opinions. By understanding they aren't a monolith. By not centering ourselves when they discuss their oppression. By not making the assumption, like Biden did, that all Black people are POOR. By calling out our friends, family, and colleagues on their racism, even if it results in discomfort or loss. We can listen to and read the words of Black women. We can amplify them. We can use the google machine and libraries, which are free, to improve our understanding. Just a few ideas that white can do without burdening the already suffering community.

If Black women want Biden, he will be the nominee. Full stop.

You can watch the rest of the conversation in the clip below.

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