Former United States Vice President Joe Biden set off something of a firestorm on Friday by suggesting in an interview that African Americans who do not plan to vote for him in November’s presidential election “ain’t black”.
In an interview with a New York City-based radio show host who goes by the name Charlamagne tha God, Biden responded to a question about his record on racial issues by saying, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or [US President Donald] Trump, then you ain’t black.”
“It don’t have nothing to do with Trump,” the host responded. “It has to do with the fact I want something for my community.”
“Take a look at my record, man,” Biden continued. “I extended the Voting Rights Act 25 years. I have a record that is second to none. The NAACP has endorsed me every time I’ve run. I mean, come on. Take a look at the record.”
The host had earlier challenged Biden as to whether he would select an African-American woman as his running mate because black voters proved so pivotal to his emergence as the presumptive Democratic nominee during the primary elections conducted before the coronavirus pandemic set in.
The radio show, The Breakfast Club, normally focuses on hip-hop music but has become as popular among Democratic politicians eager to reach black voters as it is among rap musicians and celebrities. The show’s young, diverse audience and syndication to more than 90 markets across the country has drawn the likes of New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker, California Senator Kamala Harris and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
In a statement released after the show, officials with the Trump campaign immediately labelled Biden’s statement “racist and dehumanising”.
“White liberal elitists have continuously dictated which black Americans are allowed to come to the table and have a voice,” said Katrina Pierson, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign and leader of its Black Voices for Trump group. “It is clear now more than ever, following these racist and dehumanizing remarks, that Joe Biden believes black men and women are incapable of being independent or free thinking.”
Criticism of Biden’s comments, however, was not limited to Republican opponents of the 77-year-old former vice president. Many progressive Democrats took to social media platforms and expressed dismay over the comments.
Yo @JoeBiden would you sit in front of the millions of black people that you help lock up for long periods of time by writing the crime bill that they aren’t black if they don’t vote for you? That line was rehearsed and way outta line! #YouAintBlack is basically #YouStupid
— Ja'Mal Green (@JaymalGreen) May 22, 2020
— juicy j (@therealjuicyj) May 22, 2020
I'm not black, and I miss Bernie. #YouAintBlack
— Justin Wedes (@justinwedes) May 22, 2020
Biden quickly tried to address the fallout. In a call with the US Black Chamber of Commerce that was added to his public schedule, Biden said he would never “take the African American community for granted”.
“I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy,” he said. “No one should have to vote for any party based on their race or religion or background.”
Earlier, suggestions from Biden’s advisers that he was joking had done little to tamp down the furore.
The comments made at the end of the Breakfast Club interview were in jest, but let’s be clear about what the VP was saying: he was making the distinction that he would put his record with the African American community up against Trump’s any day. Period.
— Symone D. Sanders (@SymoneDSanders) May 22, 2020
Following the uproar, Charlamagne suggested in a written statement to news outlet Mediaite that Biden should not take black voters for granted as he ramps up his campaign against Trump.
“We have been loyal to Democrats for a long time, black people have invested a lot into that party and the return on investment has not been great,” he said.
“As Biden said in our brief interview when I asked him if Dems owe the black community ABSOLUTELY was his answer. So let’s see what you got!!! Votes are Quid Pro Quo. You can’t possibly want me to Fear Trump MORE than I want something for my people.”