By Judah Clayton
With racial ones being at the forefront of the issues that the new administration hopes to tackle early, it is important to go back and look at the history of how the presidential candidates for this election have handled these issues in the past. This piece will focus particularly on Biden since the Associated Press has recognized him as the winner of the 2020 Presidential Election. However, I will also touch on Trump as the former POTUS, and on Jo Jorgenson and Howie Hawkins as the candidates of the Libertarian Party and Green Party, respectively. I know that a third party is generally not seen as a genuine choice for candidacy, especially for marginalized groups. It’s seen as “throwing away a vote,” and while that point is easily valid and understandable, the bipartisan way in which the system is run goes against the foundation of America, and also makes it more difficult for marginalized people to vote for candidates who genuinely have their best interests at heart, instead of for what most of us consider to be “the lesser of two evils.” With that being said, let’s jump into a brief history of what these candidates have said regarding people of color in America.
No good list compiling racist history is truly complete without Donald Trump.
This man has said a lot regarding black people, and none of it has truly been good. Of course, there are the instances during the first presidential debate this year, where he claimed he’d done away with racial bias training at the White House because he considered it to be “racist,” and him calling for white supremacy group the Proud Boys to “stand back and standby,” which sounds more like a call to yield than the denouncing of white supremacy. He has also doubled down countless times on the self-made claim that he is the best president for Black people since, and probably “even better than” Abraham Lincoln. You know, who freed slaves in the Union. Or JFK, who helped set up the idea for the Civil Rights Act of 1964; or LBJ, who signed the act into law. Better…than all of those men.
Donald Trump took out an advertisement in 1989 calling for the execution of the Central Park Five, who were wrongfully accused of sexually assaulting a white woman. He has refused to apologize for this, even after the actual perpetrator of the assault turned himself in. In an interview with MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow, Trump’s niece stated that she has heard her uncle use the “n-word.” He has called the majority of Mexican immigrants rapists and killers, and has asked his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen to name a country with a Black leader that was not a “s***hole” (according to Cohen’s testimony). This of course is just the tip if the iceberg of horrible Trump moments, but he is not our president this year so I will move on.
Joe Biden, our President-elect (according to AP at the time this article was published), has a spotty history with race relations which caused a stumble in his projected sweeping of “the Black vote” in this election. That term is one I do not like, since a lot of presidents do not have our best interests at heart and do not plan on making policies to better us, instead choosing to pander. But moving on from that…
Joe Biden has an issue fighting systemic racism, and this has been relevant for most of his decades-long career in politics. Joe Biden has always been against busing. Busing, for the uninitiated, is a tool used to support racial integration in schools. It is when Black children are taken to a school that is considered “white” due to redlining and other systemic components of educational racism. Biden has voted against this procedure since 1975, which allies him with segregationists during that time.
However, he claims that he does this because busing is a temporary solution to a permanent problem and that people should simply “put more money into the Black schools” to avoid civil tension. I can understand this thought process, but it does not seem like integration. “Separate but equal” has never worked. His thought process is an understandable one, that Black children should not have to be “whitewashed” in order to be considered intelligent, and that was a thought that was ahead of its time, but he also refused to listen to Black woman and future Vice President Kamala Harris as to why busing was important for that time period.
“What it says is, in order for your child with curly black hair, brown eyes and dark skin to be able to learn anything, he needs to sit next to my blond-haired, blue-eyed son. That’s racist! Who the hell do we think we are, that the only way a Black man or woman can learn is if they rub shoulders with my white child?” – Joe Biden, sharing his side of the busing debate.
And while it is problematic that he will not listen to Black points of view on this, his reasoning for not supporting busing is surprisingly… not racist. It isn’t anti-racist, and he is talking over Black perspectives, but I can understand the reasoning here.
Biden has a lot of insensitive public quotes on his record, and these are things that will not go away so easily. While Trump is openly racist (and as some may argue, anti-black), Biden’s quotes seem rooted in ignorance. This is not an excuse; we cannot afford ignorant politicians, especially ones that do not seem to listen to their Vice President despite her being a person of color who is in a better position to educate him on these things.
For example, Biden has said, in reference to former President Obama, “You got the first mainstream African American who is articulate, and bright, and, clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”
Not only is this simply not true, (see Booker T Washington, George Washington Carver, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B DuBois, Ernest Everett Just, etc.) but it reeks of victim-blaming. Biden does not seem to realize, despite his age, that the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. My father was born in 1964. That is one generation to go from being forced into poverty, redlining, being denied jobs, and more, to my being at Vanderbilt. And that makes me lucky. My grandmother was born in 1930, at the start of the Great Depression. Expecting these standards from people that America has oppressed for generations while paying no attention to the struggle it takes for Black people to get to that point, is ignorant. Also, stop calling Black people with what is considered conventional intelligence “articulate.” That in itself reeks of racism.
And of course, the comment that has Black people reeling away from Biden: “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t Black.” He apologized for this comment in May, and I hope that Harris gave him a verbal lashing for it. White people gatekeeping and attempting to control whether or not a Black person votes, and who they vote for? Unheard of. Not to mention this gatekeeping of the Black identity by a white man. This one really cemented my already-present idea that I would be choosing the lesser of two evils.
Jo Jorgenson and Howie Hawkins
Not much is out there as far as Jorgenson’s perception of race, save for a few tweets on the importance of being anti-racist and the anti-racist stance that is integrated into the Libertarian party’s platform. However, the Libertarian party is very laissez-faire on most of their stances, including that on race relations in America. Jorgenson states that if companies such as Uber were to discriminate against people of color, then they would merely go out of business, so it should be their choice. And this… is not the way to go about it. It’s not just about companies such as ride-shares, it’s housing units and job opportunities discriminating against people of color that pose the greatest issues. The Libertarian party’s stance on government has been to just not do their jobs regardless, so I’m not surprised, just disappointed.
Howie Hawkins has some editorials and articles on the Green Party’s website detailing the anti-racist policies he has drafted, and the most anti-racist stance I have seen from any politician in a while. I honestly recommend reading some of it here. It’s a genuinely comprehensive policy and is the reason that I am so upset about the bipartisanship of the United States. Candidates like Hawkins are seen as “too liberal” to take the bipartisan stage as Democratic candidates (or Republican obviously), but his policies really seem to consier Black people as citizens, and not as a vote to count or a demographic to pander to.
Politicians are racist and I want to take a nap. Goodnight everybody!