Joe Biden Admits White People Can't "Fully Understand" Racism

Former vice president Joe Biden spoke on race when visiting the site of a deadly bombing in the 1960s.

Biden delivered an earnest speech on September 15 to the congregation of the 16th Street Baptist Church. The church was commemorating the 56th anniversary of the 1963 bombing that killed four Black girls.

The 76-year-old former senator warned that racism and white supremacy continue to plague the country. “Hate is on the rise again, and we’re at a defining moment again in American history,” Biden said. “Hate only hides. It doesn’t go away. If you give it oxygen it comes out from under the rocks.”

The Democratic presidential candidate linked the 1963 Ku Klux Klan bombing to the 2017 Charlottesville white supremacist rally that left one dead and scores of others injured. Biden has said in the past that both the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville as well as President Donald Trump’s response to it ultimately spurred his run for the White House.

“In a centuries long campaign of violence, fear, trauma, brought upon Black people in this country, the domestic terrorism of white supremacy has been the antagonist of our highest ideals since before the founding of this country,” Biden told the congregation.

“The assassination of four bright promising innocent young girls preparing for Sunday school, the indiscriminate cruelty of a stick of dynamite. The appalling impunity afforded the murderers while a grieving community cried out for justice and the nation watched. It pierced us,” Biden said of the 1963 bombing.

“Addie Mae, Cynthia, Carole, Denise — their murders laid bare the lie that a child could be free in America while oppression’s long shadow darkened our cities and ruled our country side.”

Biden noted that “the same poisonous ideology that lit the fuse on 16th Street” has been behind the deadly attacks in El Paso, Texas; Charleston, South Carolina; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Poway, California, according to CNN. “We have not relegated racism and white supremacy to the pages of history,” he warned.

In his 20 minute speech at the church, the former vice president decried institutional racism and said America has “never lived up to” the ideals of equality that the nation was founded on. “Those who are white try,” Biden said about understanding how people of color experience racism, “but we can never fully understand, no matter how hard we try.”

The Delaware Democrat praised the Alabama church for being an example to the communities struck by white supremacist violence. He added that the United States should recommit itself to “giving hate no safe harbor — demonizing no one, not the poor, the powerless, the immigrant or the ‘other.’”

Despite having the support of many Black voters, Biden has faced questions and criticisms for his record on issues of race. Fellow Democratic candidates, including Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), have challenged Biden on his stances on busing and his remarks on working with segregationist senators during the 1970s.

Biden has also faced accusations that a 1994 crime law he helped write has been responsible for mass incarceration, especially among Black men. The law, which was passed by Congress and signed by Democratic President Bill Clinton, aimed to remedy rising crime rates.

The former senator has long been considered the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination. However, his lead over Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has been narrowing as the two candidates gain momentum in their own campaigns.

The latest Politico/Morning Consult poll places Biden firmly in first place with 32 percentage points, over Sanders’ 20 percent and Warren’s 18 percent. However, a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on September 11 shows Biden marginally ahead by only 6 percentage points over Sanders.

RealClearPolitics national poll averages reveal Biden’s lead has closed from nearly a 30 percentage point lead in May to 9.2 points in September.

A recent CNN poll conducted by SSRS revealed that Biden enjoys the support of a large portion of Black voters. The survey found that 42 percent of Black voters support him, a significant margin over other candidates’ Black support. He especially benefits from support among Black voters over the age of 50; 53 percent of that group support Biden. The CNN poll found Sanders only earned 12 percent of Black voters’ support.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.