By R.L. Witter
By now, most of us have seen, heard, or read about Presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden’s remark that landed like a ton of bricks at the end of an interview with Charlamagne Tha God last week. After speaking on various issues both mainstream and specific to the black community, the interview was winding down and as the men exchanged pleasantries and bid one another farewell, Biden remarked, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”
Media outlets ran with it. Right-wing and conservative pundits called Biden racist, saying the remark was problematic and condescending toward black people. Progressives and liberals split the difference with some expressing shock and dismay while others dismissed it as “Uncle Joe being Uncle Joe.”
Taken as a three-second soundbite out of context, it may very well sound awkward or odd. However, as part of a 19-minute interview on a black media outlet where Biden explained how during his early days in Delaware politics black people “brung me to the dance,” the black host encouraged Biden to put aside political correctness and be real. In an instance where Biden stopped himself while saying, “I kicked their a—,” and Charlamagne admonished him saying, “No, I need you to talk like that,” it might be seen in a different light.
First off, did Biden lie? Are there currently millions of black Americans asking themselves if Donald Trump would be a better choice than Biden in regard to their interests? Are they pondering if Trump’s economic and healthcare policies outweigh his embrace of the alt-right movement and silence on nearly all issues important to the American black community?
I guess one could say Biden wasn’t truthful because technically, you can be black and support Trump. Personally, I say the statement just needs to be qualified: you can’t be Malcolm, Martin, Congressman John Lewis, or even Former RNC President Michael Steele black and vote for Trump. But you can be Candace Owens, Paris Dennard, or that guy with the “Blacks for Trump” sign at rallies black.
Next, the elephant in the room is that WE gave Biden space to make such a remark. We, as black folks, have handed out invitations and passes to the cookout to many, many non-black people over the years. We invite them in; tell them to take a load off; offer them a plate and a drink; and spill tea, share secrets, and allow them into our inner circles. We laugh and egg them on when they attempt to speak in our colloquialisms. We give them nicknames like “Uncle Joe” or the “unofficial first black President” as we did with Bill Clinton. And we assume they understand what’s said at the cookout stays at the cookout, so we feign surprise and indignity when they behave this way in “mixed company.”
Finally, let’s be real: another four years of a Trump presidency could be catastrophic for the black community and other marginalized communities. This administration seems hell-bent on dissembling political and social norms that have allowed progress in America for the last fifty years and made way for civil rights, women’s rights, religious freedoms for non-Christians, economic and educational opportunity, and just about everything else that has afforded minorities and women any form of socioeconomic advancement. With hindsight truly being 20/20 vision, the 2016 presidential election showed us that millions of Americans who were eligible to vote didn’t. With Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote by more than 3 million votes and Trump winning the Electoral College by less than 100,000 votes across three or four states, it is of utmost importance for us to band together and vote for WHOMEVER is on the ballot opposite Trump in the 2020 election.
I have joked with friends and family that if the Democratic candidate was a dustpan I’d vote for it. And really, I’m only halfway kidding. Is Joe Biden my idea of the perfect candidate? Nope. Do I believe that a vote for Biden will suddenly make everything right in the world? Not even a little bit. So why am I committed to voting for him if he is the Democratic candidate in November? Because at this point, I don’t feel that I, as a black woman, have the luxury of voting FOR anyone. I am simply voting AGAINST Trump. So for those who say they cannot stomach voting for Biden, I ask you to change your perspective and vote against Trump. While Uncle Joe might not make everything better, I’m almost certain he won’t make things worse, which is exactly what four more years of the current administration would do.