Coming out of their convention, Democrats are braced to attack an embattled president trailing in the polls, who is pushing fears of a stolen election, and sabotaging vote-by-mail during a pandemic seeking to use race, White fear and White animosity to stay in office.
Eager to contrast their nominee with President Trump, the Democrats cast Joe Biden as a man of compassion and “a profoundly decent man guided by faith” in the words of former first lady Michelle Obama during their virtual national political convention Aug. 17-20 beamed across America.
Faith implies a belief in that which is of God, that which operates on a higher level than mere politics and that which deals with spiritual principles as governmental decisions are made.
A fundamental spiritual principle revolves around the idea of confession, repentance and atonement for wrong.
Has Mr. Biden in his political life done wrong or harm to Black people, has he confessed his fault, asked for forgiveness and atoned for his error?
Many would not like to have this question asked, fearful that answers could blunt Black support for the former vice president as those with hope in America push to unseat Mr. Trump at all costs.
Earlier this year, Mr. Biden offered a kind of apology for his role in hardline stands against crime and 1990s legislation that contributed to mass incarceration that helped devastate Black lives and Black neighborhoods. He spoke at a Martin Luther King, Jr., breakfast hosted by the National Action Network before formally entering the 2020 presidential race. “I haven’t always been right. I know we haven’t always gotten things right, but I’ve always tried,” the former vice president was quoted as saying.
“You know I’ve been in this fight for a long time. It goes not just to voting rights. It goes to the criminal justice system,” Biden said at the National Action Network’s Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast, according to Business Insider. “I haven’t always been right. I know we haven’t always gotten things right, but I’ve always tried. Biden helped write an infamous 1994 crime bill – the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. That bill is widely pointed to as one of the driving factors of mass incarceration in the U.S., as well as the disproportionate number of people of color who’ve ended up behind bars for drug-related crimes,” the article noted. Mr. Biden also admitted the legislation “trapped an entire generation.”
“The vice president went on to say that ‘white America’ needs to do more to address and recognize systemic racism. There’s something we have to admit—not you—we, white America, has to admit, there’s still a systematic racism and it goes almost unnoticed by so many of us,’ Biden said.”
Now that Mr. Biden is the Democratic Party standard bearer, what exactly is he going to do to not only “recognize” systemic racism, but dismantle it?
He is already on record as hoping, with vice-presidential pick Kamala Harris, to build things over and make things better. He is not talking revolutionary political initiatives or change. He hopes to undo harm President Trump has done running on a theme of saving the country and reuniting America. He calls the 2020 election a battle for the soul of America, but America has had no soul when it comes to Black people.
Some argue the fight for Blacks should come after Nov. 3 elections with Mr. Biden installed as president and Ms. Harris as the first Black woman and Asian American as vice president. For those with hope in America, that may appear to be the choice to make. But for those who seek a future, independent reality for Black America, such hope isn’t enough.
As the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, patriarch of the Nation of Islam warned, “The government only wants to pacify her once slaves with fancy false promises that she knows she cannot fulfill without the loss of friendship and bloodshed among her own people.
“But there is nothing like a good future in these rosy promises for the so-called Negroes. Why should the government hinder us? We want some of this earth and its treasures of raw materials to build us an independent nation as you and other nations have done. We want to live in peace. It is impossible to get along with you in peace while you cannot even get along with each other in peace!”
During the Democratic Party primary contest, the plight of Black people and the subject of reparations for the children of America’s once slaves arose. Mr. Biden at first seemed to reject the idea. Later, he seemed to move toward backing federal legislation to study the issue if elected president and such a bill was passed by Congress. Ms. Harris, who was among Mr. Biden’s primary opponents, expressed support for federal legislation to study reparations. But she was also clear in a different scenario. “During an interview with The Grio, when asked if she supported reparations, or even specific policies for Blacks in America,” she said, “Any policy that will benefit Black people, will benefit all of society. Let’s be clear about that … So, I’m not going to sit here and say I’m going to do something that’s only going to benefit Black people. No. Because whatever benefits that Black family will benefit that community, and society as a whole, and the country.”
Such talk of rising tides that lift all boats is patently false when it comes to Black people. Entrenched hardcore poverty, Covid-19 deaths, a wealth gap, failing schools and education, joblessness and underemployment, Black women dying in childbirth, Black children more likely to fall out of the middle class, killer cancer and health disparity, fratricidal violence and police murder are a few of the monsters stalking and stealing Black lives.
Are we to believe that a moderate president in a country staggered by a pandemic will put the needs of Black people high on the national agenda? Or should we expect kind words, political gestures and excuses from political believers and who don’t understand that pharaoh’s time is up?
America is the modern Babylon spoken of in scripture and her fate, nor ours, will be resolved through the political process. It has not happened yet, not even under a racially moderate Black president and it won’t happen under Mr. Biden.
“We are going to have to be separated.There is no future for us in trying to make the American dream—which is an illusion—work for us. God wants to separate us and give us a land of our own, with Him as The Ruler,” writes the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in this week’s edition of The Final Call.
But in reality, we don’t live together today. Blacks live in an inferior condition called segregation versus separation, which is two independent realities that exist between equals. How long can we live in a world where every bad thing that happens threatens our very existence—whether it is a hostile political leader, abusive and deadly policing, an economic downturn or a pestilence from heaven?
Mr. Biden has not even clearly stated how the party will handle police brutality—will the federal government commit to prosecuting bad cops to the full extent of the law? Will the Biden administration target bad cops the same way its crime bills have targeted Black men? Street demonstrations and demands for change after the death of George Floyd have continued. Federal police reform legislation has stalled. Thousands of protestors, police clashes, beatings and shooting and millions of dollars in damages following unrest wasn’t enough to break political gridlock on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Biden and company reject even talk of “defunding police,” mainly shorthand for changes to policing, reallocation of resources, curbing immunity for errant police officers and diminishing the power of police unions.
What kind of change in policing has been promised? It seems like none. Again, we are asked to trust our “friend,” hope for the best and surrender our vote? Shouldn’t there be some clear programs, commitments made before ballots are cast?
Despite concerns about Mr. Biden’s role in authoring the Crime Bill, and Ms. Harris’ role as a prosecutor and the district attorney in San Francisco, Black voters should push those things aside in an effort to see Mr. Trump lose at the polls, say Biden-Harris backers.
But what can Black people in America expect should the Biden-Harris ticket win?
“We’re just so happy to see a sort of Black face in these positions of power, but at the end of the day, this is a government of, for, and by the corporations that run it; the money. Kamala Harris doesn’t run anything in America, and she won’t as vice-president,” Elaine Brown, former chairwoman of the Black Panther Party, told The Final Call.
“She can only hope her full ambition will be met—with either Biden not lasting his first term, or not running for a second term—and she can somehow become the first Black woman to be president of the United States. That is her ambition, and the only thing that would be of any relief to us as Black people is the hope that there won’t be Donald Trump, who is so extremely crude, and cruel,” said the longtime activist in the Bay Area.
When Ms. Harris was running her own campaign for president, she received a lot of criticism for her record as the attorney general of California. She presents herself as a progressive prosecutor during her time as district attorney in San Francisco, but critics say different.
They accuse her of prosecuting poor people, upholding wrongful convictions rooted in police misconduct, and silence when police unions tried to block the call for the public to attend police disciplinary hearings.
She also instructed her office not to prosecute arrests based on racial profiling, despite that fact that Black people accounted for 40 percent of arrests in San Francisco, while making up only 8 percent of the city’s population, critics add.
Cephus Johnson, also known as “Uncle Bobby,” had firsthand, personal experience with Ms. Harris when she was attorney general of California, after his nephew, Oscar Grant, was killed by Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland on New Year’s Day 2009.
“When Johannes Mehserle appealed his conviction, her office had an obligation to inform our family whenever he was to appear before a judge concerning the murder of Oscar Grant; especially on an appeal. It was her responsibility to let us know, and she didn’t,” Uncle Bobby told The Final Call.
“As a family, we were hurt. We felt disrespected, and she claimed that it was a mistake, and from that experience, I’ve had some ill feelings about her, especially because she also turned a blind eye to murders by police, which impacted a lot of other families in the state of California.”
“Kamala Harris started her life as a district attorney, and that’s who she is at the end of the day,” Ms. Brown said, adding, “She prosecuted Black men and women under the laws of the United States of America that were never favorable to Black people.”
“Some kind of way, we need to be able to challenge her on some of the questions that we have. One of those would be addressing national reforms when it comes to the criminal justice system. What’s her position on that? We know that historically, she’s never positioned herself to care about criminal justice reform because she thought the system was always working the right way,” added Uncle Bobby. “And now she seems to be leaning toward some kind of criminal justice reform, but really, it’s going to be her actions that are going to speak.”
Mr. Biden, however, tops the ticket and has been roundly criticized as the architect of policies that led to mass incarceration of Blacks in the 1990s. His role in the Crime Bill, which came under the administration of New Democrat Bill Clinton led to more people jailed for low level drug offenses and harsher penalties—and set the tone and trend for states that built prisons and imposed long sentences—as federal dollars poured in.
A recent poll found over half of Whites would vote for Mr. Trump despite the country’s hell-in-a-hand-basket position. And, that was before a veep pick that could spark White anxiety and anti-Black voting.
A CNN poll the day the DNC convention opened found Mr. Biden leading Mr. Trump 50 percent to 46 percent. The polls also found enthusiasm among voters was high. The president, who has steadily trailed, had made up significant political ground. But in a poll of polls, Mr. Biden was up 51 percent to 42 percent over Mr. Trump.
As Dr. Wilmer Leon, syndicated columnist and political scientist, noted, “When you look at the polling data, there is still a very hardcore base of people that are going to support (Mr. Trump) and they’re going to support him no matter what. I think that the numbers that you’re seeing are low, in terms of the numbers of people supporting him. I think there’s a group of people that will also support him no matter what but they’re not going to admit that to an anonymous pollster on the telephone.”
That uncertainty means Mr. Biden needs the Black vote and it should not be given away based on a promise.
Bryan 18X Crawford and Nisa Islam Muhammad contributed to this article.