He has a valuable perspective on race in America.
Photo by Kelly Kline/Flickr.
Having served as Vice President under America’s first African-American president, Joe Biden has a unique perspective on race. In 2009, when he traveled to President Obama’s inauguration, he was elated but couldn’t separate the event from its historical context. “It was a moment of extraordinary hope for our nation — but I couldn’t help thinking about a darker time years before,” he wrote in an op-ed Sunday in The Atlantic.
For eight years, Biden stood by Obama’s side as a friend and political ally as he navigated America’s complicated racial dynamics with grace and dignity. He sees Obama’s political success as a step forward in race relations, but he knew there would be backlash. “Are we really surprised they rose up?” he wrote about the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. “Are we really surprised they lashed back? Did we really think they would be extinguished with a whimper rather than a fight?”
In his op-ed, Biden said “We are living through a battle for the soul of this nation” and cast President Trump as the enemy:
“Today we have an American president who has publicly proclaimed a moral equivalency between neo-Nazis and Klansmen and those who would oppose their venom and hate.
We have an American president who has emboldened white supremacists with messages of comfort and support.
This is a moment for this nation to declare what the president can’t with any clarity, consistency, or conviction: There is no place for these hate groups in America.”
Just as Biden saw the hope of America in Barack Obama, he sees it in the Americans who are fighting back against the hateful rhetoric of Trump and white supremacists.
“The nation’s military leadership immediately took a firm stand. Some of America’s most prominent CEOs spoke out. Political, community, and faith leaders raised their voices. Charitable organizations have begun to take a stand. And we should never forget the courage of that small group of University of Virginia students who stared down the mob and its torches on that Friday night.”
While the president may set the tone of the national dialogue, he’s just one man in a nation of over 300 million people. Biden saw firsthand how a vocal minority attacked President Obama for his race, but that many more supported his message of unity. And he believes that spirit is still alive and well in the American people. “Joined together, we will win this battle for our soul,” he wrote. “Because if there’s one thing I know about the American people, it’s this: When it has mattered most, they have never let this nation down.”