In the actions that will shape his legacy, Biden is anti-racist – a term used by author Ibrahim X. Candy in his instructive memoirs. “How to become an anti-racist“And one who has taken on the burden of enlightenment and progressivism. To be anti-racist is to make a choice that actively pushes the country towards equality, paying particular attention to places where race intersects with gender, class and sexuality.
“Denial is the heartbeat of racism,” Candy writes. “… What is the problem with” non-racism “? This is a statement that means neutrality:” I am not a racist, but I am not aggressive against racism. “But there is no neutrality in the fight against racism. The opposite of” racism “is not” no racism. ”This is“ anti-racism ”.
Biden is a compassionate and imperfect man. He is imperfect in this role. Who wouldn’t be? He was inspired by the moments when he told the obvious truths about racial injustice to the police – including when a crowd of predominantly white riots was greatly underestimated when they stormed the U.S. Capitol. But Biden also caused surprise and disappointment when he preferred gradual amplification or encouraging conditions over bold reinterpretation.
So perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he is occasionally anti-racism – it seeks to fulfill its high-minded definition.
Biden often speaks of race as wrong, clumsy, inelegant. There are always ways he could do more or do better, apologize more fully or choose his words more carefully. But with white hair and a lined face celebrating his 78th birthday, he reminds us that the blessing of longevity also means we have enough time to make mistakes, correct, fail, and keep learning. The strength is in the scar and rough spots – places where failures have healed or at least peeled off. Its not a contemptuous refusal to see available problems; its blind spots are related to the culture in which we were all born.
In 1991, he did not seem to fully understand the complex and sad racial story at work during the confirmation hearing of Clarence Thomas, when Hill – a black woman who alleges sexual harassment by black Thomas – personally ridiculed Biden. He sat on the platform, looking at her. Pointing finger. And did not give her due credit, which meant that he equally disrespected those who believed in her accusations against Thomas, as well as those who endured the same pain but never spoke for fear that they would not be believed.
In 2007, beginning his second presidential candidacy, Biden carelessly called Obama, one of the Democratic’s main rivals, “the first African American to be clear, bright, clean, and good-looking.” In his latest campaign, he incited African Americans who were considering voting for the incumbent, saying in a radio interview with a mostly African-American audience: “If you’re having trouble finding out if you’re for me or for Trump, then you’re not Black. “
In each case, Biden apologized. He explained himself by not taking a defensive squat – without the qualification “if I offended anyone”. He also expressed regret over his involvement in past legislation, which had resulted in the disproportionate criminalization of generations of Black and Brown citizens.
Despite his apologies, some people can never forgive him, and they realized it. In response, Biden did not confirm that he was “not a racist,” which is largely a humiliating factor that cannot be disputed. Racism in the atmosphere. Sometimes it rolls ominously, like storm clouds, and sometimes barely visible – like smog, which we do not even notice until those opening occasions when we are blessed on a clear day.
Biden’s new governing partner as vice president, Harris, called him bold for his willingness to invite her to a ticket and to clear the way for her history, as the country’s first woman, a black and South Asian woman, reached such dizzying heights of power. What exactly was Biden doing? He asked a qualified legislator and lawyer to become his number 2. He picked up this black woman when black voters – and those blessed determined black women activists – breathed oxygen into the shimmering embers of his campaign. He acknowledged the glory of colored immigrants at a time when this nation denigrated them, which is similar to an insult to our own national character. He entrusted the capabilities of women when their skills were so numerous that it would take a foolish effort to ignore them.
Harris’ choice was obvious. But it was not easy, because the whole history of this nation justified the choice. The country so often envelops what is right, darkness. We are stubbornly committed to our hierarchy.
The most memorable images of Biden, the racer, have long been those when he was next to Obama, in his shadow, following him. Elder White stood behind Junior Black. Undoubtedly, Biden’s decision had professional advantages. But there were also risks. These shots forced a recalibration of what many considered a natural order. They brought hope. They also angered others, believing that their legitimate power was being lost.
And now Biden is creating a new, even more powerful visual story. In it immediately behind him stands the Black Woman. But he regularly steps aside to get her full light. Introducing cabinet designers and executives, he established the ritual. He spoke first. Each new team member made brief remarks. And then Harris closed the presentation. She would repeat Biden’s thoughts, but always added a few of her own. She built on its foundation. She stood on her own.
Biden made room for the world to see that the supposed social order is not destiny. The stubborn hierarchy can be broken, and the center will not only be maintained, but also strengthened.