During his speech at a historically Black university’s graduation ceremony on Saturday, President Biden declared that white supremacy poses the gravest terrorist threat to the United States. In doing so, he brought to the forefront an issue that has already become a significant part of his campaign for a second term. Reflecting on his decision to run for the presidency after witnessing white supremacists marching in Charlottesville in 2017, Biden warned that the country is still engaged in a “battle” against nefarious forces that seek to turn back time to more divisive periods.
During his address to Howard University graduates, President Biden acknowledged that progress toward justice is often met with fierce opposition from the most deep-rooted and malicious sources. Biden commented after citing former President Donald Trump’s ambiguous response to the 2017 Charlottesville rally without explicitly calling him or any other Republican rivals out by name.
The message Biden conveyed was clear. It comes at a time when many prominent Republicans – including those currently competing for the GOP presidential nomination – argue that America’s focus on racial inequality has gone too far. In his speech, Biden emphasized that hatred never truly disappears and that it is crucial to maintain the fight for social justice.
Biden Addresses Criticism of Diversity Initiatives and Critical Race Theory
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and others have criticized the push for diversity, equity, and inclusion embraced by many institutions and attacked critical race theory, which examines how race is embedded in society. They argue that such initiatives portray America negatively and unfairly label all White people as racist. During his speech on Saturday, President Biden seemed to directly confront this sentiment by acknowledging that American history is not a fairy tale.
He explained that the nation has been in a constant battle for over 240 years, oscillating between the American ideal of equality for all and the harsh reality of racism that has long divided society. Biden emphasized that the battle is ongoing and that the country must strive toward a more just and equitable future.
Former President Donald Trump, currently leading the Republican presidential field, made several racially charged comments during his time in the White House, including telling four congresswomen of color in 2019 to return to “the broken and crime-infested places from which they came.” While President Biden has consistently spoken out against racism in American society, his remarks on Saturday held particular significance due to the speech’s venue. With his reelection campaign potentially facing some tough challenges, the 80-year-old president sought to appeal to young voters of color, who played a crucial role in his 2020 victory but have since shown a slight decrease in their support, as indicated by public opinion polls.
Biden Emphasizes Accomplishments and Defends Black Americans against Republicans
President Biden has been actively reaching out to Black voters recently, highlighting his accomplishments and promises to the community that helped propel him into office. In his reelection announcement video, he prominently featured Vice President Harris and Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to hold those positions, as examples of his commitment to diversity and representation.
During his Saturday at Howard University speech, Biden reiterated his accomplishments and cast himself as a defender of Black Americans against Republican politicians. His highly political commencement address highlighted the contrasting views of the two parties on the current state of America. Republicans have accused the country of becoming overly politically correct, while Biden argues that the nation has made significant progress but still faces persistent racism. Biden emphasized the need for continued vigilance and effort to achieve true equality and justice.
During his commencement address at Howard University, President Biden criticized opponents who he claims have taken steps to ban books about Black history, rolled back his administration’s efforts towards student debt relief, and failed to address the increasing political violence. He pledged to continue combating white supremacy, which he has previously singled out as the most significant terrorist threat to the United States.
After highlighting his commitment to combating white supremacy, Biden received applause from the audience, primarily Black students and their families. He clarified that he is not making these statements because he is at a historically Black college and university (HBCU) but because he believes it essential for all Americans to recognize and address the issue.
Republican Backlash to Biden’s Remarks on Racism
The comments made by President Joe Biden about racism and white supremacy drew criticism from Republicans, who argue that such statements only exacerbate racial divisions. The Republican National Committee (RNC) took to Twitter to post a video titled “Joe Biden’s Racism Problem,” which included several instances of the President making gaffes while discussing race over the years.
A researcher for the RNC, Jake Schneider, tweeted that “nobody stokes more division than Joe Biden.” The issue of race has become a contentious topic in the presidential race. If he is reelected, Trump recently suggested that he consider pardoning the rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Trump referred to the predominantly white insurrectionists as “great people” while labeling the Black police officer who fatally shot one of the rioters a “thug.”
As he positions himself for a potential presidential run, DeSantis has actively opposed diversity initiatives in Florida and even refused to offer an Advanced Placement course on African American history. Republicans have shown discomfort with being linked to the label of “white supremacy,” often dismissing the concerns over extremists and portraying Democratic criticisms as politically motivated attacks on Republicans who support Trump.