Joe Biden's Evolution and Current Stance on Race Relations

By: Garland L. McLaughlin

Joe Biden, now serving as the President of the United States, has emphasized that he has evolved and changed for the better, particularly in his approach to race relations. Throughout his presidential campaign and tenure, he has consistently stated that he is committed to addressing racial inequalities and supporting policies that benefit Black Americans. However, there are several areas where critics argue that his policies and positions still fall short of adequately addressing the needs and historical injustices faced by Black Americans.

Historical Incidents of Controversy

Opposition to Busing for School Integration

One of the most notable incidents in Joe Biden's early political career involves his stance on busing, a method used to desegregate schools. In the 1970s, Biden opposed federally mandated busing aimed at integrating schools. He argued that busing was not the appropriate solution to achieve racial balance in schools. Critics have argued that his position helped maintain racial segregation in schools and impeded efforts to provide equal educational opportunities for Black children.

The 1994 Crime Bill

As a U.S. Senator, Joe Biden played a significant role in crafting the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. This bill, commonly referred to as the 1994 Crime Bill, has been widely criticized for contributing to the mass incarceration of Black Americans. The bill included provisions for "three strikes" mandatory life sentences for repeat offenders, funding for prisons, and more police officers on the streets. While the intention was to reduce crime, its implementation disproportionately affected Black communities, leading to higher incarceration rates and long-term social consequences.

Remarks About Barack Obama

During the 2008 Democratic primary campaign, Joe Biden made a remark about his then-opponent Barack Obama, calling him "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." This comment was widely criticized as being racially insensitive and patronizing, as it suggested that previous Black candidates did not possess these qualities. Biden later apologized for the comment, but it has remained a point of contention among critics.

Comments on Racial Diversity and Voting

In a 2020 interview on the radio show "The Breakfast Club," Joe Biden made a controversial remark when he said, "If you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, then you ain't black." This statement was criticized for being dismissive of Black voters' autonomy and understanding of their interests. Biden later apologized, stating that he never intended to take the African American community for granted or assume their support.

Voter ID Laws and Statements on Race

Joe Biden has also been criticized for some of his statements and positions related to voter ID laws. While he has publicly opposed strict voter ID laws, which disproportionately affect minorities, some of his earlier comments have been scrutinized. For example, during a speech in 2006, Biden referred to the prevalence of Indian accents in convenience stores, which many saw as perpetuating racial stereotypes.

Current Stance on Key Issues

Reparations for Black American Families

One contentious issue is the subject of reparations for Black American families. Reparations are financial compensations to descendants of enslaved people to address the economic and social disparities resulting from slavery and subsequent racial discrimination. Joe Biden has expressed support for studying the feasibility of reparations through initiatives like H.R. 40, a bill that proposes a commission to study and develop reparation proposals. However, Biden has not outright endorsed direct reparations or laid out a clear plan for implementing them. Critics argue that this hesitancy demonstrates a lack of commitment to addressing the deep-rooted economic inequities that affect Black Americans.

Stance on Immigration and Impact on Black Americans

Another point of contention is Biden's stance on immigration. Biden has taken steps to reverse many of the restrictive immigration policies of the previous administration and has advocated for a more humane and inclusive immigration system. He supports providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and has proposed comprehensive immigration reform that includes protections for Dreamers (those brought to the U.S. as children) and increased refugee admissions.

Critics argue that Biden's immigration policies could potentially disenfranchise Black Americans by creating competition for jobs and resources. They contend that prioritizing the rights of undocumented immigrants can divert attention and resources away from addressing the systemic issues faced by Black communities. Moreover, they argue that equating the rights of undocumented immigrants with those of U.S. citizens and legal immigrants may undermine the unique historical and socioeconomic challenges that Black Americans face.

Efforts to Address Racial Inequality

Despite these criticisms, Biden has taken several steps to address racial inequality. His administration has focused on policies aimed at improving the economic status of Black Americans, including:

  • Economic Policies: Biden's economic plans include investments in Black-owned businesses, increased access to capital, and support for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
  • Criminal Justice Reform: Biden has advocated for reforms to reduce mass incarceration, eliminate private prisons, and address police misconduct.
  • Healthcare: His administration has worked to reduce health disparities by expanding access to affordable healthcare and addressing social determinants of health.


President Joe Biden's stance on race relations reflects a complex and evolving approach. While he acknowledges past mistakes and expresses a commitment to racial equality, his policies and positions have not fully satisfied all critics, particularly on issues like reparations and immigration. The debate over how best to address the needs of Black Americans while also advocating for the rights of immigrants highlights the ongoing challenge of balancing diverse interests in a pluralistic society. Biden's efforts to promote racial equality and reform reflect his belief in progress and change, but they also underscore the need for continued dialogue and action to meet the specific needs of Black Americans. 


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