The former vice president uttered such a statement at a virtual town hall organized by the Service Employees International Union after a healthcare worker detailed their concern that Trump continues to blame Asians for the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden addressed the person’s concern by pointing out how Trump often refers to the pandemic as the “China virus,” saying, “the way he deals with people based on the color of their skin, their national origin, where they’re from, is absolutely sickening.”
He continued, “No sitting president has ever done this. Never, never, never. No Republican president has done this. No Democratic president. We’ve had racists, and they’ve existed, they’ve tried to get elected president. He’s the first one that has.”
Biden’s statements are concerning, considering there have been various presidents throughout history who were either openly racist or carried out clearly racists policies or initiatives. According to History.com, 12 presidents enslaved people during their lifetime and eight of these executive officers owned slaves while they were in office. Presidents that once owned slaves include George Washington, James Madison, James Monroe and Andrew Jackson. Even the place where the president resides, The White House, was built by slaves. It should be noted that their has yet to be a reparations package for Black former slaves or Black descendants of American slaves.
Even in modern times, extremely racist policies have occurred under key presidents. Japanese internment camps were established by President Franklin Roosevelt during World War II via his Executive Order 9066, according to History.com. Fast forward to Ronald Reagan‘s presidency in the 1980s, and he signed the Civil Liberties Act to compensate more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent who were held in internment camps. However, even Reagan’s political career was filled with racism.
When running for governor of California in 1966, Reagan denounced the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and he even ran radio ads referring to urban areas as “jungles,” according to The Washington Post. When talking about fair housing, Reagan insisted, “If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, it is his right to do so.” Reagan also pushed the term “welfare queen,” which characterized Black people as abusers of government programs. On top of all this, just last year, an unearthed call between President Richard M. Nixon and Reagan in October 1971 had Reagan referring to African leaders as “monkeys” who are “still uncomfortable wearing shoes.”
Either Biden missed all this history, or he’s consciously ignoring it.
Biden’s campaign senior adviser Symone Sanders tried to clean up Biden’s words by acknowledging that although Trump isn’t the first racist president, he’s unique to modern history.
“There have been a number of racist American presidents, but Trump stands out — especially in modern history — because he made running on racism and division his calling card and won,” Sanders said.
When Trump was questioned about Biden’s comments at a White House news briefing, he went to his familiar claim that he’s “done more for black Americans than anybody with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln. Nobody has even been close.”
Fake news aside, some Black people on Twitter had thoughts about Biden’s labeling of Trump as the “first” racist president. Check out what people had to say below.