Former Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Kenosha, Wis., Thursday and acted like we expect a normal president of the United States to act following the outbreak of a civil disturbance or natural disaster — listening, learning and consoling those who have suffered.
On Tuesday the actual president of the United States visited the same city and acted like an angry Southern sheriff from the 1950s and 1960s. Donald Trump demanded “law and order” and pretended there is no such thing as systemic racism or police brutality — the very causes of rioting that broke out in the city after a White policeman shot a Black man, Jacob Blake, in the back seven times Aug. 23.
Blake is hospitalized and paralyzed below the waist now — his life tragically and dramatically changed. But Trump paid no attention to that — he came to Kenosha to boast about how tough he is and what a wonderful president he is. And remember, this is the president who claims with a straight face that he has done more for Black people than any president except Abraham Lincoln.
Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, spoke to members of the community that has been hit by protests following the horrific police shooting of Blake, which was clearly unjustified. Biden met with Black citizens who’ve been the victims of systemic racism, and White business owners whose stores were damaged or destroyed by violent out-of-towners who used the peaceful protest as a vehicle for rage and disorder.
Biden made clear he opposes violence, looting, arson and other destructive acts. But at the same time, he acknowledged that the police violence against Blake and systemic racism sparked the protests.
Biden didn’t go to Kenosha to talk, give a speech, or play to the cameras. He went to Kenosha to show his genuine sympathy for everyone hurt by the violence that has gripped the city and so many others this summer, and to help chart a new course for our nation to follow to become a more perfect union.
Look, Biden isn’t perfect and he has never purported to be. But his trip to Kenosha displayed qualities that any good leader must have: the ability to listen, to grow, and to uplift the voices of those in pain. Or as pundits have called it, being the consoler-in-chief.
And when it comes to fixing the problems and healing the wounds that have divided our country, Joe Biden has made it clear that he would be a far better president than Trump — a man who seethes with hatred of all his many perceived enemies, and seems to care only about Americans who are his political supporters.
Before we get into some of Biden’s admirable qualities, we must acknowledge where we currently sit as a nation.
Today racism is hidden, systemic, and internalized in our laws, culture and political system. Biden understands that.
n 2016, then-candidate Trump promised to be a president who would keep America safe, put America first, and end violent crime on American streets. Sadly, after more than three years of Trump’s presidency, we have seen violent crime increase. We have seen America’s economic gains melt away due to the coronavirus pandemic that Trump has badly mishandled. And we have seen America’s moral leadership in the world all but disappear.
No matter where you live in America, we can all agree that the status quo is untenable. Our nation has been ripped apart by deep-seated racial animus, along with the pandemic that has resulted in over 186,000 American deaths. Our economy is reeling, with over 29 million Americans getting some form of unemployment assistance from government.
For Biden, the trip to Kenosha was a no-brainer. Since the beginning of his campaign, the former vice president has acknowledged the deep-seated racial hatred that still afflicts far too many people in America.
In the modern-day, racism doesn’t look like Jim Crow segregation, but its impacts are just as painful. There are no “colored” water fountains and public restrooms, no schools where Black students are legally barred, and employers don’t dare openly state they won’t hire someone because of his or her race.
But make no mistake — racism has not disappeared. Today racism is hidden, systemic, and internalized in our laws, culture and political system. Biden understands that. So, obviously, does his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, the first woman of color nominated for vice president.
In contrast, Trump pretends racism is part of our past — and seems to sometimes long for that past, as he praises monuments to Confederate generals who fought against the United States to preserve slavery.
Racial bias in America is real and has real impact. For Kenosha, it was seven shots to the back of Jacob Blake and sustained peaceful protest that sadly devolved into the destruction of property when peaceful protesters’ voices were upstaged by violent agitators.
By visiting with Blake’s family Thursday and speaking with Blake himself by phone— and by denouncing the violent vigilantes who have taken advantage of peaceful protests demanding racial justice and police reform in America — Biden has struck the necessary balance to start America on the road to recovery.
Instead of just meeting with law enforcement officers and their supporters — as Trump did Tuesday — Biden met with a cross-section of people of all races, including small-business owners, law enforcement, clergy members, peaceful protesters, and long-time residents of Kenosha.
And that is what leadership looks like — listening to people who might disagree with your policy perspective and making compromises to bring everyone to the table.
Has Joe Biden made mistakes and blunders? Of course. Was the 1994 Crime Bill that Biden supported a building block to the current mistrust between law enforcement and Black people? Absolutely. But unlike Trump, Biden has demonstrated his willingness to grow and change.
Since Trump was inaugurated in January 2017, race relations in America have been on a decline. Whether it be because of police misconduct, misguided politicians, unjust laws, or a system out of whack, race relations are at their lowest point in decades.
And while everyone from corporations to homeowner associations has been transfixed on how to make things better, Trump and his Republican congressional allies have only fanned the flames, seemingly focused on transforming our nation from the United States of America into the Divided States of America. This is the exact opposite of what President Barack Obama and Vice President Biden worked to achieve.
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With mail-in voting beginning this month for the November election, America is searching for a leader who will uplift the Forgotten American. A leader who will speak to the pain of America and will work to heal it step-by-step. Sadly, Trump isn’t that leader. His strong-man approach and tough-guy posturing has only led to more pain, confusion and hurt.
Here’s the plain truth: Biden cares about America. Trump cares about Trump.
We can spend all day debating the record of Joe Biden since he was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972.
Sure, times have changed and some of Biden’s early positions are ones he no longer holds as he has become more progressive. But throughout his years in government, Biden has been listening, growing and working towards uplifting the voices of those who want to make this country more fair and equitable, and who want to eliminate the scourge of racism.
Thursday’s trip by Biden to Kenosha makes that even more apparent, and shows why he would be a good president. He went to Kenosha to feel the pain of its citizens, pray with the Blake family and the police that serve the community, and assure America that we will build a better future out of this pain.
Sadly, the same can’t be said about Donald Trump.
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