HomePoliticsBiden warns of 'sinister forces' trying to reverse racial progress

Biden warns of ‘sinister forces’ trying to reverse racial progress

President Biden on Saturday declared white supremacy to be “the most dangerous terrorist threat to our homeland” and warned a predominantly black audience that the “sinister forces” embraced by his predecessor and would-be challenger are trying to reverse generations of racial progress in USA.

Mr. Biden never named former President Donald J. Trump in his sometimes dour commencement address to the graduating class of Howard University, the most prestigious historically black university in the country. However, he alluded to past statements by Trump to link him to racist elements in American society and suggested that the presidential campaign that has just begun will determine whether justice will prevail over hate, fear and violence.

“There are those who demonize and pit people against each other,” Biden said. “And there are those who will do anything, no matter how desperate or immoral, to hold on to power. That’s never going to be an easy battle. But I know this: the oldest and most sinister forces may believe that they will determine the future of America. But they are wrong. We will determine the future of America. You will determine the future of America.”

Dressed in blue and white academic robes, the president sought to enlist the young graduates in what he presented as the cause of this moment. He cited the 2020 killing of George Floyd by a police officer, which sparked widespread protests against police brutality, and expressed empathy with black drivers who are afraid when officers pull them over.

“Fearless progress toward justice is often met with fierce pushback from the oldest and most sinister forces,” he said. “That’s because hate never goes away. When I graduated, I thought we could beat hate. But it never goes away.”

Likewise, Mr. Biden said that “after the election and re-election of the first black American president, I expected that fear, violence and hate were losing ground significantly.”

He found otherwise, he said, when neo-Nazis and white supremacists clashed with counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, recounting Trump’s reaction. “What did you hear?” he asked her. “That famous quote: ‘There are very good people on both sides.’ That’s when I knew, and I’m not kidding, that’s when I knew I had to stay engaged and get back into public life.”

Trump supporters have said his line has been distorted, noting that he did at one point condemn neo-Nazis. But because he has launched a campaign to regain the presidency, Trump has racist and extremist elements more openly embraced in American life. Last winter he stayed for dinner rapper Ye, who has made anti-Semitic statements; and Nick Fuentes, a prominent white supremacist who attended the far-right Charlottesville rally.

Howard’s election offered Biden a chance to bolster support in the Democratic Party’s most loyal constituency, one he needs to win re-election next year. While polls show continued strong support for Mr. Biden among black voters, political analysts and party strategists have expressed concern about an enthusiasm gap that could complicate the prospects of the president, who needs high turnout from his base.

Mr. Biden has been stymied by goals like cracking down on police brutality and strengthen voting rights. He signed a executive order on federal law enforcement last year, although crucial pieces of the order have not been implemented. Many supporters say he didn’t follow through on his promise to make systemic changes to the criminal justice system.

But he chose Kamala Harris (Howard grad) as the first black vice president; she appointed the first black woman to the Supreme Court, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson; and he has put more black women on the federal bench than any other president combined. Unemployment among African Americans fell to a record low of 4.7 percent in Apriland the gap between black and white unemployment rates narrowed to its lowest level ever measured.

Of particular interest to his hearing on Saturday, Mr. Biden has developed a program to forgive $400 billion in student loans over the next few decades, eliminating up to $20,000 each for those who qualify. But the Supreme Court seems willing to invalidate it.

Mr. Biden won 92 percent of black voters in 2020, but only 58 percent said they approved of his performance in the latest Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll. A May survey conducted by the economist and yougov put his approval among black adults at 71 percent, but only 46 percent wanted him to run again.

Biden found a friendly but not exactly exuberant crowd on Saturday. Graduating seniors and their families packed much of Capital One Arena, the home of the Washington Capitals and Wizards, and greeted him warmly, though a dozen protested, some holding signs on topics such as military research. He ambivalence between students and graduates it was evident in interviews on campus before the ceremony.

“He’s a very good person,” Mariah Davis, 19, a mechanical engineering student, said of Biden. “She’s really trying to speak up for a lot of groups of people that aren’t being heard.”

But some students said they weren’t sure they could connect with him. “We feel a little weird that he’s coming to graduation because obviously he can teach us things about values, but what is he going to say that hasn’t been said before?” said Alisa Drake, 19, a sophomore. “What can Biden tell us as black students entering the workforce?”

If the election next year were between Biden and a Republican, he said he would vote for Biden. But she was lukewarm about it. “I’m not very excited,” she said. “I feel like there hasn’t been a candidate recently that has caught my eye, which is like, ‘Wow, they’re really interested in something and they’re interested in helping my generation.’”

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