‘You ain’t Black’ Part 1: what will you do for Black people — er, what the hell did you just say, Vice President Biden?

vice president joe biden "you ain't black" charlamagne the god controversy
Charlamagne tha God with the Veep

Lawd. The Democratic Presidential candidate’s appearance with Charlamagne tha God yesterday has left plenty to unpack — and the “You ain’t Black” comment is the least of them. But I’ll cover that too. Here’s the first of three parts.

Joe Biden’s words — spoken and not — speak volumes about the lens he places on Black folks’ needs. 

That’s why — other than the setup I’m about to provide, this piece mostly features one long-winded quote from Biden.

Some of you literally groaned after hearing Sean Combs eleventh-hour “Black vote is not free” message to Presidential hopeful Joe Biden. 

Sure. The timing sucked. Brought new meaning to CPT, or more like CPPT.

But you can’t argue with the validity of Diddy’s question: “What are we [as a Black community] getting in return for our vote?”

Yesterday, “The Breakfast Club” show host Chalamange tha God picked up Combs’ reference and posed the same question to Biden.

I took laugh breaks while transcribing Biden’s answer.

Let’s add another reference for context. Earlier this week, Joe Biden spoke with Jewish donors and provided a specific set of ideas that addressed the group’s interests. Annexation of the West Bank, anti-semitism, and the US embassy’s new Jerusalem location were among the issues discussed.

By all accounts Biden and the donors had a substantive conversation.

Back to Biden’s answer. Read my transcription below or view the embedded video at 5:35:

Biden: Remember when I said Biden can’t win, the primaries? 

Charlamagne tha God: Yes.

Biden: I kicked everybody’s ass — I, excuse me.

CtG: It don’t work like that. I need you to say that. You did what?

Biden: I won overwhelmingly. I told you when I went to South Carolina, I won every single county. I won a larger share of the Black vote than anybody has, Including Barack [Obama]. I increased the vote in Virginia overwhelmingly by 70 percent.

Look, what people don’t know about me is I come from a state that [has] the eighth-largest Black population in America. The eighth largest. I get 96 percent of that vote for the last 40 years. They are the folks — as they say around my way — brung [sic] me to the dance. That’s how I get elected every single time. And everybody’s shocked! I get overwhelming support from the Black leadership, young and old. Every poll shows me way ahead. And it’s not just — I hear this “Oh yeah, all Blacks are with Biden.” but [doggone(?)] — look at the polling data. Polling data, let’s say it’s off by half. Come on, man! Give me a little break here. This is where I come from.

I got involved, I came home from college, and I had a job with a really fancy law firm out of law school. And my city is the only city in America occupied by the National Guard, the military, for ten months, when Dr. King was shot. And I had this fancy job, a kid coming from a, from a lower-middle-income household. I quit, became a public defender. And I stayed in that community. I was the only guy, when I was in high school, I had a job, a country [unintelligible] — kind of job with a — at a swimming pool. I was the only White employee in the East Side because I wanted to work in the projects. Because I wanted to understand. That’s how I got involved in politics. That’s what this is all about for me. It’s about equality. It’s about dignity. It’s about treating people with respect.

And so, you know, when you take a look at my record people talk about the crime bill. The crime bill didn’t increase mass incarceration. Other things increased mass incarceration. And the reason why, if you go back and look — and I know you talk about it — you go back and take a look! That’s why you have the vast majority of the Black Caucus at the time supporting the crime bill. Almost every major-city Black Mayor supported the crime bill. Because Blacks were getting killed overwhelmingly as well. And what happened [unintelligible] with that crime bill? It had four, five really important things. It had the Violence Against Women Act. It said ‘Drug court, don’t send anybody who has a drug problem to jail, send them to rehabilitation, to a drug court. It had in it — It had — the uh, the assault weapons ban. Getting rid of assault weapons. Getting rid of the rounds — the number of rounds you could have in a gun. It also had in it a whole range of other things, but it had things I didn’t like. [President Bill] Clinton wanted to put in a deal where, in fact, three strikes and you’re out. I opposed that three-strikes-and-you’re-out bill. I opposed the position taken that, saying that, you’re gonna have any mandatory sentences. But on balance, the whole bill, what happened was, it did in fact bring down violent crime in Black communities as well. And guess what? The fact is, [the] prison population didn’t increase. 94 percent of every prisoner in jail is in a state prison. Not a federal prison. No federal law.

And here’s the deal: the one thing I opposed in that bill was people wanting to give money to state prisons to build more prisons. I opposed it. But the point was, on balance, everything through the assault women’s ban [sic], through the Violence Against Women’s Bat (BK’s note: “Bat” sounded like a mix of “Ban” and “Act”), through the drug courts, they were important. And now, look at what we can do. 

Look, I’ve been pushing, along with my colleagues in the Black Caucus in the United States Congress, We should change the entire — we’ve been doing this for a while. Change the entire prison system from one that is punishment to rehabilitation. There’s a couple of things everyone has in common in jail. One is, they were the victims of abuse or their kids were, or their mother was; number two, can’t read; number three, they don’t have any job skills. They were in a position where they didn’t get a chance. Why does it make sense, why did I come along and write the first act that said when you get out of prison, you don’t just get a notion where you get 25 bucks and a bus ticket. You’ll end up under the bridge. You end up under the bridge and just do the same place. So every single solitary person being released from prison should have access to every single government program. Why doesn’t it make sense to have African Americans who are getting out of prison, serve their time — everybody for that matter; to be able to have public housing. Why didn’t it make sense that they can have Pell Grants to go to school? Why didn’t it make sense that they have health care? What, are they nuts? That’s what they keep doing.

Remember the question, right?

“What are we [as a Black community] getting in return for our vote?”

Biden didn’t answer the question.

Charlamagne tha God astutely recognized that and followed up with a statement later that led to Biden’s “You ain’t Black” remark.

The VP’s response involved gifting us with personal recollections of his street cred, and — I won’t let him get away with this — a volunteer self-propulsion into the merits of the 1994 crime bill where he was a lead sponsor. The legislation that has been criticized for serving as a mass-incarceration catalyst.

Plus, we don’t have to be stuck in 1994. Biden seems to have been a serial crime bill proponent for years prior to that.

Passage of Biden’s Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was not the main driver behind the drop in crime. We had an improving economy at the time to thank for that.

Biden’s comments about the Congressional Black Caucus only confirms why I write about them so infrequently. They were legislatively absent during the reign Bush the Second; largely ignored by Obama, except when he needed an extra vote in Congress; and served as a backing choir during the days of Trump since the song “Trump is a White Supremacist” is pretty well known around these parts already.

But I won’t spend this post tearing apart Biden’s version of reality — especially since his rehash of the bill does not equate to a coherent vision of what he will do for people of African descent. We have other material to cover.

This is the right time to address “You ain’t Black”. See you in the next post …

song currently stuck in my head: “voodoo ray” – a guy called gerald

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