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‘The Pain Is Too Intense’: Joe Biden Challenges White Americans

  • May 31, 2020

But his spare words amounted to a bet that other white Americans now share the equally concise sentiment he expressed earlier Friday on Twitter: “Enough.”

He is wagering that the necessity for on-the-other-hand politics, the sort he and his party have long practiced to appeal to the center, has been obviated by a pandemic that is disproportionately sickening and killing people of color; by the now-common stories of people like Christian Cooper, a black man threatened by a white woman while birding in Central Park; and by the names of the deceased Mr. Biden read off at the start of his speech, whose true fate is known only because of cellphone cameras that do not lie.

“I think the reaction of a lot of white people is now just, ‘Damn man, this is bad,’” James Carville, the Democratic strategist, said, referring to shifting sensibilities about the treatment of minorities. “The technology has just brought this home to people, that this is really what is happening.”

The forcefulness of Mr. Biden’s remarks was a pleasant surprise to some black Democrats, who have witnessed him commit a string of gaffes related to race, and were skeptical that a 77-year-old white man could channel African-American anguish.

“Joe Biden went there,” said Bakari Sellers, a Democratic activist who has written about growing up black in the rural South. “Even Barack Obama hedged on issues of race and was not always clear in his language. But to be completely fair, I’m not sure Barack Obama could have given that speech.”

Former Senator Carol Moseley Braun, the nation’s first black female senator, added, “I just need voters to see the Joe Biden I know, who is very clear on race and racism.”

But Mr. Biden has not always made that easy, and Ms. Moseley Braun said his campaign must do more to communicate with voters on this subject, especially after Mr. Biden’s remark last week suggesting that African-Americans torn between himself and Mr. Trump “ain’t black.” The immediate backlash prompted him to apologize hours later.

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