I recently had a friend of mine tell me, in response to my not voting for Biden, that as white people we need to recognize what POC stand to lose if Trump is re-elected. I completely agree—Trump hasn’t been shy about his vile racism, and his presidential term has been characterized by acrimonious rulings intended to further oppress black people and other POC. But I don’t think a Democrat will necessarily solve the systematic issues that contribute to the subjugation of black and brown communities. Especially not when Democrats’ history has consisted of complicity and even the perpetuation of racial inequity, a history to which Joe Biden himself has contributed.
As far as I know, Biden hasn’t said he’d adopt any policies that would amount to any substantial and necessary change. During his time as Vice President, the Obama administration conducted its own mass deportations, and even now, with all the abuses Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has inflicted on immigrant communities, Biden hasn’t said he would get rid of the rapacious institution. He also hasn’t presented policies that would deprivatize prisons or work to establish alternatives like rehabilitation centers, comprehensive mental health institutions, increased school funding, or public drug treatment centers. Deprivatizing prisons would help to eradicate the financial incentives of imprisoning people, while seeking alternative measures would help ensure people are not wrongfully imprisoned. He also does not have a plan to defund the police, which, as current events have shown, targets and terrorizes low-income communities—just as it was meant to do. In fact, Biden defends his disastrous ’94 crime bill, showing that he still doesn’t understand how his contributions to mass incarceration have caused long-term suffering for black and brown people. He hasn’t said he’d demilitarize the country, even though the insane military budget could be much better used elsewhere, rather than in support of pointless wars. Oh, and he’s a rapist notorious for his insensitive interrogation of Anita Hill, a black woman who was sexually assaulted by now Supreme Court judge Clarence Thomas. In essence, while Biden says he’s not racist, his actions and lack of support for reparative legislation say otherwise.
But, of course, Biden isn’t the only Democrat whose words don’t align with his past actions. Amy Klobuchar, who is now advocating for murderer Derek Chauvin to face justice, actually had the authority to incriminate him for his past cannibalistic offenses—and didn’t. Bill Clinton, during his run for presidency, attended the execution of mentally ill, wrongfully imprisoned Ricky Ray Rector to proudly show how “tough on crime” he was. As president, he went on to pass the ‘94 crime bill, which fueled mass incarceration in this country and disparaged black communities. Clinton has since apologized for his role in the prison industrial complex, as has his ardent supporter Hillary, who popularized the phrase “super predator” to dehumanize black children. Unfortunately, their ostensible contrition only comes amidst public outcry against their past transgressions and serves to protect Hillary’s political ambitions. Kamala Harris, a self-proclaimed “progressive prosecutor,” was imperative to California’s mission to imprison black and brown people for nonviolent crimes and wrongful convictions. A Democrat (or any politician) being black or brown doesn’t exonerate their past indiscretions, nor promise they’ll do what’s best for the communities they claim to protect. Democrats are now implementing progressive rhetoric and ostentatiously becoming proponents of an anti-racist agenda simply because current events have made it politcally apt. This isn’t enough.
Democrats’ long history of disenfranchising black activist groups goes back to the McCarthyist era, when an anti-communist agenda destroyed the workers’ movement that black civil rights leaders at the time were utilizing in their quest for true racial equality. Economic reform was integral to this early black rights movement, but it threatened the white capitalist status quo that so many government officials—Democrats and Republicans alike—enjoy. As a result, liberal Democrats worked with their Republican counterparts to disenfranchise this workers’ movement—and allow for racial progress so long as it wouldn’t fully disturb their white, bourgeois lifestyles. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Democrats are protecting their capital interests by refusing to pass legislation that would help black and brown people. Democrats omitted almost any type of rent relief or rent moratorium in the HEROES Act, which isn’t surprising considering Nancy Pelosi has heavily invested in real-estate industries. Despite being in a position to implement substantial, beneficial policies, prominent Democrats choose to prioritize their capitalist ventures at the expense of black and brown lives.
Plus, Democratic mayors and city officials all over the country are implementing curfews to stifle the protests happening around the country, as a way to protect property from looters (who usually aren’t part of the protests) and silence voices demanding justice. These new curfews (which would’ve been extremely useful in ensuring people quarantined instead of protesting stay-at-home orders) are just ways to make protesting illegal, despite it being a constitutional right. If these mayors truly cared about keeping the peace, they’d disarm the police at these protests. Instead, they’re doing everything they can to arrest people who are looting a Target that refused to sell milk to tear-gassed protesters, rather than police officers who terrorize and murder black people.
Yet, even though Democrats have a shameful track record of aiding black and brown people, they’re still expectant of the black vote. Biden perfectly summarized this attitude with his “you ain’t black” comment on Charlamagne’s radio show, The Breakfast Club. Biden is essentially saying that Democrats are the best option for the black community, that they will somehow rescue black people from Trump’s tyranny, and that if black people don’t vote blue, they’re traitorous to their race. Democrats’ entitled attitude has arguably emboldened them to pass injurious legislation under the guise of racial progress, making their racism much more insidious than the overt racism of their Republican colleagues. It’s also empowered them today to make antagonistic, pro-police claims against the George Floyd protesters.
So long as both parties’ political power comes at the expense of racial subjugation, neither party can feign moral superiority. It’s true that Nixon’s Republican administration started the War on Drugs, and Reagan’s strengthened it. However, rather than combat this racist initiative with de-escalating legislation, Democrats appropriated the rhetoric and exacerbated the situation to regain political power. Democrats are just as guilty as Republicans in worsening the systemic racism in this country. If you’re going to vote for Biden, that’s fine; even though he has his own racist history to reckon with, I understand people will vote for him as a way to reduce the harm Trump has enacted on this country. But saying “vote blue no matter who” ignores the racist history of the Democratic party and vilifies people who choose to enact change in alternative ways. Especially now, we have to be diligent about constructing a new system that abolishes the police and demilitarizes our society. We need a system that redistributes wealth and resources to low-income neighborhoods while prioritizing the funding of schools, hospitals, and other beneficial institutions. If the Democratic party wants to help us achieve this, that’s great, but they have a lot to prove.
By Modesty Sanchez