Opinion: Biden says if you’re black and don’t vote for him, you’re not black. He’s right


When the popular black radio host Charlamagne tha God told Joe Biden at the end of a spirited but friendly interview that he needed to come back on his show because “We got more questions,” Biden shot back:

“You got more questions. If you have a problem figuring out if you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”

Good one, Joe.

As ridiculous as it was to say that to a black radio and TV personality who, among other things, wrote a book he calls a “self-help guide for the hood,” here’s the thing: Biden was right. He just didn’t have the right to say it.


As a political and social liberal — who is also black — I was dismayed that anyone, black or white, voted for Donald Trump in 2016. But I was particularly appalled when I saw anyone black campaign for him. The only person I gave a pass to was Omarosa Manigault Newman — because she, at least, truly had a business reason to vote for the guy who had made her famous on “The Apprentice” and could possibly get something out of his becoming president. And she did — she landed some vague White House job that she eventually quit before writing an unflattering memoir of her brief stint there.

I would be the last black person to suggest that black Americans are a monolithic group who all believe the same things. When it comes to electing the president of the United States, all Americans should care about voting rights, social programs, truthfulness and candor from our leaders, the environment, the meting out of justice, diversity in government offices, and the makeup of the Supreme Court. (As resilient as she is, Ruth Bader Ginsburg cannot live forever.) But when voting rights are subverted, the safety net is attacked, environmental regulations abandoned and income inequality widened, the repercussions hit black people hardest.

Charlamagne was right to remind Biden on his show, “The Breakfast Club,” that Democrats take black voters for granted. That’s true. The Democratic Party has a history of assuming: Who else will black people vote for? And the Republican Party often acts as if it lost black folks from the get-go.

When Trump declared in 2016 at a political rally that black voters should choose him, asking them what did they have to lose, what had the Democratic Party done for them? I marveled, “Nice try.” But at the same time, it was preposterous. The New York Times documented a history of racial bias decades ago at rental properties owned by Trump and his father.

Biden and the Democratic Party are a better choice than Trump and the Republican Party. It’s as simple and sometimes depressing as that. And not voting at all is dangerous. It only ups the possibility that Trump wins. Republicans vote, they don’t stay home. Even in a quarantine.

Race and politics are so odd. President Clinton could possibly have gotten away with saying what Biden said because he was jokingly, affectionately, referred to as the first black president. Clinton seemed to genuinely bond with black folks — a result, I think, of his Southern roots and his effortless ability to bond with everyone, black, white, man, woman, child.


And President Obama, precisely because he is black, could never have gotten away with saying what Biden said because suddenly he would look like a flaming militant.

Biden’s willingness to speak outside the boundaries of political correctness is refreshing. When he yelled at a Detroit auto plant worker (and this was when he was still campaigning for the Michigan primary and needed votes) and refused to placate him on gun rights — “I’m not taking your gun away at all. You need 100 rounds?”— I thought, “Fantastic.” Finally, a candidate stands up to the gun-obsessed.

But Biden went too far this time. And, within hours, he had apologized, saying he should not have been so cavalier. Charlamagne didn’t miss a beat when Biden said it. “It don’t have nothing to do with Trump. It has to do with the fact I want something for my community,” he told Biden.

Biden should go back on his show and respond to that.