Bankole: Biden must offer policies, not pander to blacks
Whose idea was it for Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, to name his plan for black America “Lift Every Voice"?
The name is taken directly from the sacred black national anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing," which was first written as a poem at the turn of the century by the great anthologist and civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson.
The poem documents the painful black experience from slavery to modernity, and its title shouldn’t be used as a rebranding mechanism by any politician. It’s even more insulting that it would be used by Biden, who has amassed a questionable record in the black community over his decades-long career, including his support as one of the principal authors of the 1994 crime bill, which increased mass incarceration of blacks.
The fact that Biden chose the title of an anthem that was written during a period when this nation openly and defiantly refused to affirm the humanity of blacks shows the extent to which Biden is willing to pander to the African American community in a crucial election.
Instead of exploiting black culture, Biden should simply explain his plans to address education, health care, the economy, environmental justice, criminal justice and voting rights for blacks, and be ready for the appropriate scrutiny those key policy issues will receive.
“Without the black vote, Joe Biden can’t win," says longtime Benton Harbor civil rights activist Rev. Edward Pinkney. "This is a desperate move to use the name of our national anthem to describe a plan he is proposing for the black community. This is Joe Biden playing his own race card. He’s telling us he has something for us black folk.”
Pinkney says black voters should not roll over for Biden.
“We need to hold him accountable. We need to push him harder to show us how he is going to address our issues, not just name it after the black anthem. I want the promises he is making to us in writing and notarized, so it would be a sworn statement.”
Outspoken African American leaders like Pinkney have a right to be skeptical of the likes of Biden. Pinkney has dealt with both liberal and conservative politicians over the years who make a play for the black vote. What upsets Pinkney most is when white liberal politicians use blacks to advance their political interests.
Pinkney first saw this in Benton Harbor, when Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — who is often mentioned as a possible running mate for Biden — sought to shut down the only high school in that small black city just months after her election.
“Whitmer made similar promises that Biden is now telling us," says Pinkney. "She told us she would stand with our community. But after she got elected, she came down to Benton Harbor like a gangbuster, and told us at a town hall that she has no option but to close our only high school.”
“That is why we have to make sure that Biden speaks directly to a black agenda, not just say things to get elected. We have to make him explain clearly where he stands on the issues about the future of our children and our communities. We have to stop being afraid of speaking the truth. We saw what Whitmer did to us, and we shouldn’t let Biden just pull us in.”
Catch “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” which broadcasts at 11 a.m. weekdays on 910AM.