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Opinion: Joe Biden still defends damage he's done to Black community

Linda Lee Tarver

If you’ve seen the videos circulating of Joe Biden on the Senate floor in 1993 arguing for the crime bill he shepherded, you may have been caught off guard by the passion and fierce conviction in his voice — something we rarely see from him today. Ironically, and tragically, he was showing his true colors then, which he maintains to this day.

For Black mothers and community leaders like me, the words he shouted are not a distant memory. When he talked about the “tens of thousands of them, born out of wedlock, without parents, without supervision, without any structure, without any conscience developing” whom he demanded “must be cordoned off from the rest of society” because “a portion of them will become the predators 15 years from now," he was referring to our children, our students and our neighbors who are every bit as deserving of human dignity and a second chance in life where appropriate as any other American. 

The crime bill was incredibly harmful to minority communities, whether Biden cares about his culpability or not, Tarver writes.

Many of the people locked up under the sentencing laws that Biden helped create are just now — two decades later — getting their first taste of freedom thanks to President Donald Trump’s signing of the First Step Act. Instead of condemning thousands of Black fathers to excessive prison terms away from their families, the First Step Act has given thousands of inmates a second chance to improve their circumstances and become productive members of society. 

Even former President Bill Clinton has since admitted that the crime bill he signed was a mistake, yet Biden continues to defend the legislation and even laughed about the “mess” it created in a 2019 interview with PBS. But hey, if you don’t support him, “you ain’t Black.” 

When the crime bill was first being debated in Congress during the crime wave of the 1980s and early 1990s, it may have been honest fear and ignorance of the consequences that led to these policies.

But now that we have several decades of data and statistics, we can clearly see the damage those policies inflicted on lower-income and minority communities. And they have been incredibly harmful to these communities, whether Biden cares about his culpability or not.

Biden’s recent assertion that the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was less impactful than the death of George Floyd are indicative of a very common trend among the political establishment and media elites.

Rather than drawing parallels to that unique historical moment and using his political prominence to champion reforms that would actually help minority Americans today, Biden sat silently in his basement as Senate Democrats blocked a Republican bill last week seeking to reform policing practices across the country.

At a time when bold and forward-looking leadership is needed to produce positive criminal justice reform for the American people, the former vice president should have helped build consensus behind a bipartisan proposal, but instead he has opted to defend the failed policies of the past — including the Draconian crime bill he championed. 

Linda Lee Tarver tips her hat during the Women for Trump Style Show.

Trump, meanwhile, has already achieved significant reforms to policing and sentencing practices. Building on those successes, the president announced that his administration would support a “Second Step Act” to ease employment barriers for formerly incarcerated people.

Unfortunately, Congress has thus far declined to take action on this issue, but Americans can be confident that their president doesn’t give up easily in the face of adversity. 

I was always told that if someone shows you their true colors, you should believe them. Biden knows full well the damage he has done to the Black community, and stands by his record.

Those are his true colors. 

Linda Lee Tarver is president of Tarver Consulting and former Michigan Civil Rights commissioner. She is a national advisory board member of Black Voices for Trump.