Finley: Biden seeks to limit black choices

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Having set himself up as the arbiter of blackness to limit the political options of African Americans, Joe Biden next wants to limit their choices for educating their children.

Biden was knocked down a notch when he told a blog host that if black voters “have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” 

Even House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-South Carolina, whose support is credited with resuscitating Biden’s flat-lining primary campaign, says he cringed at the comment.

But as an African-American representative, what Clyburn should have found more cringeworthy was Biden's promise last week that if he’s elected president, "charter schools ... are gone."

That's a curious threat from a candidate whose election hopes depend greatly on turning out large numbers of black voters.

A promise to end charter schools is a curious threat from Biden, whose election hopes depend on turning out a large number of black voters, Finley writes.

The way Democrats such as Biden talk about charter schools, you'd think they were bastions of white privilege, and that shutting them down would equalize education. 

Not even close. Nationwide, minority students make up two thirds of charter school enrollment; blacks account for 26% of the total.

In predominately black Detroit, just over half of all students attend charters.

There are a lot of reasons parents, including African-American parents, make the charter school choice. For some it’s academic performance, although the obsession with comparing test scores to measure school quality misses much of the point.

Many parents find charters to be safer, more nurturing environments for their kids, and more respectful to both them and their children. Black students are more likely to have an African-American teacher if they’re enrolled in charters.

I’m in no better position than Biden to judge the validity of their choice. If the parents are satisfied, that’s all that should matter. 

Biden’s contention that charters siphon money from traditional public schools and are thus responsible for their poor performance is also bunk.

Had traditional public schools in places like Detroit been working as they should, charters would never have had a chance.

All parents want the same thing — a decent future for their children. African-American parents should have the same right as others to decide which schools can deliver on that promise.

Charters once had a measure of bipartisan support. Biden’s old boss, President Barack Obama, came into office as a strong advocate for school choice. Biden, when he was standing beside Obama, was pro-choice, too.

But the rising influence of education unions within the Democratic Party presented candidates with an ultimatum: If you support charters, you ain’t a Democrat.

That may help explain why black voters, while still nearly unanimous in their backing of the Democratic Party, are showing waning enthusiasm for its nominees. Had Hillary Clinton excited black voters, she’d be president.

Biden seems to have learned nothing from Clinton’s debacle. 

It’s bad enough that this old white guy presumes to tell African Americans who’s black and who’s not.

But coming into a city like Detroit and telling half the parents if he wins the White House he'll shut down the schools they’ve chosen for their children doesn't seem like a way to get black voters rushing to the polls.

Twitter: @NolanFinleyDN

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Watch Finley on DPTV’s “One Detroit” at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays.