Joe Biden points to his temple while giving a speech.

Joe Biden Calls Donald Trump Our First Racist President & We Have Some Notes

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During a virtual town hall event Wednesday, Joe Biden made the odd claim that Donal Trump is the first overt racist to be elected president.

“What President Trump has done in his spreading of racism … the way he deals with people based on the color of their skin, their national origin, where they’re from, is absolutely sickening,” Biden said in response to a question about Trump’s insistence on calling COVID-19 by racist, anti-Asian names.

“No sitting president has ever done this,” he continued. “Never, never, never. No Republican president has done this. No Democratic president. We’ve had racists, and they’ve existed and they’ve tried to get elected president. He’s the first one that has.”

Sigh. Obviously, I know what Biden was getting at here and he’s not wrong that Trump wields his racism differently than any other president. But just because Woodrow Wilson didn’t have Twitter doesn’t mean he wasn’t a racist POS.

Wilson was virulently racist and used his presidency to deepen segregation.

Andrew Jackson oversaw genocide against Native Americans and, like Trump, he did it for a mix of white supremacy and personal financial profit.

Richard Nixon believed in a “hierarchy of races” and his policies all throughout his presidency clearly reflected that.

Ditto for Ronald Reagan.

Andrew Johnson is generally regarded as America’s most racist president. He despised Black people (as well as white Union soldiers) and did everything he could to keep them from gaining the rights due to them following the Civil War. And like Trump, he used his public speeches to hurl personal insults at anyone he viewed as an opponent.

Also, ten of our first twelve presidents owned slaves.

That’s not even close to all of the relevant examples of presidential racism but let’s just leave it there.

It’s not that Trump isn’t terrible and shockingly open with his racism–he is. But it’s not something we’ve never seen before. It’s the very foundation of our country. A lot of white people have been expressing shock lately at the racism on display in the White House, in the streets, or on the internet, but none of that is new, they just weren’t paying attention to the racist realities all around them, both past and present.

Biden’s comments here are pretty standard for him–like when he suggested police “shoot [unarmed people] in the leg instead of in the heart” as a genuine form of police reform. While well-meaning, comments like these only highlight how woefully out of touch he is with real progressive causes.

Still, and I hope this would go without saying, he’s a million times more tuned-in, less racist, and just generally better than the guy we’ve got now.

(via The Hill, image: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.