Joe Biden inauguration: Barack Obama greets people
Mr Biden was sworn in as US President just five days ago but has already introduced vast changes. Within hours, he signed a series of executive actions that reversed course on immigration, climate change, racial equality and the handling of the coronavirus pandemic. By the end of his first day, he oversaw 15 executive actions and two directives as he sets out to dismantle former President Donald Trump‘s legacy.
Much expectation is on Mr Biden to deliver on his promises, none more so than to African Americans.
He has already pledged to reintroduce a commission to examine reparations for the descendants of slaves who came to the US in the 17th century.
The President has also supported the Black Lives Matter movement, having been photographed taking a knee.
Yet, his career has been marred with slithers of “offensive comments” towards black Americans as activist Benjamin Dixon put it, and a constant backtracking on things previously said.
Joe Biden: The President apologised for his remarks about Barack Obama in 2007
White House: Biden has been President for five days but has reversed many of Trump’s policies
On the campaign trail in May 2020, during an interview with the radio show ‘The Breakfast Club’, Mr Biden ended the interview with the line: “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”
He later said he regretted the “cavalier” comment.
It wasn’t the first time the politician had to apologise for an inflammatory statement related to race.
In 2007, during an interview with the New York Observer, Mr Biden appeared to diminish then Presidential frontrunner Barack Obama‘s political ability.
Barack Obama: Biden and Obama ran against each other in the 2008 Democratic nomination
Mr Biden himself was in the Democratic nomination race for the 2008 election, alongside Hilary Clinton and John Edwards, among others.
The Observer quotes Mr Biden as saying: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.
“I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”
He continued to express doubt whether voters were going to elect “a one-term, a guy who has served for four years in the Senate”.
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He added: “I don’t recall hearing a word from Barack about a plan or a tactic.”
Mr Obama went on to win office twice, picking Mr Biden as his 2008 running mate.
He apologised shortly after for his comments on Mr Obama, in a statement saying: “I deeply regret any offence my remark in the New York Observer might have caused anyone.
“That was not my intent and I expressed that to Senator Obama.”
Kamala Harris: She will be the US’ first woman, and first black and Asian American to hold the post
More than a decade later when Mr Biden once again ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, his historical comments about black Americans were brought to light by separate candidate and now Vice President Kamala Harris.
It came during a televised Democratic debate in 2019, when Ms Harris called Mr Biden out about his working relationship with two segregationist lawmakers as “hurtful”.
He had weeks before cited his ability to get things done even with segregationist Senators as examples of the type of “civility” in Congress that had since disappeared.
Ms Harris also quizzed Mr Biden on his opposing busing, which looked to diversify the racial makeup of schools in the latter half of the 20th century.
Politics: Many have pitted Harris as the Democrat’s 2024 Presidential nominee
She said: “There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day, and that little girl was me.
“I will tell you that on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among Democrats.
“We have to take it seriously. We have to act swiftly.”
Mr Biden called the attack a “mischaracterisation of my position across the board,” and launched into a fiery defence of his record on race.
He said: “I did not praise racists.”
The pair have since joined forces, with Ms Harris the US’ first woman, and first black and Asian American to hold the post.
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