Black folk have a real dilemma building up over the 2020 elections like thunderclouds over the Midwestern plains.
There is no question that we need to resist the re-election of Donald Trump with every fiber of our beings. Allowing this most horrible of humans another four years to try to destroy every hard-fought gain won over the past 70 years will pose an extremely dangerous threat to lives and our liberty. Without question, Trump most go.
The question then becomes, “After Trump, then what?”
Some people suggest that we replace Trump with Joe Biden. After all, they argue, he was Obama’s vice president. But the problem with that reasoning is that Joe Biden is Joe Biden, not Barack Obama. Biden created so many problems for the African American community during his political career that should disqualify him from serious consideration by Black voters.
During the 1970s, Biden was chums with segregationists, opposed busing to integrate schools and voted to bar the use of federal funding for abortions. In the 1990s, his treatment of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings was abhorrent, and he drafted the 1994 crime bill that has resulted in the United States having the highest incarceration rate in the world.
Biden wants us to believe that his days of racially toxic behavior are behind him, but the words that come out of his mouth are evidence that he is still a danger to African Americans.
During one of the presidential debates in September, Biden claimed one reason for the achievement gap between white and Black students is the so called “word gap” between them. This notion of a word gap is a discredited theory based on a flawed 1995 study claiming that poor children hear 30 million fewer words than their middle‐class counterparts during the early years of life. He suggested that the achievement gap can be fixed if Black parents “make sure the record player is on at night” so their “kids hear words.”
The 30-million-word gap theory rose to prominence during the 1980s due to inappropriate testing and research. It also appears that research was underpinned with implicit racism. This theory was clearly debunked by 2018 using more efficient testing and research and a contextual approach to the issue. As early as 1972, experts were exposing flaws in the word gap theory. In a June 1972 Atlantic article titled “Academic Ignorance and Black Intelligence,” linguist William Labov wrote: “Our work in the speech community makes it painfully obvious that in many ways working-class speakers are more effective narrators, reasoners, and debaters than many middle-class speakers…”
Labov went on to say about the word gap:
“Unfortunately, these notions are based upon the work of educational psychologists who know very little about language and even less about black children. The concept of verbal deprivation has no basis in social reality; in fact, black children in the urban ghettos receive a great deal of verbal stimulation, hear more well-formed sentences than middle-class children, and participate fully in a highly verbal culture; they have the same basic vocabulary, possess the same capacity for conceptual learning, and use the same logic as anyone else who learns to speak and understand English.”
Forty-seven years after Lebov’s Atlantic article, Biden still does not have a clue.
When questioned about these outdated beliefs during a New York Times editorial board interview in December, Biden attempted to support his position by claiming that Black parents are reluctant to participate in the education of their children because of their embarrassment over the lack of their own education and their inability to speak well.
Think about this craziness when you consider placing Joe Biden in the White House.
In 2012, the Survey Research Institute at the University of Houston conducted interviews of 1,200 individuals and concluded that African Americans are the most likely demographic to value postsecondary education.
Apparently, it did not occur to Biden that racism and disparities in resources have a hand in the achievement gap. But he wants a job where he will decide how the nation’s resources will be used to overcome the effects of racism. Would there be a danger of our tax dollars would be spent to distribute voice recordings because of a debunked and racist theory? We need a president who has a better understanding, not only of the causes of racially motivated educational disparities, but all the disparities in this country caused by bigotry and ignorance.
The problem we as Black folk are facing with the 2020 election is to figure out who we want to replace Donald Trump. Trump is a cancer on democracy. But can’t we do better than Joe Biden?
Oscar H. Blayton is a former Marine Corps combat pilot and human rights activist who practices law in Virginia.