Last Tuesday, in the run-up to the presidential election, former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign team unveiled a plan to address Latinos’ inequities and obstacles in the United States.
The new campaign agenda comes perhaps a little late, but with enough sensitivity to highlight the impact of the new coronavirus on the Hispanic community, and the consequences of four years of Donald Trump’s administration.
Trying to distance itself from the ghost of deportations during the administration of President Barack Obama, the Biden campaign announced its intentions to expand access to quality, affordable health care, and increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
He also promised to invest in education from birth through 12th grade, expanding “community schools,” and he guaranteed “all kids have a chance to graduate with an industry credential, ready to compete in the 21st-century workforce.
Finally, his campaign promised a path to citizenship for the undocumented community, and cooperative work with Central America “to address the root causes of migration.
Although these promises seem like a gift fallen from the sky in the midst of the worst of the Trump administration, the former vice president’s comments during an interview hosted by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the National Association of Black Journalists that was released in full on Thursday, seem to have dampened the momentum of his new plan.
“Unlike the African American community, with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community with incredibly diverse attitudes about different things,” Biden said. “You go to Florida, you find a very different attitude about immigration than you do in Arizona. So it’s a very diverse community.
His remarks on diversity were a response to a question from NPR reporter Lulu Garcia-Navarro, who asked whether Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, would engage with Cuba and the differing immigration concerns between Cuban and Venezuelan Americans, Politico explained.
At such a critical time for the community of color in the United States, and amid an identity crisis that challenges both white and white Latino racism, the presidential candidate’s comments indicate that, once again, Hispanics are being seen only as a political asset.
Biden’s campaign said the remark was meant to describe the diversity of political opinions among Latin Americans and not judge cultural diversity.
“If you look at the full video and transcript, it’s clear that Vice President Biden was referring to diversity of attitudes among Latinos from different Latin American countries,” Symone Sanders, a senior Biden campaign adviser, said in a statement. “The video that is circulating is conveniently cut to make this about racial diversity, but that’s not the case.”
But the comment was twofold.
Katrina Pierson, a Trump campaign adviser, said in a statement that the former vice president “tells a group of Black reporters that ‘you all know’ that Black people think alike. There’s a reason Joe Biden can’t count on the support of Black voters and it’s because of his plantation owner mentality.”
“Joe Biden would rather we all just shut up, get in line, and know our place,” she said.
Although the criticism came from the trenches of Trumpism — where the president also took the opportunity to add fuel to the fire of Biden’s ill-timed comments — the focus is not far from the wound.