Joe Biden’s Support From Black Voters Is a Grandfather Clause
For many Black voters, the former Vice President Joe Biden is their top pick in the 2020 presidential race to go up against white racism. And Biden’s decisive lead among Black voters resembles a grandfather clause.
After the Civil War, Southern states instituted a grandfather clause to enfranchise poor whites and justify Black disenfranchisement. The grandfather clause exempted illiterate whites from voting restrictions, like literacy tests, primarily intended to block Black voters.
Biden’s grandfather clause also exempts him from the literacy tests that should cancel his candidacy immediately. Biden is inarticulate and illiterate about basic questions on race and white racism, and yet he retains support.
Former President Barack Obama is Biden’s political predecessor. And from Obama, Biden enjoys a level of support from Black voters he never had.
Biden’s political purpose hasn’t changed since 2008; the Obama campaign selected Biden, in part, to insulate Obama from white racism. And that’s where Black voters inherited Biden as a defensive response to white racism, and that’s why Biden’s support among Black voters remains a defensive response to white racism.
In the BWR/Essence Power of the Sister survey, from August 2019, Black women listed racism as the top threat to America’s democracy. And among the candidates, Black women in that survey listed and ranked, Biden was their overall top choice.
Individual naysayers can say what they want, but the facts are plain and plentiful: Biden has more support among Black voters than Senator Cory Booker and the former presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris had combined. The original grandfather clause harmed Black voters, and Biden’s grandfather clause harms Black candidates.
But Black people are not solutions for white problems and thinking otherwise has been a long-standing problem. White racism is on the ballot again in 2020, and although white racism causes Black struggle, white racism is a white problem.
The author Richard Wright said, “There isn’t any Negro problem; there’s only a white problem,” and Toni Morrison emphasized that whites “should start thinking about what they can do” about racism, and the activist-scholar Steve Martinot says, “racism is ultimately a relation between white people.” In Biden, Black voters utilize a grandfather clause to designate a candidate to deal with the white problem that whites need to handle themselves — but not by themselves.
Unless whiteness becomes unconstitutional, the grandfather clause that Black voters use to boost Biden will remain a constitutive force in presidential politics. Black voters who choose Biden as a defense against white racism are not the issue; the offense of white racism remains the issue.