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Joe Biden’s Great American Novel

20 May

On Saturday, Joe Biden kicked off his third presidential campaign. Biden said he chose Philadelphia for his campaign launch and headquarters because “this was the birthplace of our democracy”:

So why do we begin this journey in this place – Philadelphia? Because this was the birthplace of our democracy. It was here that two of the most important documents in the world’s history were written.

In 1776, the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” Those words formed the American creed. Equality. Equity. Fairness. America didn’t live up to that promise for most of its people, for people of color, for women.

It is self-evident blacks were not included in the nation’s founding documents. The Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner. Biden said, “Just look at the facts, not the alternative facts.” Fact is, African Americans were stripped of their humanity and deemed the property of “We the people.” Chattel slavery was not a broken promise. It was foundational to the nation’s economy and political representation.

In 1787, slaveholders and their sympathizers were holed up in Independence Hall fixing the Constitution to preserve African Americans as their property. Slavery is enshrined in the third clause of Article IV, Section 2:

No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.

At the same time, others were fighting to end slavery.

Pennsylvania Abolition Society

Biden’s campaign kickoff was held on the anniversary of Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 Supreme Court decision that upheld the constitutionality of segregated public accommodations if they were “separate but equal.”

Plessy v. Ferguson

White and Colored Water Fountain

The Jim Crow regime was not dismantled until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Biden’s assertion about “One America” begs the question: When have we ever been “One America?”

Joe Biden - One America

Fact is, Biden’s revisionist history is not novel. Brushing aside slavery, America’s original sin, is the “American creed.” As the nation commemorates 400 years of African American history, we must continue to fight to ensure our story is told and preserved in public memory. Does that make us angry? Novelist and cultural critic James Baldwin observed:

To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious, is to be in a rage almost all the time.

Stay woke.