Joe Biden’s conflictive and problematic history with African Americans


As a younger voter in the 1990s, I was initially interested in Joe Biden. He was charismatic, spoke well, and seemed quite reasonable.

Of course, at this time, I didn’t know about his controversial role in the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas case in 1991. While I understood the basics, I had not delved into the nuances of the case and certainly not the role of Biden.

Biden’s history with African Americans runs quite deep and even precedes the Hill/Thomas case. Biden was also against busing in the 1970s. It is likely that many African Americans will support him because they believe he can win but he’s certainly not the best candidate for the interests of the majority of black people.

Danger of a Single Story

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“The Danger of A Single Story”

In this class, while this course’s goal is to center African American History as central and part of the larger story of U.S. history, it also attempts to complicate and interrogate the “single story” about African Americans and the US, that is the single story of stereotypes of black criminality and laziness, etc.

That single story is primarily part of what might be called “American exceptionalism.” Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor writes about some of this on page 28, under the heading of “American Exceptionalism.”  Part of that idea is that the US is uniquely special.  More significantly, according this idea,  anyone can thrive in the U.S. through hard work. In that story,  African Americans have not thrived because they do not work hard and because of their negative culture.

Now, this post is also inspired by Kate Read’s blog Selvam Allotey’s comment in response to it. Kate’s blog is titled, “UBUNTU: More Than a Show About Africa.” Now, please read it, because it reflects good understanding of ideas as presented in this course and nicely applies these to UBUNTU, as event sponsored by the African Students Union.

Selvam also connects this event to discussions in class. He writes:

Similar to how the cultural aspects of the Harlem Renaissance was for Black people after WWI, culture is used as a medium of educating others about African culture through an Afrocentric lens. In many instances, the African culture and way of living is depicted from a negative Eurocentric standpoint for capital gains. African countries have always had rich and beautiful cultures, but the issue was letting others see it. The beautiful streets of Accra and Lagos in Ghana and Nigeria respectively were never shown, but hungry children always are. The genocide of Rwanda is splashed everywhere but no one knows how things are now. In the United States, some White people not only try to rewrite the histories and control the portrayal of Black people inland, but they do this to all people in the diaspora. I’m happy for your new discoveries, and Ubuntu mainly highlighted 2 out of 54 countries from the African continent, so theres so much more to see.

Systematic Racism Explained

Systematic Racism Explained

This morning we discussed the rise of conservativism in American politics and liberal and conservative law and order politics. Part of that discussion is connected to previous lectures on the New Deal and modern liberalism, as reflected in the New Deal coalition and the policies that helped white America during the New Deal era and much of post-War II America.

Here’s a short video that speaks to these transformation and how it related to politics and race in the present:

Kevin Kruse Takes to Twitter to School Dinesh D’Souza in American History

“Kevin Kruse Takes to Twitter to School Dinesh D’Souza in American History” by Jeet Heer

Dinesh D’Souza gets a history lesson on Twitter. D’Souza has made a specialty of highlighting the undeniable racism of the 1960s Democratic Party as a way to tar the current party. His arguments ignore the way the two political parties switch positions on Civil Rights in the 1960s, with the Democrats embracing Civil Rights and Republicans, under the guidance of national leaders like Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon, exploiting racist backlash. On Monday, D’Souza put up a challenge to his critics:

The Experience That Taught Me Blackface & Klan Hoods Are Forms of Racial Terror

By Tanisha Ford

“For the past year or so, I’ve been tinkering with a short essay on my earliest encounters with the Ku Klux Klan and the ways in which Klan violence is intimately linked to my childhood and my earliest understandings of myself as black x girl. You see, I grew up just a 2-hour car ride from southern Indiana Klan country.

I didn’t have any plans to publish this essay. . . . it was more of a writing exercise, #wannaBauthor and all.

But the photograph of Virginia governor Ralph Northam dressed in blackface (he’s now claiming it’s not him) alongside a person wearing a Klan hood + robe pierced my spirit. The image symbolizes a long history of racial terror in the United States. So much so that I cannot ever see impersonating the Klan or dressing in blackface as  simply youthful self-expression. It’s racist. full stop.”

3 Ways to Improve Education about Slavery in the U.S.

3 Ways to Improve Education about Slavery in the U.S.

When it comes to teaching students about slavery in the United States, teachers often stumble through the topic. In the worst cases, they use poorly conceived lessons that end up inflaming students, parents and communities about a subject that is already difficult to deal with because of the inhumanity involved.

For instance, in 2018 a Bronx middle school teacher “shocked and traumatized” her social studies class when she had black students lie on the floor, then “stepped on their backs to show them what slavery felt like.”

In 2012 in Georgia, a third-grade teacher resigned after an investigation found the teacher and three others had assigned math homework with word problems about slavery, such as, “If Frederick got two beatings each day, how many beatings did he get in one week?”

Slavery, the Enslaved, and the Presidency

Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson and the Ways We Tall About Our Past

By Annette Gordon Reed

“Sally Hemings has been described as “an enigma,” the enslaved woman who first came to public notice at the turn of the 19th century when James Callender, an enemy of the newly elected President Thomas Jefferson, wrote with racist virulence of “SALLY,” who lived at Monticello and had borne children by Jefferson. Hemings came back into the news earlier this year, after the Thomas Jefferson Foundation announced plans to restore a space where Hemings likely resided, for a time, at Monticello. A number of news reports as well as comments on social media discussing the plans drew the ire of many readers because they referred to Hemings as Jefferson’s “mistress” and used the word “relationship” to describe the connection between the pair, as if those words inevitably denote positive things. They do not, of course — especially when the word “mistress” is modified by the crucial word ‘enslaved.'”

“George Washington, Slave Catcher”

By Erica Armstrong Dunbar

“Washington almost made it through his two terms in office without a major incident involving his slave ownership. On a spring evening in May of 1796, though, Ona Judge, the Washingtons’ 22-year-old slave woman, slipped away from the president’s house in Philadelphia. At 15, she had joined the Washingtons on their tour of Northern living. She was among a small cohort of nine slaves who lived with the president and his family in Philadelphia. Judge was Martha Washington’s first attendant; she took care of Mrs. Washington’s personal needs.”

A Database of Fugitive Slave Ads

“A Database of Fugitive Slave Ads Reveal Thousands of Untold Resistance Stories”

“Readers of the May 24, 1796 Pennsylvania Gazette found an advertisement offering ten dollars to any person who would apprehend Oney Judge, an enslaved woman who had fled from President George Washington’s Virginia plantation, Mount Vernon. The notice described her in detail as a “light mulatto girl, much freckled, with very black eyes and bushy black hair,” as well as her skills at mending clothes, and that she “may attempt to escape by water … it is probable she will attempt to pass as a free woman, and has, it is said, wherewithal to pay her passage.” She did indeed board a ship called the Nancy and made it to New Hampshire, where she later married a free black sailor, although she was herself never freed by the Washingtons and remained a fugitive.”