WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden vowed to address institutional racism in his first 100 days in office as he sought to elevate his voice Monday in the exploding national debate over racism and police brutality.
The former vice president offered emotional support and promised bold action during an in-person meeting with black leaders in Delaware and a subsequent virtual meeting with big-city mayors who are grappling with racial tensions and frustrated by a lack of federal support.
“Hate just hides. It doesn’t go away, and when you have somebody in power who breathes oxygen into the hate under the rocks, it comes out from under the rocks,” Biden told more than a dozen African American leaders gathered at a church in downtown Wilmington, his face mask lowered around his chin as he spoke.
Without offering specifics, he promised to “deal with institutional racism” and set up a police oversight body in his first 100 days in office, if elected.
“I really do believe that the blinders have been taken off. I think this tidal wave is moving,” Biden later told the mayors of Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and St. Paul, Minnesota. “I realize we’ve got to do something big, we can do it, and everyone will benefit from it.”
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Biden has struggled in recent weeks to be heard from his makeshift home TV studio over the noise of dueling national crises. But after another night of violent protests, he ventured out into public for just the third time since the pandemic arrived in mid March.
His hopeful and collaborative approach marked a sharp contrast to that of President Donald Trump, who has made little effort to unify the country. The Republican president slammed governors as “weak” during a video teleconference on Monday and demanded tougher crackdowns on protesters. Trump also lashed out at Biden on Twitter, writing that “Sleepy Joe Biden’s people are so Radical Left that they are working to get the Anarchists out of jail, and probably more.”
Biden’s softer approach may foreshadow how he presents himself in the five months before the presidential election, emphasizing calm and competence as a contrast to a mercurial president. It is an approach that carries the risk of being drowned out by Trump’s much louder voice.
“He’s not in office, and he certainly does not have the megaphone like the person currently occupying the White House does, but I do think our people are looking for someone who can make them feel better during these extremely tough times,” said Rep. Val Demings of Florida, whom Biden is considering as a running mate. “America just needs to be reassured that there’s someone who’s understanding, someone who’s willing to say, ‘Yes, we do have some issues,’ and someone who’s willing to address it.”