The Collegian
Thursday, August 06, 2020

OPINION: Joe Biden’s white male privilege

<p>Graphic by Annie Scalet/The Collegian</p>

Graphic by Annie Scalet/The Collegian

Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian.

So it happened. Tara Reade, a former Biden staffer, filed a criminal complaint against Joe Biden claiming that he sexually assaulted her. 

Time’s Up, a legal fund set up to help survivors of sexual assault receive legal assistance, refused to represent and fund her. A spokesperson of the National Women’s Law Center, which administers the fund of Time’s Up, said that the refusal was because of legal constraints. The managing director of a public relations firm that provides services to Time’s Up is a top adviser to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.

By March, Reade decided that she had only herself to rely on so she went public with her story on SoundCloud. In the recording, Reade said that Biden had pushed her to the wall and later penetrated her with his fingers while kissing her during his tenure as a U.S. senator in spring 1993.

It took the New York Times 19 days to cover Reade’s story after Reade came forward with her podcast. In addition, the Guardian noted that the Times partially deleted a part of a sentence in their coverage of the story at the instruction of the Biden campaign. The sentence originally was that “The Times found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden, beyond the hugs, kisses and touching that women previously said made them uncomfortable.” 

Instead, the Times wrote, “The Times found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden.” This was because the Biden campaign “thought that the phrasing was awkward and made it look like there were other instances in which he had been accused of sexual misconduct,” according to the Guardian article.

I guess many people never imagined that Biden would get into a sexual assault allegation. Yet multiple women have come forward to say that Biden has inappropriately touched them, including Lucy Flores, Amy Lappos, D.J. Hill, Caitlyn Caruso, Ally Coll and Sofie Karasek.

Biden responded to these allegations, saying: “Social norms are changing. I understand that, and I’ve heard what these women are saying.” This sounds to me as if Biden meant he understood he could not continue to use his position as a powerful white and cisgendered male to grope and kiss women as he liked anymore.

Biden’s critics have also claimed that Biden mishandled the Anita Hill hearing when he was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee by failing to call more witnesses and stop all-white, all-male Republican senators from attacking Hill with comments about her pubic hair and “large breasts” when she came forward against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Biden subsequently apologized publicly to Hill — without actually apologizing to her in person, something that has become an ongoing joke for Hill’s family.

Biden’s white male privilege does not only give him a pass from his concerning history of sexual harassment. It also saved him from his disturbing record on women’s reproductive rights. Biden in his role as vice president worked relentlessly to cut coverage for contraception covered under the Affordable Care Act. Biden also regularly supported the Hyde Amendment which prohibited federal funds for abortions.

Additionally, Biden has worked relentlessly over his career to help make America’s criminal justice system more broken and racist than it has ever been. This includes supporting and co-writing laws for mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders, extensive use of the death penalty, harsher penalties for marijuana possession. Biden also helped author the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which sentenced possession of 1 gram of crack the same as possession of 100 grams of cocaine. According to a Washington Post article about a 1995 report to Congress, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act “is a primary cause of the growing disparity between sentences for Black and White federal defendants,” with 82% of those sentenced under the crack cocaine laws being African Americans, despite 66% of users being white.

Although Biden brings in his old friend former President Barack Obama every chance he gets to promote himself, he once called Obama the “first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean.”

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Despite Biden’s problematic history regarding many issues, many of the people I know, especially my white friends, seem very eager to support his candidacy. Is this a talent of the Biden campaign or a reflection of Biden supporters’ ignorance? I can never tell. 

Many Biden supporters say they voted for him instead of Bernie Sanders because they thought he would fare better against Donald Trump in the general election. It seems to me that although Biden could do better than Trump as president, he is not too far from Trump in terms of policies and moral values.

However, I would like to acknowledge that voters from marginalized groups in American society, such as the LGBTQ+ community and people of color, rarely have the luxury of choosing a candidate that aligns perfectly with their beliefs due to the lack of diversity in the running pool.

I do not suggest that Biden will never change for good. However, given the rate at which politicians lie to avoid responsibility, we can only judge the character of a candidate based on tangible proof — their record. Last time I checked, Biden was notorious for his history of gaffes, including calling a female moderator a “sweetheart,” telling the audience about his ability to win Delaware because it was a “slave state” or talking about a gay couple as “mommy and daddy.” It seems to me that these gaffes indicate more than just a slip of a tongue, reflecting his true beliefs.

Meanwhile, Reade said she would not vote in the November election and that she refused to choose between “the man who assaulted me and a man who has committed similar assaults on other women.”

Contact contributor Anh Dinh at anh.dinh@richmond.edu.

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