Former Vice President Joe Biden said at a breakfast Monday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. that “white America has to admit there is systemic racism.”
Biden, a potential 2020 presidential candidate, said at the event hosted by Al Sharpton’s National Action Network that “we have a lot to root out, but most of all the systematic racism that most of us whites don’t like to acknowledge even exists.” He gave the example of if there are two men with the same qualifications, one named Jamal and one named Jim, and “Jim gets the job,” then “there is something we have to admit ― not you, we, white America has to admit: There is systematic racism.”
“It goes almost unnoticed by so many of us. When all that is surrounding us, is it any wonder that there is still a spirit of restlessness out there? How do we ensure that every American can live a life of dignity?” he asked the mostly black audience.
The 76-year-old addressed the hatred in this country and how, in the last two years, we learned that “it doesn’t take much to awaken hate” and that President Donald Trump has helped facilitate it.
“We saw it in Charlottesville as Klansmen and white supremacists, literally, and neo-Nazis, literally, slunked out of their dark rooms, their digital hideaways, their crazed and vicious faces literally contorted, illuminated by torchlight,” said Biden, referencing the Unite the Right rally in Virginia in August 2017 that claimed the life of Heather Heyer.
Heyer was among a group of anti-racists when she was killed by a driver who rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.
Biden said that “Dr. King would know those faces well, those same lost souls that once stood like cowards hooded behind burning crosses. They have been deliberately reawakened again, those forces. It’s not an accident.” He said the racists have been “unearthed by loose talk, by direct appeals to prejudice, from the alt-right.”
“I never thought I would live to see … a president of the United States make a moral equivalence between those who were spreading the hate and those who were opposing it, saying there were ‘very fine people on both sides.’ No president since the Civil War had ever, ever uttered words like that.”
In response to the violence in Charlottesville, Trump refused to single out the actions of white supremacists and argued that there was blame to go around on “many sides.”
“You have people who are very fine people on both sides,” Trump said a few days after the deadly rally.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.