Here’s what Joe Biden said:
“It’s important to say from the White House for the entire country to hear: History matters. History matters and black history matters. I can’t just choose to learn what we want to know. We learn what we should know. We have to learn everything, the good, the bad, the truth, and who we are as a nation … I may be a white boy, but I’m not stupid. I know where the power is. You think I’m joking? I learned a long time ago about the Divine Nine.” (The Divine Nine is a group of historically black fraternities and sororities.)
Frankly, it’s a non-story.
It doesn’t really matter, and it doesn’t really mean much.
It was a joke.
No one is reasonably offended.
But the conservative reaction, which is strong, is predictable and was avoidable.
Biden, who has a tendency to misspeak, could have sidestepped the controversy altogether had he just kept his mouth shut.
The Conservative Reaction
Greg Price, a senior digital strategist at X Strategies LLC, tweeted “Biden: ‘I may be a white boy, but I’m not stupid.’ FACT CHECK: Joe Biden is both white and stupid.”
Steve Guest, a Ted Cruz adviser, posted a clip of Biden’s famous comments from the 2020 campaign trail: “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” The implication is that Biden has a history of making racially insensitive comments.
It’s funny because the Right and Ted Cruz and Fox News are all highly critical of how sensitive everyone has become with respect to race, how “woke” everyone is, and how miscommunications and minor slights are leading to “cancellations.”
My personal feeling is that the Right is correct in criticizing much of “woke” culture, which has become pervasive and illogical.
But here we have the Right-leaning into woke-adjacent or inverted woke, criticisms of Biden’s comments.
Here’s another example of what I mean; conservative Twitter account Amuse wrote: “SHOCK: President Biden calls white people stupid during black history month celebration to the glee of the audience.”
Jeremy Carl, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, commented on Twitter that “[Self]-hatred is at the core of white Democrat identity.”
Now, that hits a little closer to the mark and is worth exploring in a different context.
Self-hatred is certainly in vogue amongst the white Left, but construing Biden’s comments as self-hatred rather than good old-fashioned self-deprecating humor requires willful ignorance.
Joe Biden Could Sidestep
Biden could avoid the fallout from racially charged comments if he just stopped making the comments in the first place.
It’s just not a good time for “I may be a white boy but I’m not stupid” jokes.
The Left seems to be winding down slightly from its 2020-2021 peak of woke fervor but can still be banked on to enforce a woke worldview with vigor.
The Right is perpetually out to “get” Joe Biden.
So, Biden is really walking a fine line, with pressure from both sides, when he wades into racial humor.
My advice to Joe Biden would be to simplify things for himself and just not say things like “you ain’t black” if you don’t vote for me.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.