President Joe Biden delivered a strong, middle-of-the-road State of the Union address on Tuesday night seemingly aimed at galvanizing moderate, bipartisan support that still managed to be glaringly devoid of any real mention of issues specifically facing Black America.
It was tantamount to making a U-turn from the pro-Black lane Biden has been cruising in since the 2020 campaign trail after he made repeated appeals for support from the Black voters who ultimately secured his election. The speech even included language espoused by the same Republicans who have tirelessly and repeatedly blocked legislation that would address the very issues polling shows are of the utmost importance to Black America.
Journalist Charles Blow noted on the Black News Channel that Biden made strong remarks about Black people during his speech marking his first 100 days in office. But on Tuesday night — a little more than one year in the White house — Biden said “not one word” about Black people, Blow said while finding irony in how the president went from lamenting the murder of George Floyd to calling for funding the police during his address.
While Biden made fleeting mentions of hot-button topics like police reform, voting rights, abortion laws, the widening racial wealth gap, and HBCUs, for him to fail to place them, at least in part, in the Black American experience, in particular, could have a disastrous effect for the president and Democrats alike as the crucial midterm election season progresses.
Biden said the U.S. must secure borders and “fix the immigration system” without even acknowledging the racist violence against Haitians by U.S. Border Patrol, for example.
Even more glaring, Biden called for the police to be funded just two days removed from a month — Black History Month, no less — that saw Minneapolis police execute Amir Locke courtesy of a no-knock warrant and a lenient prison sentence for former police officer Kim Potter for killing unarmed Black motorist Daunte Wright.
To discuss all of the above while ignoring the related urgency for Black Americans, in particular, could come across as a snub at best, to put it mildly.
That was the sentiment expressed by Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of Advancement Project, a civil rights group.
“President Biden’s remarks on policing failed to present a new vision for public safety. We can’t keep relying on recycled ideas that endanger our communities or increase funding to bloated police budgets,” Dianis said in part of a statement emailed to NewsOne. “Our communities deserve to live in a world that is free and safe from the violence and racism inherent in policing.”
In spite of the above, there were a small handful of notable instances in which Black people were the focus.
Keep reading to find the few Blackest moments of the State of the Union address.
Vice President Kamala Harris
In a historic first, State of the Union viewers saw Kamala Harris holding court directly behind Biden during his entire speech. The gravity of the moment was hard to deny, especially as Women’s History Month kicked off.
Rep. Lucy McBath
Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath had a moment Tuesday night as Biden was calling for the gun violence to be addressed. While the president did not mention McBath or her plight as a mother grieving the 2012 shooting death of her son, Jordan Davis, over loud music, the Democratic Congresswoman could be seen reacting to Biden’s words that clearly hit home for her.
Ketanji Brown Jackson
Biden took a few moments to tout his historic pick for the U.S. Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson, and called for the swift confirmation of someone who stands to become the first black woman Supreme Court justice.
“Tonight marked a great moment in our nation’s history as President Biden spoke about his exceptionally qualified nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to be nominated to our nation’s highest court,” People For the American Way President Ben Jealous said in a statement. “Judge Jackson is an outstanding nominee with matchless credentials. The millions who heard the president speak tonight can be proud of this nomination and we look forward to Judge Jackson’s swift confirmation.”
Joseph “JoJo” Burgess
Pittsburgh-area steelworker Joseph “JoJo” Burgess was first lady Jill Biden’s special guest in her viewing box and got a shout out from the president because of it. He was the lone Black guest out of eight people invited by the first lady.
But that’s pretty much as “Black” as the State of the Union address got.
Was anyone expecting Biden to don a dashiki and kneel to mirror the Democrats’ performative gestures toward Black America? Probably not.
But could the president have done a better job acknowledging the group of loyal supporters to whom the lion’s share of his campaign promises has gone unfulfilled; a group whose help Democrats will likely be calling on in a few short months? Probably so.
This is America.