Two days after Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.)—delivering the Republican response to President Joe Biden’s joint session of Congress speech—proclaimed “America is not a racist country,” Biden said he agreed, though he added that more was needed to address past ills.
In an interview with NBC’s Today show which aired Friday, Biden was asked whether he believed America is a racist country.
“I don’t think America is racist,” Biden responded, “but I think the overhang from all of the Jim Crow, and before that slavery, have had a cost.”
Biden added that “after 400 years African Americans have been left in a position where they’re so far behind the eight ball in terms of education, health, in terms of opportunity.”
“We have to deal with it,” Biden said, urging Americans to confront past racism.
The Democrat has previously spoken about how he believes systemic racism “absolutely” exists in American policing, housing, education and “everything we do.”
Republicans have accused Democrats of painting too harsh a picture of America’s past. Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, argued it was “backwards to fight discrimination with different discrimination” in his speech Wedenesday. “It’s wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present,” he added. In an interview with Fox News on Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) called the idea of systemic racism in the U.S. “a bunch of horse manure.” “Give me a break,” DeSantis went on.” This country has had more opportunity for more people than any country in the history of the world. It doesn’t matter where you trace your ancestry from.”
Vice President Kamala Harris—America’s first Black, south Asian and female vice president—was asked the same question as Biden during an interview with ABC News on Thursday. “I don’t think America is a racist country,” Harris responded, “but we also do have to speak truth about the history of racism in our country and its existence today.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and 37 other Republican senators will call on the Department of Education to halt the adoption of a proposed rule that would alter the American history curriculum to focus more on the “consequences of slavery, and the significant contributions of Black Americans to our society” and which cites the controversial New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project. In a letter, reported by Politico, the senators write “Americans do not need or want their tax dollars diverted from promoting the principles that unite our nation toward promoting radical ideologies meant to divide us. Americans never decided our children should be taught that our country is inherently evil.”