by Stephanie Gerber Wilson, PhD
America is wounded. We have endured three and a half years of Trump’s presidency. We have felt the flames of racial hatred grow hotter. We have watched Trump allow Russia to place bounties on the heads of American soldiers with nary a response. We have seen our leadership on the world stage crumble. And we have entered a global pandemic that has defeated the paltry effort the Trump Administration has made to contain it. Betsy DeVos yesterday said that schools must open or face a loss of federal funds, while the CDC warns that opening schools could produce a massive covid outbreak. If we’re elderly, people of color, or both, that virus is far more likely to kill us than younger and whiter folks.
We are wounded, and to help us heal we need a leader who profoundly understands what it means to be wounded, to grieve deeply, and to hurt so much no words can express his pain. Joe Biden, former Vice President to President Barack Obama and long time beloved Senator from Delaware is the man who can perceive our personal and national wounds, help us put our country back together, and lead us back from the near-death of democracy. He knows that each one of us matters, our community matters, and our institutions are what make us strong.
Racism: Our Biggest National Wound
America’s deepest wound is the legacy of slavery and the continuing pain of ongoing institutional, systemic, and endemic racism. While Trump fans the flames of racism and white nationalism and proclaims support of the Confederate flag and monuments, Joe Biden addresses the embedded inequality that Black communities, Indigenous populations, and all people of color face. When Biden entered the Presidential primary last year, he noted that the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in August 2017 motivated him to run for president to restore the soul of our nation.
More recently, the country has entered a moment of sustained protest against police killings of Black people, set off by the killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, and many others. Biden understands that these killings are the symptoms of a system that values Black lives and bodies less than White lives. He also understands that the pain of racism extends from wealth inequality, to mass incarceration, to increased mortality rates, to neighborhoods, entrepreneurship, and every aspect of life. On the 4th of July, a holiday ostensibly celebrating the country’s freedom from tyranny, Biden noted the disparity between the ideal of equality and the reality of our racist history.
“American history is no fairy tale. It’s been a constant push and pull between two parts of our character, the idea that all men and women, all people are created equal, and the racism that has torn us apart. We have a chance now to give the marginalized, the demonized, the isolated, the oppressed a full share of the American dream. We have a chance to rip the roots of systemic racism out of this country. We have a chance to live up to the words that have founded this nation. This Independence Day let’s not just celebrate the words, let’s celebrate that promise and commit to work, the work that we must do to fulfill that promise. We remain locked in the battle for the soul of this nation, but believe me, truly, it’s a battle we can and we will win if we act together.”
Joe Biden’s deep empathy and compassion once again meet the moment our country is facing. Though he doesn’t know what it’s like to walk in Black skin, he does understand pain, loss, grief, and fear. And he shows his compassion and empathy every time he speaks to grieving people, whether it’s in public or in a private setting nobody else will know about.
He also worked as Barak Obama’s deputy, showing the Black community that he could be a loyal lieutenant to a Black President, a quality that nobody else alive can boast, and that grants him immense credibility with African Americans. He also brims with compassion and empathy, and can soothe America’s soul as nobody else can in this wounded moment. As president he’ll lead the charge to create and implement policies that not only will help all Americans, but will place racial equality at the center of these policies. He understands that the deep, abiding, and violent caste system in America is a threat to our continued existence.
America’s racial division is merely one of the challenges that President Joe Biden will have to face. The task of rebuilding the United States will be gargantuan. Biden’s deeply felt empathy, compassion, and dignity will go a long way toward restoring America’s sense of community, creating a new equality for communities of color, and reimagining the institutions that will allow our country to survive. And he will assemble a team of leaders who understand that the stakes are Democracy itself. As his former competitor Pete Buttigieg stated,
“Politics matters, because leaders can call out either what is best in us or what is worst in us, can draw us either to our better or to our worst selves. Politics at its worst is ugly, but at its best politics can lift us up. It is not just policy making; it is moral. It is soulcraft.”
Joe Biden can, by power of example and by power of his office, call us to our better selves. And in partnership with the American people, can restore our collective soul.