Issues of race relations has become a major campaign issue in this year’s presidential election, with the issue getting pushed to the forefront following the Memorial Day death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.
During Thursday’s presidential debate, President Donald Trump declared himself the “least racist person in this room” after he decried the Black Lives Matter movement.
“The first time I ever heard of Black Lives Matter, they were chanting ‘pigs in a blanket,’ talking about police,” Trump said. “‘Pigs in a blanket, fry them like bacon.’ I said that is a horrible thing. And they were marching down the street. And that was my first glimpse of the black lives matter. I thought it was a terrible thing.
“As far as my relationships with all people, I think I have great relationships with all people. I am the least racist person in this room.”
Both Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden had a spirited exchange about Biden’s record on race relations. Trump confronted Biden for his support of the Crime Bill in the 1990s while a US Senator.
“I said not since Abraham Lincoln has anybody done what I've done for the Black community,” Trump said. “You have done nothing other than the crime bill which put tens of thousands of black men, mostly, in jail.”
While there are sections of the bill Biden continues to back, including an assault weapons ban and the Violence Against Women Act, Biden has shied away from backing mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes.
“It was a mistake,” Biden said. “I've been trying to change particularly the portion on cocaine. That is why I've been arguing that we should not send anyone to jail for a pure drug offense. They should be going into treatment.”
During the discussion on race, Biden attempted to make a personal appeal to Black voters.
“I never had to tell my daughter, if she's pulled over, make sure she puts both hands on top of the wheel and don't reach for the glove box, because someone may shoot you,” Biden said. “But a Black parent, no matter how wealthy or how poor they are, has to teach their child, when you are walking down the street, don't have a hood on, make sure that if you get pulled over, yes sir, no sir, hands on top of the wheel, because you are the victim whether you are a person making $300,000 a year or someone who is on food stamps. The fact of the matter is, there is institutional racism in America.”
While Trump has previously said that he does not believe there is institutional racism in America, he said that no one has done more for Black Americans in recent history.
“Nobody has done more for the Black community than Donald Trump,” he said. “If you look, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, possible exception, nobody has done what I've done. Criminal justice reform, Obama and Joe didn't do it. I don't even think they tried. They might have wanted to do it, but if you had to see the arms I had to twist to get that done, it was not a pretty picture, and everybody knows it, including some very liberal people that cried in my office -- two weeks later they are out saying, we have to defeat him.”