An Open Letter to Joe Biden from a Black Woman
Former Vice President Biden,
Quite the year we’re having, is it not? I am certain a pandemic caught us all off guard, including you and your family. But still, you have not missed a beat with your campaign; not COVID, nor riots, nor threats from our current President have kept you from getting your message out there that America can trust you to correct this chaos if the people will elect you this November.
One group in particular that you and several others of your party like to target, Mr. Biden, is black people. And based on the title of this letter, I know that you have already concluded that I belong to this group.
I was born a black girl to two black parents, I grew up with dark skin and thick hair, and decades later as a wife and mom of two, I still have the same dark skin and thick hair. At 36 years old, I have an extensive memory bank of incidents where it felt like I was not subject to the same treatment as those around me. People will always do a double-take when they read my name in print and then see my face because unlike my name, I am not European. This is my blackness in a nutshell, Mr. Biden. Defining it has been a journey for me, as it usually is for most blacks. Without a clear way to map our lineage back to the specific tribes and/or regions our ancestry originates from (Africa), it is difficult for many blacks to identify with all of their history, which makes forming an identity even tougher. Not impossible; there are plenty of black people in the United States who have formed identities they are proud of despite not having clear explanations on their ancestry. But the obstacle of having little evidence of your ancestry and lineage is another important detail of blackness.
Mr. Biden, I get the impression that you think blackness is something that can be “bestowed” or “yanked” arbitrarily. I cannot entirely blame you; again, several members of your party believe this too. Several members of the black community believe in this. For this belief, I am not singling you out. But let’s just pretend that blackness is some kind of a badge or card or other tangible item that could be physically “taken away.”
Mr. Biden, what makes you think you could wield such power?
No, I am not tone deaf. I know what you were saying, but did not actually say, at the conclusion of that interview. Something like, “Black folks, who are you gonna elect? The guy who was Vice President under your beloved Obama? Or the racist guy? C’mon!” right? I get it. You want us to know you understand us.
Yet, I cannot help but ask, “Which black person can do that?” Besides maybe Oprah due to her affluence (and even she has limitations), which black person gets to ever be Latina, white, or Asian all because “they knew a guy”?
On a collective level, you claim to know the needs and wants of black Americans, but no black American is interested in having their identity tested or reduced to stereotypes. Definitely not by some old white guy. The fact that you saw fit to do so is a shining example of your privilege. You want our votes, but you do not want to hear our voices. You want our numbers, but you do not want to count us. You think pulling out hot sauce and saying a few disparaging remarks about the current President makes you “down.”
Truthfully, it just makes you ignorant, and our world needs more ignorance about as much as it needs more lobotomies. And I can say that to you as a black woman because, despite your remarks, I will still wake up in this skin and face many things you never will, until the day I die.
Some may believe I am being too hard on you, Mr. Biden. Shame on them. “Lightening up” is exactly why we have a reality television star as a President right now. Lightening up is how the police department was allowed to turn into the killing machine it is. Accountability works, and in this instance, I’m asking the guy who wants us to trust him more than Donald Trump to be more accountable.
Ms. Antoinette Chanel
Antoinette is a mentor, author, and host of The Midday Reset Podcast. She is also the author of the children’s book, A Book for Black Girls. When she is not working with clients or recording shows for her podcast, she is enjoying life with her husband and two children. Find her on Instagram @msantoinettechanel.