Update: Oct. 23, 2020
In a more subdued, but still intense final presidential debate Thursday night (Oct. 22), the topic of race in America came to head and President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden displayed how far apart they stand on the issue. And yet, neither candidate said anything strikingly different than before.
When debate moderator Kirsten Welker of NBC asked them several questions on the topic, she began by imploring both men to speak directly to Black families about “the talk” or having to instruct their children on how to navigate during encounters with law enforcement. It is possibly the first time a question like this has ever come up in a presidential debate.
Biden answered by saying that while he has never had to speak with his daughter, who is a social worker, about interacting with police, he knows that Black families often do.
“The fact is there is institutional racism in America,” Biden said. “We have to provide for economic opportunity, better schooling, I’ve laid out a clear plan as to how to do those things.”
But Trump countered with something he has said continually throughout his campaign: that he has done more for Black Americans than any president except possibly Abraham Lincoln, then segued into accusing Biden and former president Barack Obama of doing nothing for Blacks while they were in office.
“He’s been in government 47 years and did nothing except in 1994,” Trump said, referring to the Crime Bill that President Bill Clinton signed into law that year. “And he did so much harm, he called them ‘super predators.’ “ But that has been debunked. The “superpredators” remark is actually attributed to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton in a 1996 speech she gave in Keene, N.H., which later served to alienate some Black voters from her.
But watchers of the debate related to the entire racial segment in which the candidates argued and Black viewers remembered what “the talk” is vividly.
But the subject of the Black Lives Matter movement came up and Trump, while not being critical of the movement’s actions in recent months said that he found them disrespectful to police when he first learned of it.
“The first time I ever heard of Black Lives Matter they were chanting ‘pigs in a blanket, fry them.’ I thought it was a terrible thing,” Trump said. But he went on to tout again his record with Black Americans, including his record on releasing felons from prison saying “I am the least racist person in this room.”
But Biden countered by saying he had a more comprehensive plan. He noted first that while Trump’s actions had released 20 people from prison, but “we commuted over 1,000 sentences,” said Biden. “This was a law initiated by Barack Obama.”
But Trump persisted in saying the 1994 Crime Bill was responsible for placing tens of thousands of Black men in jail. Many of those who did go to prison were incarcerated on drug offenses.. Biden, admitted that the aggressiveness of the bill was a “mistake” in hindsight. But said he now is working on a “drug court” plan to emphasize treatment.
“They should not be going to jail for a drug or alcohol problem,” Biden said.