Former Vice President Joe Biden stepped up on Friday and showed a grieving nation what humane, moral leadership could look like. Calling the killing of George Floyd “an act of brutality so elemental it did more than deny one more Black man in America his civil rights and his human rights, it denied him of his very humanity, it denied him of his life,” Biden described the United States as “a country with an open wound” that must be healed, not denied.
Not just Floyd but Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are, Biden, said, “the latest additions to the endless list of stolen potential wiped out unnecessarily. It’s a list that dates back more than 400 years—Black men, Black women, Black children. The original sin of this country still stains our nation today. And sometimes we manage to overlook it. We just push forward with a thousand other tasks in our daily life. But it’s always there, and weeks like this, we see it plainly, that we’re a country with an open wound. None of us can turn away, none of us can be silent. None of us can any longer hear the words ‘I can’t breathe.’”
Biden called on white people to imagine if “every time your husband or son, wife or daughter, you feared for their safety from bad actors and bad police. Imagine if you had to have that talk with your child about not asserting your rights, taking the abuse handed out to them so—so, just so—they could make it home.” Black people, he reminded viewers, “don’t have to imagine it. The anger and the frustration and the exhaustion—it’s undeniable.”
“That’s not the promise of America. It’s long past time that we made the promise of this nation real for all people,” Biden continued, calling for “real leadership that will bring everyone to the table so we can take measures to root out systemic racism.”
Biden went on to call for “real police reform that holds cops to a higher standard that so many of them actually meet—that holds bad cops accountable.”
Biden later returned to the acknowledgement that “the promise of America” is not real for everyone, saying “We’ve got to make real the promise of America, which we’ve never fully grasped, that all men and women are equal, not only at creation but throughout their lives.” He closed with a promise to George Floyd’s family, with whom he’d spoken, that “we’ll do everything in our power to see to it that justice is had in your brother, your cousin’s case.”