On Friday, former Vice President Joe Biden — the current frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary — attempted to rebut the stereotype that a black young man wearing a hoodie must be dangerous. Some black people found this offensive, and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a longshot 2020 candidate, seized on it, claiming that comments like this disqualify Biden.
“We’ve got to recognize that kid wearing a hoodie may very well be the next poet laureate and not a gangbanger,” Biden said. “Ladies and gentleman, there are too many black men, and might I add women, in prison.”
Vox’s Aaron Rupar shared the video of his comments, with a cringing emoji.
Joe Biden: "We've got to recognize that kid wearing a hoodie may very well be the next poet laureate and not a gangbanger." 😬 pic.twitter.com/67HFGjPON8
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 28, 2019
Franklin Leonard, founder of The Black List, tweeted his outrage. “I still can’t believe ‘kid in a hoodie’ is a euphemism for black male youth,” he wrote.
I still can’t believe “kid in a hoodie” is a euphemism for black male youth. https://t.co/mefRXu63Qn
— Franklin Leonard (@franklinleonard) June 28, 2019
The Atlantic‘s Taylor Lorenz responded, “Yikes.”
Booker slammed Biden for the remarks. “This isn’t about a hoodie. It’s about a culture that sees a problem with a kid wearing a hoodie in the first place. Our nominee needs to have the language to talk about race in a far more constructive way,” he tweeted.
This isn’t about a hoodie. It’s about a culture that sees a problem with a kid wearing a hoodie in the first place. Our nominee needs to have the language to talk about race in a far more constructive way. https://t.co/c2BFSSOHro
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) June 28, 2019
Booker’s tweet doesn’t make very much sense. Biden’s comments may have been awkward, but he clearly was trying to say that America’s culture should change to destigmatize black Americans wearing hoodies. Booker agrees with Biden’s main point — his problem is that Biden is saying it.
When the former vice president mentioned his ability to treat segregationists with civility in the 1970s, Booker falsely accused him of “praising” them.
Especially after Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) clearly triumphed over Biden on race issues in the Democratic debate on Thursday, Booker may be searching for his own moment of victory. After all, he started the race attacks on Biden.
Yet Booker is far behind Biden — and Harris — in the polls. It is in the New Jersey senator’s interest to attack the frontrunner at every turn.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.