Vice President Joe Biden and his Rocky Relationship with African-American Community

When Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) President G.K. Butterfield and CBC Foundation Chair R. Donahue Peebles introduced Vice President Joe Biden at the CBC’s Annual Legislative Caucus in September he received two standing ovations.

Political pundits saw that as a great sign for a potential Biden 2016 presidential run.

Butterfield went so far as to call Biden “a longtime friend of the CBC.”

However, his history of supporting drug laws that have led to the mass incarceration of many African-Americans should have been proof that a Biden 2016 presidential bid would not have been that beneficial for the African-American community.

According to the Huffington Post, “In the 1980s and 1990s, then- Sen. Biden and other lawmakers enacted a wave of tough-on-crime measures, driven by record spikes in violent crime and a crack epidemic that was ravaging major cities and poor and minority communities across the nation.  Those laws backed by both Democrats and Republicans, would lead to millions of people behind bars or dead, give rise to increasingly militarized police forces, and funnel billions of dollars into the global war on drugs.”

Based on a report from Huffington Post, Biden co-sponsored a law that created incentives for police to seize property suspected in drug trafficking regardless if there was a conviction.

Although the law was initially praised, it began to face criticism for denying people due process and seizing the property of innocent, lower income citizens not just wealthy drug traffickers.

According to the Huffington Post, “Biden authored portions of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which created a 100-to-1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.  Until reforms were made in 2010, individuals caught with just 5 grams of crack were subject to the same mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison as those caught with 500 grams of powder cocaine.  The higher penalties for crack fueled mass incarceration and disproportionately affected African-American communities.”

Based on a 2006 report about the war on drugs for, “The report includes recent data that indicates that African-Americans make up 15 percent of the country’s drug users, yet they make up 37 percent of those arrested for drug violations, 59 percent of those convicted, and 74 percent of those sentenced to prison for a drug offense.  More than 80 percent of the defendants sentenced for crack offenses are African-American, despite the fact that more than 66 percent of crack users are White or Hispanic.

“Prior to the enactment of federal mandatory minimum sentencing for crack cocaine offenses in 1986, the average federal drug sentence for African-Americans was 11 percent higher than for Whites.  Four years later, the average federal drug sentence for African-Americans was 49 percent higher.”

Although Biden has expressed some regret about the mandatory minimum drug sentences that were enacted after the tragic cocaine related death of 1986 Boston Celtics first round pick Len Bias, and the fact that Republicans also supported the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, sometimes the African-American community can get so caught up in party affiliation that we forget that both parties have done things that have been detrimental to our growth as a community.


A Biden 2016 presidential election might not have represented a continuation of the hope inspired by President Barack Obama, but the past might have been more indicative of what a Biden 2016 presidential election might have looked like.

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