Biden: Americans Not 'Racist' But Black People Have Been Left Behind President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol April 28, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Melina Mara-Pool/Getty Images)
By Sandy Fitzgerald | Friday, 30 April 2021 08:57 AM
The American people aren't inherently racist, but the nation's Black community has been left "far behind" after the nation's history that includes "Jim Crow and before that, slavery," according to President Joe Biden.
"No, I don't think the American people are racist," the president told NBC "Today" anchor Craig Melvin in an interview airing Thursday night on NBC Nightly News and again Friday on "Today." "I think after 400 years, African Americans have been left in a position where they're so far behind the eight ball in terms of education, health, in terms of opportunity."
Biden's comments come after Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said in his rebuttal to the president's speech that he does not think the United States is a racist country. However, the senator added that it is "wrong to try to use our painful past to try to dishonestly shut down debates in the present."
Biden has often used the term "systemic racism" but told Melvin that he does think that the "overhang from all the Jim Crow (laws), and before that, slavery, have had a cost, and we have to deal with it."
Biden also discussed his proposals that total $6 trillion in new spending and his plans to pay for the expenditures by raising taxes, defending the plans as investments that will make the economy recover.
"Look how rapidly it's recovered since we passed the last piece of legislation," said Biden. "That legislation was $1.9 trillion. If we don't invest in this country, we're going to fall behind even further."
Melvin pointed out that the American public has long been skeptical about big government, and Biden agreed that he doesn't have an "inordinate amount of faith in the government," but he does think there are "things only the government can do."
"Is the private sector going to build billions of dollars worth of highways, ports, airports, bridges?" said Biden. "These are things that only the government can really do."
Biden also discussed the ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic, including the news that 40% of the United States Marine Corps members have said they won't get their vaccines.
When asked if he'd order the military to get the shots, Biden said he'll "leave that to the military," but then said, "I'm not saying I won't."
"I think you're going to see more and more of them getting it," said Biden. "You're in close proximity with other military personnel, whether you're in quarters where you're all sleeping or whether you're out in maneuvers."
He also told Melvin that based on science and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation's schools should "probably be all open" by next fall.
"There's not overwhelming evidence there is much of a transmission among young people," said Biden.
The president also said that after the CDC's guidance that masks need not be worn outside by people who have had their shots, if they are not in a crowd situation, he'll also be seen more often without a mask.
"The likelihood of me being able to go outside and people coming up to me is not very high," said Biden, adding that he'll likely don a mask when talking one on one with people and in other situations.
"It is a small precaution to take that has a profound impact," said Biden. "It is a patriotic responsibility, for God's sake. It is making sure your wife, your children, if, in fact, they haven't been vaccinated, making sure they're not going to get sick."
Biden also discussed the raid that happened this week at the home of Rudy Giuliani, the attorney for former President Donald Trump, insisting that he was not aware that the raid was going to happen.
"I made a pledge I would not interfere in any way, order, or try to stop any investigation the Justice department has underway," said Biden, adding that he learned about the raid "when the rest of the world worried about it."
He also said he hasn't been briefed on any other investigation and has not asked to be briefed.
"That's the justice department's individual judgment," he said. "This last administration politicized the Justice Department so badly, so many of them quit. The justice department is the people's lawyer, not the president's lawyer."