I truly don't know what Joe Biden meant when on Tuesday hetold reporters that racism is
real. It’s there, and the only way — from the founding of this country to today — you deal with it is you attack it. You expose it. You embarrass it. You put people in jail when they engage in things that are illegal when they’re doing it — you call them out. And most of all, you call it out to our children.
It may have been a reference to overt discrimination, hate speech, or something else entirely when Biden said "you put people in jail when they engage in things that are illegal when they're doing it." But then, the guy believes also that Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated in the 1970s, so there is that.
But Biden was clear when he stated institutional racism "is a white man's problem."
Even clearer was Pete Buttigieg, who on July 20 maintained
The key to dealing with racial discussions in the country is honesty. And that means honesty about how we got here. It means honesty about what we are up against.
Also, in my view, it means treating racial inequality as a specialty issue, as an issue to be talked about with audiences of color only -- but as something that frankly white Americans need to take more seriously.
The sit down and shut up request aimed at whites is not a great general election strategy. Buttigieg wants to talk about this problem with "audiences of color only," without engaging with the group responsible for it, which might provide insight into motivation and be disabused of its bias. He also doesn't explain why white racism has been experienced equally, in kind and degree, by blacks, Latinos, and Asians. (Of course, maybe "audiences of color" was a reference only to blacks or to blacks and Asians. No translator was provided.)
Disturbingly, it may be the best primary strategy for a centrist candidate such as Buttigieg or one such as Biden, running on the "everything will be fine once Trump is removed from office" platform. Unlike senators Warren and Sanders, neither offers the hope of necessary structural change, leaving them only the option of distracting primary voters by propagating the myth that race is at the core of America's problems in 2019. It is an approach similar to that of Kamala Harris, who denounced Biden for (of all things) opposing a policy 35-40 years ago which she herself now opposes.
There are Democratic candidates who appear convinced that the route to the presidential nomination is to be more outraged than any other about white racism- to the exclusion of other issues- and to be perceived as most committed to offer it as a blanket condemnation of whites. It is not likely to be a winning strategy in the general election, in which there are votes cast by individuals other than those blacks and whites deeply invested in ending all vestiges of racist or insensitive thought.
The general election electorate is diverse- not only ethnically- and with it, voters possessing the spirit of E Pluribus Unum. It is a sentiment not inconsistent with facing problems honestly and when necessary, attributing responsibility to specific individuals. It is the sentiment expressed by President Lyndon Johnson, in an appeal for passage of the Voting Rights Act, when the 36th President (with outdated terminology) explained (emphasis mine)
There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem. And we are met here tonight as Americans—not as Democrats or Republicans—we are met here as Americans to solve that problem.