“Uncle Joe” needs to lay off the rap and the pandering

So, President Joe Biden is trying to ride the coattails of Kendrick Lamar to humiliate Donald Trump but—more importantly—to try to win over Black people. Sit with that for a moment while I fill you in on backstory.

Even though it’s all over social media, and I find it hard to believe that many people are left who haven’t heard of the feud between musical artists Drake and Kendrick Lamar, I do understand that algorithms are algorithms. Regardless of how much this is saturating the feeds, you might keep away from music and beefs and rap enough that you haven’t heard. So, to sum up: Drake is a very popular, very rich biracial Canadian man who has tried to create a very Black, “streetwise” rapper image at times, despite really having no true connection to the U.S. Black culture he tries to claim and engage. Kendrick Lamar is a Pulitzer-prize-winning very Black-culture-connected musical artist who is more critically acclaimed and recognized for his lyrical and other musical skills but is not as stinking rich or popular as Drake commercially.

Kendrick Lamar doesn’t just hate Drake, he despises him. He hates what he stands for, which is pretty artificial and fake, and this month has seen a flurry of rap diss tracks between the two artists. Only the most fervent and devoted Drake fans would say that he has come out ahead in this battle. Much has been revealed, reiterated, and suggested or accused of Drake in terms of children he doesn’t claim, whether he shields pedophiles or is one himself, and much, much more. It certainly is one for the history books in terms of musical beefing.

So, what does any of this have to do with Biden? Well, go back to the first sentence if you have to, but Biden used lyrics (and in some places slightly tweaked the bars) from one of Lamar’s diss tracks, “Euphoria,” to attack Trump.

BET.com couched it as political statement based on women’s rights and immigrations, citing the lyrics that appear in Biden’s video that read: “It’s always been about love and hate, now let me say I’m the biggest hater. I hate the way that you walk over women’s rights, the way that you talk about immigrants. I hate the way that you dress, I hate the way that you sneak diss on Truth Social.”

I don’t like it.

Too often, the Democratic Party only seems to pay attention to Black people when voting time approaches. Somehow, all the love is shown to them and they are praised for the support and urged to do more—and almost always, the concerns of Black people get pushed aside as soon as the candidate gets elected, because pushing that “agenda” will hurt support among white voters. There’s always somehow time “later” to address those social problems that have been plaguing non-enslaved Black people since, well, Jim Crow days. I talk about such things often enough here at Black Girl in Maine Media that I don’t need to get into a discussion of oppression and marginalization of Black people in this post. Suffice to say, it still exists, it’s still deeply rooted in our institutions and systems, and if you disagree with me on that you are firmly ensconced in white privilege and don’t want to accept all the reports, stats, video evidence and more that Black people are not on anything nearly approaching an even and fair playing field with white people.

Several years ago, Biden wrote and talked about his job as a lifeguard and how it brought him into contact with Black people and sharpened his view of race relations and civil rights, including a story about kicking out a local gang leader named “Corn Pop.”

His talk about his Civil Rights Era days and his lifeguard job felt a little forced back then. I’m not saying he didn’t believe in equal rights. I’m not saying he wasn’t sympathetic. But it felt a lot like “I have a Black friend” stories that white people who don’t want to seem racist tell—and it turns out they don’t have any actual friends who are Black but just Black people they kinda know a little bit. Focusing on this little nugget of his experience with Black people felt performative. Just because he served alongside a Black president doesn’t mean Biden is a friend to Black people.

And now, piggybacking on the Drake-Kendrick feud feels like outright pandering, if I am to be honest. A lot of Black people aren’t happy with Biden—with his fervent support of more police funding when police are still very oppressive toward Black people, his stands with regard to Israel vs. Palestine, and more. And he needs those Black votes.

It’s already weird to see a white man that old and that status quo and that entrenched in mainstream political life trying to incorporate rap into his public relations and image-building. It rings false. I seriously doubt Biden has any deep and abiding love of rap and hip-hop. I doubt he really knew who Drake and Kendrick Lamar were before this feud got so heated.

It is a blatant and frankly insulting way to reach out to the Black community. As if it isn’t bad enough New York governor Kathy Hochul made a comment recently that there are Black kids in the Bronx who don’t know the word “computer.” As if that isn’t a blatantly tone-deaf and racist comment. Who would even believe that but someone completely out of touch with Black people, much less say the words? And Biden out here trying to make us think he’s “hip” or “down with us” or whatever?

Black people want to be heard and have their grievances taken seriously. We neither want nor need to have white politicians insulting us, pandering to us, or speaking down to us. If Biden truly wants to win the election in November, he needs to do way better than this. Alienating voters—Black people, young people, and more—is not a good plan, but it’s what he’s been doing lately. And trying to use the material from someone’s rap beef to look cool and try to score points on Trump is a weak move born of someone who thinks they know what Black people want but has no idea (or care) about what they need.

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