Jim Clyburn, US House Representative of South Carolina and Majority Whip, came to the aid of former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, who found himself in hot water after comments he made about working with segregationist politicians.
Biden, who is running for president, touted his ability to work with other politicians such as the late Senator James Eastland, a known segregationist, as an asset. He said it showed he could work with anyone to find common ground.
Clyburn supported Biden’s comment and pointed to the necessity of working with those who have segregationist philosophies in his own political career for progress to occur in statements to Politico. He referenced South Carolina Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings in a press release after the politician’s death this year, as a personal example of working with a person who started out “protecting the status quo but changed as he learned and grew.”
However, it is not Biden’s ability to work with segregationists that got fellow presidential hopefuls into attack mode. It was his casual remark that Eastland never called him “boy” but only referred to him as “son.” The statement is a reference to the term “boy” which has historically been used by white supremacists and racists as a demeaning term toward African-Americans. Critics of the comment point to the lack of sensitivity and understanding as the core issue.
Fellow presidential candidates Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California) and Sen. Corey Booker (D-New Jersey) were among the many liberals surprised and offended by Biden’s remark.
“You don’t joke about calling black men ‘boys’,” Booker said in a written statement. “Men like James O. Eastland used words like that, and the racist policies that accompanied them, to perpetuate white supremacy and strip black Americans of our very humanity.”
While Clyburn focused on working with those who hold opposing ideologies as a commonality he shares with Biden as a defense, he did not address Biden’s use of the word “boy,” which is at the center of the issue.
All 21 Democratic presidential hopefuls attended Jim Clyburn’s World Famous Fish Fry over the weekend in Columbia.