Biden Likens Trump and MAGA Allies to 1950s Segregationists

President Biden drew a parallel on Friday between Donald Trump “and his MAGA Republican allies” and segregationists from the 1950s who tried to prevent Black and white Americans from attending school together.

Speaking to Black leaders at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Biden described meeting some of the nine students who faced racist jeers and abuse to attend Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957, three years after the Supreme Court ruled segregation in education unconstitutional.

“The Little Rock Nine were met with vitriol and violence. Today the vitriol comes in other insidious forms—an extreme movement led by my predecessor and his MAGA Republican allies, backed by an extreme Supreme Court that gutted affirmative action in college admissions,” Biden said. “My predecessor and his extreme MAGA friends are now going after diversity, equity, and inclusion all across America. They want a country for some—not for all.”

Biden joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that led to nationwide integration. Even after that ruling, local segregationist leaders in many states flouted the court’s decision. In a historic showdown, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock, Arkansas, to protect Black students facing violent threats as they attended school.

“My name’s Joe Biden and I’m a lifetime member of the NAACP,” he said, beginning his remarks. He then joked, “When I said that a little earlier to the president, he said, ‘Are your dues paid up?’ I got to check.”

Biden’s speech was part of a push to engage the African American community at a time when his approval ratings are sagging among young Black voters. Later on Friday, Biden met at the White House with presidents of the “Divine Nine,” the influential network of Black sororities and fraternities. “I know real power when I see it,” Biden said of the Divine Nine.

On Saturday, Biden will speak at Morehouse College in Atlanta, the prestigious historically Black college that Martin Luther King Jr. attended. The event is expected to draw some protests amid unrest on campuses across the country. “I’ve got more Morehouse men in my Administration than Morehouse,” Biden said, adding that he sees historically Black colleges and universities as “vital to our nation’s progress.” He noted that such colleges educated 70% of Black doctors and dentists in the U.S. and 80% of Black judges. “And 100% of Black vice presidents. You got it,” he added, referring to Vice President Kamala Harris, who graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Biden recalled how, when white supremacists rallied to prevent the removal of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, then-President Donald Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides” of the clashes. Biden has said those words convinced him to enter the race to prevent Trump from a second term. Fighting bigotry also motivates Biden’s desire for a second term, according to a close White House advisor.

Biden’s remarks to the NAACP aligned with others he has made in recent months as he makes his case for a second term. Many of his speeches focus on the need to defend freedoms from right-wing extremists who want to roll back decades of progress in expanding access to education and jobs for people of color and further restrict access to abortion. “My predecessor and his MAGA friends are responsible for taking away other freedoms—from the freedom to vote to the freedom to choose,” Biden said. “But I’ve always believed the promise of America is big enough for everyone to succeed.”

Ironically, Biden himself has faced criticism for his past positions on segregation. During his early political career, Biden opposed federally mandated busing to desegregate schools, famously saying he didn’t want his children growing up in a “racial jungle.” This historical context adds a layer of complexity to Biden’s current stance against Trump and MAGA Republicans, ironically comparing them to segregationists when he was one himself.