Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has vowed to address institutional racism in his first 100 days in office as he sought to elevate his voice in the exploding national debate over racism and police brutality.
The former vice president offered emotional support and promised bold action during an in-person meeting with black leaders in Delaware and a subsequent virtual meeting with big city mayors who are grappling with racial tensions and frustrated by a lack of federal support.
“Hate just hides. It doesn’t go away, and when you have somebody in power who breathes oxygen into the hate under the rocks, it comes out from under the rocks,” Mr Biden told more than a dozen African American leaders gathered at a church in Wilmington, his face mask lowered around his chin as he spoke.
Without offering specifics, he promised to “deal with institutional racism” and set up a police oversight body in his first 100 days in office, if elected.
“I really do believe that the blinders have been taken off. I think this tidal wave is moving,” he later told the mayors of Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and St Paul, Minnesota.
“I realise we’ve got to do something big, we can do it, and everyone will benefit from it.”
Mr Biden has struggled in recent weeks to be heard from his makeshift home TV studio over the noise of duelling national crises, but after another night of violent protests, he ventured out into public for just the third time since the pandemic arrived in mid-March.
His hopeful and collaborative approach marked a sharp contrast to that of President Donald Trump, who has made little effort to unify the country.
The Republican president attacked governors as “weak” during a video teleconference on Monday and demanded tougher crackdowns on protesters.
He also lashed out at Mr Biden on Twitter, writing: “Sleepy Joe Biden’s people are so Radical Left that they are working to get the Anarchists out of jail, and probably more.”
Mr Biden’s softer approach may foreshadow how he presents himself in the five months before the presidential election, emphasising calm and competence as a contrast to a mercurial president. It is an approach that carries the risk of being drowned out by Mr Trump’s much louder voice.
The Democrat delivered a well-received address on Friday calling on white people to shoulder the responsibility of ending America’s systemic racism, but he was largely out of sight over the weekend, which marked the fifth anniversary of the death of his son Beau Biden from brain cancer.
Mr Biden and his wife Jill marked Memorial Day by laying a wreath at a veterans’ memorial near his Wilmington home, and the former vice president’s campaign posted pictures of him visiting a protest site in the city on Sunday afternoon. Earlier, he wrote a post on Medium expressing empathy for those despairing about the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.