02:45 GMT08 May 2021
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    US President Joe Biden called for "confronting head-on systemic racism and the racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system" in a televised address on 20 April after a jury in Minneapolis found white former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of all charges stemming from the death of African-American man George Floyd in May 2020.

    Joe Biden’s Press Secretary Jen Psaki abruptly deflected questions whether the Democratic President acknowledged his own culpability relating to systemic racism in America during his decades-long stint as a senator.

    ​New York Post reporter Steven Nelson brought up Biden’s role in adopting multiple federal crime legislation in the 1980s and ’90s that “disproportionately jailed Black people and contributed to what many people see as systemic racism”, asking at a White House press briefing:

    “To what extent does President Biden acknowledge his own role in systemic racism? And how does that inform his current policy positions?"

    Psaki responded by saying:

    "I would say one of the president’s core objectives is addressing racial injustice in this country, not just through his rhetoric, but through his actions, and what anyone should look to [is] his advocacy for passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, for nominating leaders to the Department of Justice, to address long-outdated policies and to ask his leadership team here in the White House to prioritise these issues in his presidency, which is current and today and not from 30 years ago."

    The journalist doggedly pursued a more direct answer: “Do you believe it's important for him to accept his own culpability...”

    At that point Psaki tersely cut the reporter off and replied: “I think I've answered your question.”

    ‘Symbolic Crack Pipe’

    US President Joe Biden slammed systemic racism as a "stain on our nation's soul" in a televised address to the nation on Tuesday after a white former police officer, Derek Chauvin, was found guilty of murdering George Floyd by suffocating the handcuffed black man with his knee pressing on his neck for more than nine minutes.

    The President urged the importance of "confronting head on systemic racism and the racial disparities that exist in policing and our criminal justice system".

    ​Analysts and civil rights campaigners hailed the ruling as a major win for black citizens in the US.

    However, Joe Biden during his 2020 presidential campaign had come under fire for helping author 'tough on crime' laws as the senator for Delaware from 1973 to 2009.

    The 1994 crime law - previously known as the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act - enforced a mandatory sentence of life without parole for a third serious drug conviction.

    Passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton, it was meant to reverse decades of rising crime, yet sent some perpetrators to prison for life for selling marijuana. Some criminal justice reform activists insist the law was one of the key contributors to mass incarceration in the 1990s.

    In an interview during Joe Biden’s presidential campaign in 2020, then-Harvard professor Cornel West - an American philosopher and political activist focusing on the role of race, gender, and class in American society, said that Biden would “have to take responsibility and acknowledge the contribution he made to something that was not a force for good”.

    Vice President Joe Biden, left, accompanied by former President Bill Clinton walk carefully off Air Force Two during a rainstorm,, upon their arrival in Youngstown, Ohio, for a campaign stop, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012.
    © AP Photo / Matt Rourke
    Vice President Joe Biden, left, accompanied by former President Bill Clinton walk carefully off Air Force Two during a rainstorm,, upon their arrival in Youngstown, Ohio, for a campaign stop, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012.

    West added:

    “When he says it didn’t contribute to mass incarceration, I tell him he has to get off his symbolic crack pipe.”

    Netizens were swift to weigh in and suggested that while Psaki curtly brushed off the pertinent question, someone should “ask Biden directly”.

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    Explained: How Jen Psaki Ended Up Answering Questions of Fictional Reporter for Months
    Tags:
    George Floyd, systematic racism, racism, racism, Psaki, Jennifer Psaki, Joe Biden
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