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Biden Responds To Sen. Tim Scott: 'I Don't Think The American People Are Racist'

President Biden says America has "to deal with" the aftereffects of slavery and Jim Crow laws.
Evan Vucci
President Biden says America has "to deal with" the aftereffects of slavery and Jim Crow laws.

President Biden says America is not a racist country, but that Black Americans have been left behind and "we have to deal with it."

In an interview on NBC's Today show that aired Friday, Biden was asked about the remarks Wednesday by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who delivered the Republican response to the president's address to a joint session of Congress.

Scott, the Senate's only Black Republican, said that "America is not a racist country" and warned that "it's wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present."

Biden and Scott have divergent views on race in America, but the president agreed with the senator — to a point.

"I don't think the American people are racist," he said, "but I think after 400 years, African Americans have been left in a position where they are so far behind the eight ball in terms of education and health, in terms of opportunity."

Biden continued, "I don't think America is racist, but I think the overhang from all of the Jim Crow and before that, slavery, have had a cost and we have to deal with it."

Biden was also asked in the interview about the situation at the Southern border. He said that the number of children seeking to cross into the country "is way down now, we've now gotten control" and that there's "a significant change in the circumstance for children coming to and at the border."

According to Customs and Border Protection, nearly 19,000 children and teenagers arrived at the Southern border in March — the most ever in a single month. Biden, however, refused to label the situation a crisis.

Biden defended his administration's efforts to reunite children separated from their families by the Trump administration. "One of the things is we don't know yet where those kids are. We're trying like hell to figure out what happened. It's almost like being a sleuth, and we're still continuing to try like hell to find out where they are," he said.

Biden also discussed the state of the pandemic. Asked whether all K-12 schools should be open this fall for in-person instruction five days a week, the president said, "Based on science and the CDC, they should probably all be open."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.