Joe Biden berates white supremacy at 56th Birmingham Church Bombing Memorial Celebration
“Sometimes in life there are times that are so hard, they divide everything that came before everything that comes after. They stop the clocks, they tear the trivial from the essential. They force us to face difficult truths about our institutions, about our society, about us. 10:22 am, September 15, 1963 was such a time, ”Biden told the congregation as he began his remarks.
The attack put Birmingham and the civil rights movement in the national spotlight.
The speech was a solemn remembrance of the tragedy and a reminder of the work that remains to be done to eradicate systemic racism and hatred in America.
Alabama Democratic Senator Doug Jones was also in attendance with Biden Sunday morning, who, as an American lawyer in the late 1990s and early 2000s, helped prosecute and secure the convictions of two men involved in the 1963 bombing – Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry.
Biden, speaking 56 years to the day after the deaths of Denise McNair, 11, and Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins and Cynthia Wesley, 14, made the connection between the violence seen in 1963 and the resurgence of racially motivated violence. today.
“We must recognize that there can be no fulfillment of the American Dream without addressing the original sin of slavery, brought to these shores over 400 years ago. And the campaign of violence, fear and trauma that has spanned centuries in this country, ”Biden said.
“The same poisonous ideology lit the fuse on 16th Street, pulled the trigger on Mother Emanuel … and sparked the anti-Semitic and anti-Semitic massacre in Pittsburgh and Poway. We have seen a white supremacist gun shoot innocent immigrants in [an] El Paso parking lot with military style weapon declaring “Hispanic invasion of Texas”. Biden said, referring to the more than 20 people murdered in a shooting at a West Texas Walmart last month.
Biden also acknowledged that whites, no matter how hard they try, can never truly understand how racism and hatred has affected African Americans throughout the country’s history.
“We know we’re not there yet. Nobody knows it better. My mom used to say, ‘You want to understand me, walk a mile and a half inside my skin. “Those of us who are white are trying, but we can never fully, fully understand. No matter how hard we try. We’re almost, we’re almost at that next phase of progress in my opinion,” Biden said.
The former vice president, fresh out of a debate that saw clashes with many of his rivals for the Democratic nomination, said that while progress had been made, there was still work to be done for racism does not persist in America.
“We haven’t relegated racism and white supremacy to the pages of history,” Biden warned. “But the greatness of this nation has always been and must continue to be that we always strive to relegate. We hold these truths obvious. We have never been up to it, but we have never strayed from it. C “is what unites us. It is the American creed. It is one of the most powerful ideas in the history of the world, and it lives in all of us,” he added.
Biden also spoke about his own experience of the tragedy, including the loss of his two young children in a car crash and the death of his son Beau from cancer.
“When my first wife and first daughter were killed and my two boys were injured so badly in a car crash, I was faced, like many of you, at a defining moment: getting away from it all. public life or stay. I chose to stay, before and after. My life would never be the same again, ”Biden said.
Biden spoke about the violence that took place in Charlottesville, Va., In 2017.
“After Charlottesville, I said I believed we were in a battle for the soul of America. I repeat today. We are in a battle for the soul of America. And here, in the historic 16th Baptist Church there is not a more powerful reminder of what is at stake. More poignant example of what is expected of us in response. It is a battle we have fought over and over again. It’s a battle that has cost countless lives. Hate only hides, it doesn’t go away, “Biden said.
Although Biden did not mention President Trump in his remarks, he decried the white supremacist ‘hug’ and constantly criticized Trump’s response to Charlottesville and made it a staple of his stump speech.
“We must also realize that hate repulsion as its ugliest can invoke as a nation, to do better, to bring out the best in us. The pampering of white supremacy so heinous, it cannot be ignored by any Honest American. He presents an opportunity to continue moving forward against systematic racism, “Biden said Sunday.
He also recalled when President Obama comforted Mother Emanuel’s congregation after the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
“I was amazed by the amazing grace of these parishioners, the families of the victims. How quickly they chose after the loss of a white supremacist … to forgive the killer. I was stunned. It made me believe, even more firmly. , all on my faith. The killer is forgiven for healing the wounds, for the wrongs done to him, with compassion. To be able to come back to life in the community after such a horrible breakup. It’s amazing to me, ”Biden said near the conclusion of his remarks.
Biden continues his campaign momentum this weekend with a stop in Miami, Florida on Sunday afternoon before speaking at the Galivants Ferry Stump Festival in the critical early voting state of South Carolina.
After the 1963 bombing, Robert Chambliss, an avowed white supremacist and member of the Ku Klux Klan was convicted of possession of dynamite and fined $ 100. He spent six months in prison.
It took nearly 40 years for others involved in the attack on the church to be brought to justice. In 2000, the federal government filed a lawsuit against Herman Cash, Thomas Blanton and Bobby Cherry, all accused, along with Chambliss, of belonging to a KKK gang called Cahaba Boys.
Cash was dead by then, but in 2002 Blanton and Cherry were tried for their roles in the church bombing and convicted of murder.
Russell Goldman of ABC News contributed to this report.