Speaking on Thursday at a Veterans Day event at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, President Biden used a term which many find offensive, referring to the great black pitcher of the past, Satchel Paige, as “the great Negro at the time,” adding for clarification, “pitcher in the Negro leagues,” the term used to describe the segregated leagues for African-American players in the early to mid-20th century.
Biden told the crowd, “I just want to tell you, I know you’re a little younger than I am, but I’ve adopted the attitude of the great Negro at the time, pitcher in the Negro leagues, went on to become a great pitcher in the pros, major league baseball, after Jackie Robinson. His name was Satchel Paige.”
“And Satchel Paige, on his 47th birthday, pitched a win against Chicago,” Biden said. “And all the press went in and said, ‘Satch, it’s amazing. 47 years old. No one’s ever, ever pitched a win at age 47. How do you feel about being 47?’ He said, ‘Boys, that’s not how I look at it.’”
“They said, ‘How do you look at it, Satch?’” Biden continued, adding, “He said, ‘I look at it this way: How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?’”
Biden refers to “that great negro pitcher” Satchel Paige pic.twitter.com/ikFdGaixZT
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) November 11, 2021
Much criticism has been directed at public figures for using the term “Negro.” The Voice of America (VOA) reported in July 2020 that political operative Roger Stone, whose 40-month prison sentence was commuted by former President Trump, called Los Angeles-based black radio host Morris O’Kelly a “Negro” in an interview, prompting O’Kelly’s website to write, “Stone could have reached for any pejorative, but unfortunately went there,” adding that “Stone offered an unfiltered, unvarnished one-sentence expression of how he saw the journalist interviewing him.”
“O’Kelly characterized ‘Negro’ as the ‘low-calorie version of the N-Word,’” VOA reported.
In 2013, the Census Bureau announced it would no longer use the term “Negro.” In May 2016, former President Barack Obama signed a bill into law that would ban the federal government from using the term “Negro,” permitting “African-American” instead.
In May 2020, during an interview with popular African-American commentator and radio host Charlamagne tha God, Biden, running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, defended his record on racial issues and, when told that the host had “more questions” for him, declared, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”
Asked how he would address his critics in the black community, Biden said, “What I say to them is that I’m not acknowledging anybody who is being considered, but I guarantee you there are multiple black women being considered. Multiple.”
“Thanks so much. That’s really our time. I apologize,” a Biden aide interrupted.
“You can’t do that to black media!” Charlamagne protested.
“I do that to white media and black media because my wife has to go on at 6 o’clock,” said Biden. “Ooh. Uh oh, I’m in trouble,” he added.
“Listen, you’ve got to come see us when you come to New York, VP Biden,” said Charlamagne. “It’s a long way until November. We’ve got more questions–”
“You’ve got more questions?” Biden said. “Well I tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”