President Biden’s remarks about Historically Black Colleges and Universities’ fraternities created an awkward moment Monday at a White House event to celebrate Black History Month.
During a White House reception to celebrate the legacy of Black Americans, Mr. Biden noted that the presidents of the so-called Divine Nine were in attendance. The Divine Nine are the nine Black fraternities and sororities founded between 1906 and 1963 at HBCUs.
“I know real power when I see it. The Divine Nine,” Mr. Biden said to thunderous applause in the White House East Room. “We are honored to have all the presidents here tonight.”
“By the way, I may be a White boy, but I’m not stupid. I know where the power is. You think I’m joking, but I learned a long time ago about the power of the Divine Nine,” Mr. Biden continued to a smattering of awkward laughter and applause.
The president then noted that his administration is the first in history to host all nine presidents of the Divine Nine at a single event, adding that he created a permanent office for the Divine Nine at the White House.
Mr. Biden then went on to highlight his efforts to improve the lives of Black Americans. He took credit for a near-record low unemployment rate for Black Americans, which fell to 5.4% last month, according to data from the Labor Department.
The lowest Black unemployment in U.S. history is 5.3%, which was recorded in August 2019, under the Trump administration.
Mr. Biden also told the crowd that he kept his campaign promise to get the first Black female U.S. Supreme Court justice confirmed, which he did last year with Kentanji Brown Jackson.
The president also told the audience that his legislative wins, including his bipartisan infrastructure law and massive climate, tax and health law have improved their lives.
However, Mr. Biden has not been able to make good on his promise to overhaul policing in America, a key issue for Black voters.
Mr. Biden has called for overhauling policing through the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
The legislation sought to ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants in certain cases, mandate data collection on police encounters, and reduce qualified immunity protection for law enforcement, making police officers easier to sue.
The proposal passed the Democrat-controlled House in 2020 and 2021 but stalled in the Senate. It faces bigger obstacles this year now that a Republican majority controls the House.
Bipartisan talks on the legislation between Sens. Cory Booker, New Jersey Democrat, and Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina Republican, broke down last year and the bill was scuttled.
Mr. Biden remains popular with Black voters.
The first BlackTrack survey from HIT Strategies released last month found that 59% of Black voters say Mr. Biden should run for a second term in 2024 and 74% approved of his job performance.