Opinion: Black history lesson for Joe Biden, why you don't call a Black man "boy"

Lashaun Turner

President Joe Biden recently called Wes Moore, the 44-year-old Black Governor of Maryland, “boy”.

Pic collage Joe Biden & Wes MoorePhoto byWikipedia Images (Public Domain)

On February 15, 2023, during remarks given in a speech on the economy to an audience of the IBEW Local 26 union in Lanham Maryland, President Biden referred to the Governor as "boy".

After the opening introductions President Biden said “You know, I want to thank Kenny Cooper, president of the IBEW, who is doing a great job for this union, and for all — all American workers. Not a joke. And you got a hell of a new governor in Wes Moore, I tell you. He’s the real deal. And the boy looks like he can still play. He got some guns on him”.

The comment seemingly was a reference to Wes Moore’s college football days at Johns Hopkins university.

Even though Biden may not have intended to make a slur, some Blacks would consider it insensitive. One Black man I asked said he thinks being called 'boy' is offensive, similar to being called an N-word.

Black History of the word boy

Calling a Black man boy is considered a slur that has its roots in slavery and the Jim Crow era when white men were to be referred to as master (massa) or boss, while Black slaves/men were called boy or uncle. Similarly Black women would be called auntie or girl.

Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. believed white people weaponized the word boy to remind black folks of their place. King reportedly witnessed an interaction between his father and police after not stopping at a stop sign.

The police said All right, boy, pull over and let me see your license. My father replied indignantly, 'I'm no boy.' then, pointing to me,(MLK) this is a boy. I am a man, and until you call me one, I will not listen to you." (NPR)

In recent times the courts have weighed in on the use of the word. The U.S Supreme Court ruled that when the word boy is used to refer to an adult Black man, when the speaker is white, and a power dynamic exists, the word could be a sign of racism.

Biden’s history of controversial racial comments

Biden had previously faced backlash in 2019 for his use of the word “boy”. CNN quoted Senator Cory Booker as saying, “use of the racially pejorative term “boy” in describing his (Bidens) ability to work with segregationist senators in the past was “hurtful” to the African American community”.

Biden later denied using the term ‘boy’ in an offensive context but said “I do understand the consequence of the word".

Black History month recognizes the contributions and achievements of African Americans. Wes Moore for example, is the first Black governor in the state of Maryland, and only the third Black person elected as governor of any U.S. state. He is a historical Black figure in politics, not a "boy".

Even as we continue to make strides in social, political and racial justice for Black Americans we cannot forget Black history.

Words still matter and therefore we must recognize forms of language discrimination and call out the use of racial epithets or other derogatory expressions whenever they are spoken, intentional or unintentional, even from the mouth of the President of the United States.

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Lashaun is a Journalist, Reporter, and Viral Content Creator covering Local Stories, Food, Politics, & Travel [Series : I.E Food Tour-Black Political Opinion-Trip Chic] with NEWSBREAK since June 2021.- JADED: Journalism with a Touch of Shade is Lashaun's views and opinions on various trending topics. Lashaun aka Lady I.M.PRE$S is a former NBC/CNBC Affiliate KCAA Broadcaster for "Cali's BEST" Radio Show airing on 102.3FM & 106.5FM from 2016-2020. Lashaun has been in the Media & P.R field for over 13 years and has interviewed an estimated 20k Celebrities and Entrepreneurs. Lashaun also produced & hosted Blaze Indie L.A TV show on LA's Channel 36 from 2014-2016

Los Angeles, CA

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