On June 1, 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden participated in events to honor the scores of people killed by a violent mob of white supremacists that stormed Tulsa’s Greenwood District, or what was known as “Black Wall Street,” 100 years prior.
Among the remembrances was a roughly 45-minute speech in which some social media posts alleged the president pointed to trends in television commercials as evidence of Americans’ progress since the Tulsa Race Massacre of accepting one another regardless of race.
The claim was true.
I’ve never been more optimistic about the future than I am today. I mean that. And the reason is because of this new generation of young people. They’re the best educated, they’re the least prejudiced, the most open generation in American history.
And although I have no scientific basis of what I’m about to say, but those of you who are over 50 — how often did you ever see — how often did you ever see advertisements on television with Black and white couples? Not a joke.
I challenge you — find today, when you turn on the stations — sit on one station for two hours. And I don’t know how many commercials you’ll see — eight to five — two to three out of five have mixed-race couples in them. That’s not by accident. They’re selling soap, man. (Crowd laughs). Not a joke.
Remember ol’ Pat Caddell? He used to say, “You want to know what’s happening in American culture? Watch advertising, because they want to sell what they have.”
In other words, shortly before ending his speech, Biden indeed highlighted the racial demographics of modern-day television advertisements as a reason to be optimistic about America’s future and its young people. Based on the statement, Biden, 78, seemingly came to the conclusion from his own experiences of watching broadcast programs over the past several decades.
Considering that evidence, we rate this claim as “True.”
However, it was important to note here: That above-transcribed comment was far from the only moment during the speech in which Biden commented on Americans’ views toward race.
At one point, he said, the “hate and domestic terrorism” that encouraged white supremacists to burn and loot businesses, as well as kill scores of people, in Tulsa’s predominately Black Greenwood neighborhood in 1921 “exists today still.”
He cited the 2017 deadly Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, where Klansmen gathered alongside modern-day Confederates, and other extremist groups, as well as the country’s amount of hate crimes against Asian Americans and Jewish Americans. (See our fact check into the country’s surge in hate crimes against the former community during the COVID-19 pandemic here.)
“Hate is never defeated; it only hides,” he said. “And given a little big of oxygen — just a little bit oxygen — by its leaders, it comes out of there from under the rock like it was happening again, as if it never went away.”
Then, without mentioning specific strategies to combat overt racism or hate crimes, the president told the audience: “We must not give hate a safe harbor.”
Additionally, the president used the speech to tout a variety of his administration’s efforts, from its strategies to try to block Republicans’ efforts to enact stricter voting laws to its goals to address police brutality, which he framed as beneficial for Black Americans. Read the entire address here.