Former vice president Joe Biden cited his work in the Obama administration helping "women of color" from "the hood" learn how to code on Friday.
Biden, who announced his bid for the 2020 presidential nomination last month, told an Iowa audience it was important for American workers displaced by globalization to adapt to the new, tech-centered economy. To illustrate the point, Biden described a visit he made to Detroit, Mich., as vice president where he saw first hand how local entrepreneurs trained citizens from economically distressed communities to "code."
"Through a program we had, through community colleges, we said look put together a program for us where we can teach people how to code," Biden told the audience. "We went out, literally into the hood, and they found, turns out, 54 [individuals], they happened to be all women, the vast majority were women of color, no one with more than a high school degree, aged 24-to-54, and almost a third of them only had a GED."
Biden's remarks were met by the crowd with "nervous laughter" and an audible "yikes," according to the Washington Examiner.
This is not the first time Biden has used language considered insensitive to some in the African-American community. While giving a speech to the Brookings Institution in 2012, Biden repeated the story about witnessing local organizations in Detroit "pick" women from "the hood" and teach them to code.
Likewise, during his 2008 presidential run, Biden said his then competitor—and future running mate—Sen. Barack Obama was "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."
Biden's comments and positions on race have come to attention as polling shows him the clear frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. Even before entering the race, Biden's prior opposition to school busing and his eulogy of former senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina had raised contention among an increasingly left-leaning Democratic Party.