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The combination of Democrats’ reaction to Donald Trump’s presidency, the most diverse presidential field in history and years more of activism, however, made race impossible to ignore in the 2020 campaign. All the candidates felt compelled to talk about race, not just to appeal to voters of color but to make inroads with white liberals who have dramatically shifted their views in recent years.

Biden was a bit of an outlier in the primary as he did not incorporate as much of the social justice language into his campaign as other candidates but also managed to trounce them with voters of color. Even so, the dramatic shifts in public opinion in recent months seem to have ended any lingering caution about discussing race.

“I remember when president Obama gave his speech, saying that if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon Martin, and how world-stopping that was at the moment at that time,” said Alencia Johnson, a former senior campaign aide to Elizabeth Warren. But to hear Harris and others say the names of Floyd and other Black men and women killed by police, she said is “almost earth-shattering.”

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