Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden said during a speech honoring Martin Luther King Jr. that Donald Trump’s presidency has brought people “out from under the rocks” and “legitimized” hate.

“America’s been made better, all of the struggles many of you in this room have endured and led,” Mr. Biden said Monday at the National Action Network’s Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast in Washington.

“But we’ve learned in the last two years, it doesn’t take much to awaken hate,” he said. “To bring those folks out from under the rocks — that part of American society that’s always been there, will always be there, but has been legitimized.

“We have a lot to root out, but most of all there’s systematic racism that most of us whites don’t like to acknowledge even exists,” he continued. “We don’t even consciously acknowledge it, but it’s been built into every aspect of our system.”

Mr. Biden, a potential 2020 presidential candidate and frequent critic of Mr. Trump, said it’s up to Americans, specifically white Americans, to “stand up” and challenge “these forces of hate.”

“Silence is complicity,” he declared, earning a round of applause.

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