HOUSTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden's decision to enter the Democratic presidential race is causing consternation among some Democrats, particularly women of color, who have been hoping for a nominee who better reflects the nation's diversity.

At the She the People forum, billed as the first presidential forum focused on women of color, Roxy D. Hall Williamson's shoulders slumped at the mention of Biden, who made his campaign announcement on Thursday.

“I know that we have been cultured to feel that only the white man can save us,” the LaMarque, Texas, organizer said Wednesday. “I just don't feel like Biden is our answer.”

Biden's candidacy is likely to reshape the Democratic race, which has put the party's diversity on display. The group of eight 2020 hopefuls who spoke at the forum was comprised of one black man, one black woman, three other women, a Latino man and two white men, all making the case for why they should be the nominee.

Black female voters will play a critical role in the Democratic Party's attempt to defeat President Donald Trump in 2020. An inability to earn their support in past cycles has spelled political peril for Democratic candidates. For his part, Biden has maintained strong ties to the African American community over the decades.

The raucous, standing-room crowd in the 1,800-person capacity auditorium at the historically black Texas Southern University listened intently as the candidates were questioned about maternal mortality, immigration, tribal sovereignty, income inequality and other issues. Attending were Sen. Cory Booker, former Obama Cabinet member Julian Castro, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

LaTosha Brown, the co-founder of Black Voters Matter, said she was initially eager for Biden to enter the race but now sees “strong alternatives” to him.

In interviews, black women repeatedly pointed to a singular issue plaguing Biden's candidacy: his handling of the 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Clarence Thomas and the Senate Judiciary Committee's treatment of Anita Hill, a black professor who faced a panel of white male lawmakers about her sexual harassment allegations against Thomas. Biden, then a U.S. senator from Delaware, was the committee's chairman.

Williamson said that she was “still salty” about the role Biden played in the hearing and that "it wasn't OK then and it's not OK now."

A campaign aide said Biden has privately contacted Hill to share "his regret for what she endured and his admiration for everything she has done to change the culture around sexual harassment in this country." But The New York Times reported Thursday that Hill said in an interview she was deeply unsatisfied and unconvinced by his apology.

Cherisse Scott, 44, of Memphis, said the issue is "bigger than Anita Hill."

"Though we supported President Obama, I think we still wanted to see more happening on behalf of black and brown communities, specifically black communities," Scott said. “I think Joe Biden's great. I think Joe Biden was a hell of a vice president. But I wouldn't vote for him for president.”

In one move toward adding a younger, diverse voice, Biden has hired Symone Sanders, a prominent African American political strategist, as a senior adviser.

Democratic strategist and former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile called Sanders "battle-tested" and said the hire was "one of the best moves" the Biden campaign could make.