Racial Political Faux Pas

Yesterday Democratic Senator Joe Biden was announcing his candidacy for president when someone asked him what he thought of presidential candidate Barack Obama. His response?

[Barack Obama is] “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”

This immediatly became a huge race issue. I mean, it just boil’s people’s potatoes to hear educated blacks called “articulate”. Why doesn’t anyone say, “Man, you should vote for Hilary. She’s articulate.” It seems to imply that all blacks speak ebonics and it’s some kind of wonderful achievement for them to speak articulately.

HOWEVER, stupid-white-guy-comment aside, I think it’s pretty clear what he was trying to say. Look at the only African American man to run for president last year, Rev Al Sharpton. Rev Sharpton is neither mainstream nor articulate. At least I find it hard to follow his logic threads when he talks sometimes. As far as mainstream, I think a lot of people see him as a little radical – angry and protesting at the slightest sight of anything that could possibly be interpreted in a bad way, even if that wasn’t the intention.

So, Senator Biden was just trying to say that Congressman Obama had qualities that made him likely to win; compared to Reb Sharpton which no one cared about in 2004 and didn’t recieve much coverage until he did surprisingly well in some Southern state. Did he do it in an uncouth way? Definitely. Should he be more sensitive of race relations, lest he become the next “macacca”? Yes. But I think his heart was probably in the right place. The comments, while containing stupid words like “articulate” and “clean” (implying most Africans are?….dirty?), I think it’s clear to see what he meant. And Obama, unlike Sharpton, was gracious enough to take it for what it was.

An aside: I wanted to make sure I was using uncouth correctly and wanted to tell you about a neat feature in Google. Typing define: uncouth in the search box, gives you the definition. Very neat feature.

Author: Eric Mesa

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