Monday, February 12, 2007

Biden's misstep an eye-opener..

Not only is Biden's foot-in-mouth quote an eye-opener about the deep-seated nature of racial stereotypes, but it is an eye-opener on media favoritism. Julie, if you're reading, remember posting about how black athletes who give coherent interviews are called "well-spoken," as if that was a surprise, while white athletes are assumed to be well-spoken? This is another example in a different arena.

An inadvertent truth.
2/9/2007 From The Week Magazine

Joe Biden has made an amazing discovery, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. Last week, he called his Senate colleague and potential presidential rival Barack Obama of Illinois “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” Forget, for the moment, Biden’s seeming astonishment that a black man could be nice-looking and bathe regularly. “For my part, I never made it past ‘articulate.’” Apparently, Biden can’t quite believe that Obama, a Columbia graduate, former president of the Harvard Law Review, and best-selling author, can “speak in complete sentences.” Am I overreacting? Then why are white orators such as Bill Clinton and John Edwards always described as “eloquent”? “Articulate,” by contrast, is used by patronizing lunkheads who find it “improbable and wondrous” that a black person could sound so … well, white.

What Biden clearly meant to say, said Leonard Pitts in The Miami Herald, is that Obama is the first black presidential candidate who has a chance of winning. “But what he wound up saying is revealing, and what it reveals is not pretty.” Funny thing, though, said Investor’s Business Daily in an editorial. If a conservative had committed this gaffe, he would have been crucified. Remember the firestorm last year when Sen. George Allen called an Indian-American a “macaca”? How about when House Majority Leader Dick Armey called Rep. Barney Frank “Barney Fag”? The media relentlessly pummeled both these Republicans, insisting they’d revealed themselves as flaming bigots. But because Biden is a liberal Democrat, pundits are merely shaking their heads. There goes old Joe, they’re chuckling, putting his foot in his mouth once again.

This time, Biden’s foot has made a valuable contribution, said Cynthia Tucker in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In his own inept way, he’s shown that race remains a minefield in this country. Despite all the progress made by the civil-rights movement, it’s still impossible for blacks to escape their physical appearance. For us, “not only does language matter, but so does tone of voice. So does dress. So does hair.” Obama’s reaction to this mess was as noble as you could hope for, said Ginger Rutland in The Sacramento Bee. “We have more important things to talk about,” he responded. “We’ve got Iraq. We’ve got health care. We’ve got energy.” As Obama well knows, however, we also have race. In the months ahead, as he continues his presidential run, voters would probably appreciate it if he addressed this explosive subject with the candor it deserves. “I know I would.”


julieunplugged said...

I heard about this one and am glad you posted about it. It's crazy, isn't it, how hard it is to shed these hidden beliefs about race. Glad they are pointed out now. And strange that because Biden is a Dem, he gets a bit of a pass compared with the right.

carrie said...

I thought it strange that this is the only place I heard about the incident. We live in NC, but we heard all about the "macaca" slur in VA. The resulting media uproar cost Allen the election. Now, I'm not saying the media shouldn't have taken the guy to task for his racial slur. I just can't help wondering why Biden wasn't raked over the coals as well, or at least publically reprimanded by his own party.

But sadder still is the fact that such hidden beliefs run so deep, even in someone who probably honestly doesn't consider himself in any way prejudice. Lately I've been amazed at some of my own "hidden beliefs." It's a complicated problems with many causes, some legitimate and some not.

I'm not promising any personal crusade, but I'm wanting to know myself better.


julieunplugged said...

Me too! I want to know myself better as well. And it does make me want to choose my words, not let my words choose me.