Time for a soapbox moment.
Racism is still rife in our culture, and our politicians are showing our nation’s true colors more clearly than they have in years.
The Racial Politics of Speaking Well, by Lynette Clemetson, explains the insidious and pervasive racism that still permeates our culture as it relates to our country’s tendency to condescend and patronize successful African Americans. The article discusses Senator Joseph Biden’s use of the word “articulate” to describe Barack Obama.
Okay, his whole description was something more befitting a classical movie racist turned liberal, rather than a democratic presidential contender, the description being: “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy”.
Hmmmm…. well who wouldn’t be flattered by such uh… glowing … praise?
“Hello, I am your fellow contender for the presidency, I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard Law School in 1991, was President of the Harvard Law Review, am a US Senator for Illinois, lectured at the University of Chicago, oh, and I’m black.”
“Well I am surprised! You are so clean, so nice looking, and you can TALK!!”
Sigh. Back to the focus of the article.
Why would a black man disdain being called articulate? Well, let’s begin with the definition of the word.
articulate adjective |ärˈtikyəlit| 1 (of a person or a person’s words) having or showing the ability to speak fluently and coherently : an articulate account of their experiences.
Okay, so the fellow democratic contender for the presidency finds Barack Obama to be capable of fluent and coherent speech.
In my opinion, Senator Biden is either a condescending ass-hat, or is inarticulate. (The irony!) If he intended to actually compliment his fellow presidential contender, he should have had the foresight to first open a dictionary. The following words are within the dictionary, and would be far more apt compliments to a good public speaker:
1. orator |ˈôrətər; ˈär-| noun a public speaker, esp. one who is eloquent or skilled.
2. rhetorician |ˌretəˈri sh ən| noun an expert in formal rhetoric. • a speaker whose words are primarily intended to impress or persuade.
Then Biden should have decided whether or not he really wanted to impugn years of African American history by calling Obama the first clean articulate black speaker. I do realize that our nation’s text books pay scant attention to non white contributors, but even so, the last time I opened a history book, there were many more Black Leaders with the ability to shower and capacity for speech.
The article is eloquent in expressing a problem faced by any non white male in our culture. Our culture, legally, legislatively, politically, and more, places white men as the norm. Therefore we compare all other people in our culture, consciously or unconsciously, to white men. Therefore white men are stereotyped as articulate, well dressed, presentable men. Black men are not stereotyped that way. When Senator Biden said Barack Obama was articulate, he meant, for a black guy.
Whew. That is offensive. I don’t know about you, but I have heard some black people who spoke with words powerful enough to bring down thunderous applause, who can craft speeches that are still taught and remembered today, whose words carried the power to lift your heart and mind to heaven and beyond. When Al Sharpton was speaking in the last presidential race, he brought me to tears, something none of the white speakers were able to do. (Especially not Bush.)
Barack Obama is not articulate. He is a masterful oratorical speaker. Joseph Biden is clearly neither articulate, nor is he a good orator. His remarks concerning Obama were condescending and eye opening. This culture is deeply wrong to still be surprised at a black man’s ability to express himself, and our denial of pervasive racism in this country is beyond naive.
I for one am embarrassed that Senator Biden should purport to speak for me.