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.
6 thoughts on “Racism”
I’m really rather hoping that his comments have put him out of the race. He’s ridiculous.
Yeah, and what is up with people like him emerging from the Democratic party?
Sen. Biden has apologized profusely for his comments and has been a champion of civil rights in his 30+ years in the senate. We should all refrain from judging a person’s entire life from one mistake.
I saw this and thought you might like it: http://flickr.com/photos/88832188@N00/15656688/
I agree that we should not judge his life based on this one idiocy, but I can’t see how he thought his statements were ever okay, and they are definately indicative of ignorance on his part.
I think it is important that he feeling the fire from these comments. If everyone who made racist remarks was able to point to the non racist things they have done to clear the slate, instead of having to pay for that choice, there would be more incentive to make racist remarks, not less.
That being said, I think what’s most interesting about these comments coming from a civil rights champion is that they illustrate the pervasive condescension that accompanies racism in our culture.
Paul Butler spoke at the last RebLaw I attended and was eloquent in pointing out that minorities do not need whites swooping in to save them, all that does is reinforce the notion that they can’t help themselves. What minorities need is for white activists to support minority leaders in the background.
His speech, “Much Respect, toward a hip hop theory of punishment”, is a real eye opener.
One of the unfortunate side effects of the internet and corresponding information age is that a single remark, uttered in perhaps a few seconds, dominates and obscures everything else. This is a great example of that. Sure, he deserves criticism, but people need to get beyond it and look at the larger picture. The larger picture says that he’s been a champion of civil rights throughout his career. He’s not a racist. He just said something stupid, and we all do that.
As to Paul Butler, I haven’t read the speech, so it’s hard to comment. All I’ll say is that MLK spoke frequently of “white people of good will” and carefully crafted his message to appeal to all races, not just blacks.