Tuesday, February 6, 2007

The Nuances of Racial Politics

As by now everyone well knows, Joe Biden simultaneously launched and crashed his presidential campaign last Wednesday when an article in The New York Observer quoted the loquacious senator thusly: "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American [Barack Obama] who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy ... I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

The real controversy seemed to stem from his use of the words "clean" and "articulate" -- both words being pejorative as they supposedly imply such traits as unnatural for blacks. (Indeed, President Bush received the same criticism for the same PC faux pas.)

Perhaps the strangest thing about this whole episode is the choice of alleged misdeeds. It was only a month earlier, after all, when Biden offered up this interesting performance while stumping at a South Carolina Rotary Club:

The senator then pounced on a member’s announcement that the club would hold its annual Christmas party at the state Department of Archives and History where members could view the original copy of the state’s Articles of Secession.

Biden asked, “Where else could I go to a Rotary Club where (for a) Christmas party the highlight is looking at the Articles?”

Biden was on a roll.

Delaware, he noted, was a “slave state that fought beside the North. That’s only because we couldn’t figure out how to get to the South. There were a couple of states in the way.”

Waxing nostalgic for slavery, or calling someone "clean" and "articulate." That it's the latter that's garnered all the finger wagging says something about contemporary racial politics. What, exactly, I'm not quite sure.

1 comment:

Karol said...

Have you seen that video where he tells an Indian guy that there are a lot of Indians in Delaware and you can nary go into a 7-11 if you're not Indian?