Thursday, February 15, 2007

What’s up with that?

A couple of weeks ago, U.S. Senator, Joseph Biden of Delaware, a candidate for the office of President, said the following about fellow Senator and Presidential candidate, Barack Obama of Illinois, who happens to be an African-American (his mother is a White American, his father was from Kenya):

“You got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”

Sen. Biden received lots of criticism for his remark (as he should), which he said he only meant as a compliment. In “complimenting” Sen. Obama, Biden managed to insult the late Shirley Chisholm, Jesse Jackson, Sr. and Carol Moseley-Braun, three Blacks who also ran for the Presidency in years past. He tried to explain his remark but found, after a day or so, that he had to apologize, which he did.

Can you imagine the same thing being said about a White man (“In Sen. So-and-so you have a mainstream Anglo-American who is articulate, bright, clean and nice-looking.”)? Can you? I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Black men (it’s always Black men, by the way) be described by some well-meaning White person as “articulate” (as if Black men aren’t supposed to be able to talk). Did Sen. Biden forget Jesse Jackson’s speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention? I mean, Jesse knows he can talk! In fact, I would venture to speculate that Black people have been speaking with eloquence since the beginning of human history. Off the top of my head, from the last 100 years, the names of Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Henry McNeal Turner, Reverdy Cassius Ransom, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Gardner Taylor, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. come to mind. A multitude of “articulate” public figures, throughout U.S. history, who happened to be Black, could be named.

And what does the comment about “bright” mean? That Black men are usually stupid? Excuse me? What about Benjamin Banneker, George Washington Carver, Daniel Hale Williams, W.E.B. DuBois or Percy Julian?

“Clean and nice-looking”? Does that mean that Black men are usually dirty and ugly? I don’t even have to go back into Black history, for if it is true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I’ll tell you right now, my wife beholds a clean and good-looking Black man whenever she looks at me! Didn’t Sen. Biden ever hear of the phrase “Black is beautiful”?

This is just another example of how Black people are habitually put down, devalued and condescendingly spoken about. Sen. Biden’s remark was a “back-handed” insult. In “complimenting” Sen. Obama, he insulted millions of Black Americans.

As Grandma would’ve said, Sen. Biden ought to “go somewhere and sit down!”


Anonymous said...

Your grandma had a fantastic turn of phrase! I need to learn how to do that instead of just half-censoring normal exclamations.

Cynthia said...

WWDunc, Bravo, for your very "articulate" (ha,ha) response to an incident that I found appalling as well as extremely insensitive! Unfortunately, I was personally more upset with Mr. Obama's initial response to the statement because as my momma would have said "he should have known better". Initially, Mr. Obama simply stated "no harm, no foul". What's up with that? He came back and later gave a more enlightened statement but obviously he initially didn't get it. I have become used to insensitive statements made by "others". We will continue to prove them wrong, but "we" should always understand an insult when we hear one. Mr. Obama, especially considering the position that he seeks, should have been more put out by the statement than he obviously was. I expect more from him than that.

Toni (Maere) said...

Boy, does this carry major accuracy. These kinds of things are not only said about black men, but, black women, also. I am constantly being asked if I am "all" black. Why? Because I speak proper English? Because my hair is different? Because I am intelligent? The saying, "you are the most beautiful "black" woman I've ever seen." Geez...Is that a compliment? I very much doubt I am the most beautiful black woman ever seen. But, people stick their foot in their mouths many times, with good intent. They would probably be better off to be quiet and keep their thoughts to themselves.

This is a good one, I can relate to, my brother...

Your sis.