February 08, 2007

Joe Biden on Barack Obama

Unspinning Biden—narratives, not epithetsI have no desire to talk about Joe Biden and his doomed presidential run; but I wouldn’t mind taking Biden’s words and using them to explore and explode some of the false narratives that dominate the national discourse on race. I wouldn’t mind talking about how certain stylized ideas and images—not mere slurs or epithets—rather, entire psychic complexes of associative ideas and images, conspire to inform a normative racist worldview, which perpetuates itself through the repetitive mass-hypnotic invocation and reinforcement of those very ideas and images.

So here’s what Biden said: “I mean, you’ve got the first sort of mainstream African American, who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a story-book, man.”

As far as I could tell, here’s the subtext he was invoking:

Blacks aren’t mainstream like you and me, man. I mean, most Blacks have trouble speaking proper English and seem kind of yucky and not very bright, and you just can’t trust a lot of those inner city types. But I mean, this Obama guy seems So Safe To White America that he possibly even has a shot at winning, though I doubt it, man.
Comment:  See my comment at the end of this posting on Racialicious. As I said there, this analysis applies to Native stereotyping, too.


voyageur said...

This was so ridiculous of Biden to say. Jesse Jackson has previously been someone who might come to mind first when thinking of an African American in politics. Whatever you think of his political views, Jackson has a skill with language and oratory that few of any color or political stripe can match.

Rob said...

Uh, blacks got the right to vote with the passage of the 15th Amendment in 1869. No doubt the first blacks voted soon after that.

In fact, we know who the first black voter was. It was David Strother, who voted in El Paso on April 4, 1870.


There's no connection between when a group started voting and whether people will vote for someone in that group. Whether we elect a black or a woman first, it won't be for that reason.

Rob said...

Literacy tests and poll taxes prevented some blacks from voting, but not others. Many blacks voted before women got the vote, which invalidates your assertion about women voting first.

Obama is a Christian, not a Muslim. He was exposed to both religions growing up, but he remained an agnostic until he embraced Christianity. Here are the details on his religious upbringing:


“I remained a reluctant skeptic, doubtful of my own motives, wary of expedient conversion, having too many quarrels with God to accept a salvation too easily won,” he wrote.

But after much soul searching, he eventually was baptized at Trinity United Church of Christ.

Rob said...

Poll taxes and literacy tests were imposed primarily in the South. Blacks elsewhere didn't face these barriers, although they sometimes experienced other forms of intimidation. The point is that your statement, "Women got the vote first, then Blacks also got the vote," is false in reality as well as on paper.

Here are some facts on the history of the poll tax:


Property qualifications extend back to colonial days, but the poll tax itself as a qualification was instituted in eleven States of the South following the end of Reconstruction, although at the time of the ratification of this Amendment only five States still retained it.