An Articulate, Bright and Clean Slip
RAFAEL MERINO CORTÉS
Thursday, February 01, 2007
oes the legacy of Senator Jesse Helms live on? Let’s hope not, even though both Helms and Senator Joseph Biden have shared the same seat in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
OOPS!...I DID IT AGAIN
During the 1988 Presidential campaign, Senator Biden shot himself in
the foot when he was found to have plagiarized a speech from British
Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. Perhaps he thought the Atlantic Ocean
would wash away any trace of wrongdoing. His unique take on geography
and writing would lead him to the top of the Foreign Relations
Committee in the US Senate. Photo: AP (the image has been cropped and rotated for context)
Senator Biden was recently quoted as calling Senator Barack Obama, his Democratic colleague in the US Senate who is also exploring a run for President, as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”
The tragic/comedic thing is that, as head of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate of an immigrant nation, being sensitive (or at least conscious) about others not of his kind should be second nature to the Senator.
Of course, there is the contextual and/or lost-in-translation argument.
But if Senator Biden’s remarks are debatable and do not point to a racist gene within him, then it certainly shines a light to his personal preference. It would be clear then that Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley Braun and the reverends Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson -- all being African Americans who ran for President –- were not articulate, bright, clean or nice-looking enough for Biden's taste.
The Reverend Al Sharpton assured that he took a bath every day when Senator Biden called him to apologize for the statement.
(It’s kind of cool how the reverends Sharpton and Jackson are the unofficial ambassadors to the African American community in the United States. Again we ask, ‘Who are the “must-call” people in the US Latino community?’)
Senator Obama, in his articulate, bright and clean wisdom, did not take the opportunity to bash his colleague and opponent, although he certainly had the license to do so in the eyes and ears of the public. “...The way he constructed the statement was probably a little unfortunate,” was the most heated part of his reaction, which he gave in a recent interview.
In his own defense, Senator Biden stated that he had “no doubt that Jesse Jackson and every other black leader –- Al Sharpton and the rest -- will know exactly what I meant.”
Unfortunately for Senator Biden there are not enough black leaders working in the press these days who subscribe to his line of thinking. From the semi-frenzied, and arguably deserved media reaction, his remarks may have created a cancer in his campaign for Democratic presidential nomination.
A Google search for “the first mainstream Caucasian who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy” yielded no relevant results.
So as he waits to exhale from the reaction to his “little unfortunate” statement, Senator Biden is rushing to do the right thing, assuring the public that he meant nothing wrong and that, as a presidential candidate, he got game.
Is it a dark and dirty thing to admit some level of sympathy for Senator Biden? After all, it has been a very short 43 years -- a virtual blip on the human evolutionary timeline -- since the Civil Rights Act became law and the “Jim Crow” laws in the South were abolished (Biden was a senior at the University of Delaware at the time). The problem is we’re not talking about some washed-up comedian confessing to his racist baggage in a comedy club. This is a six-term Senator (longest serving senator in Delaware) in the United States Congress with presidential aspirations in an atmosphere thick with immigrant issues talking to the press (The New York Observer). But if his statement did not have a racist gene attached to it, then what was it? Perhaps the actual chair Senator Biden sits in when presiding over the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been infected with something left behind by his former Republican colleague from North Carolina. Only time can cure something like that.
RAFAEL MERINO CORTÉS
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