February 6, 2007

Articulate Obama

CNN.com Video: A question Of intelligence

Sen. Joe Biden has gotten himself into a twist with his reference to Obama as "articulate". Its a an interesting and not so revealing look (for black people) at what many blacks consider the subconscious racial bias that most white americans operate from, even those who most people would regard as people of good will, as I'm sure most people regard Joe Biden. From a black perspective, Biden's predicament was predictable and not the least bit novel. My entire life I have been described in this manner and I'm sure most african americans who are good verbal communicators have been on the receiving end of this backhanded compliment.

"Backhanded compliment"? But why you ask? Well, because this is a compliment typically ascribed to black men and women who can speak well (i.e., strong vocabulary appropriately used, confident speaking voice, able to communicate coherently and cogently, persuasive). And the thing is, people generally don't call out this characteristic when describing a white person. In other words, being articulate is sort of an assumed, taken for granted part of the skill set of a white person or in this instance, a white politician. So people don't call it out when describing what is compelling about a white person. H0wever, when describing a black politician's compelling attributes, this being "articulate" will often be among the first things said, because its not assumed to be part of the skill set of a black person, its not considered the norm and therefore unremarkable and unnecessary to comment on, in fact quite the opposite.

Its just one of those little things that betray people's unconscious bias' and unfortunately for Biden, it bit him right in the ass. As Obama's run continues, this probably isn't the last gaffe to be made in this campaign.