• DOUBLETAKE 08: “Taking a second look at race and racism in the 2008 presidential elections”

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“Clean, Articulate, and White Approved!”

“…he’s the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and
bright and clean and a nice-looking guy…” (Joe Biden)

Commentary by Organizer KD

In Joe Biden’s political career he’s become known for being “loquacious”; feisty, gritty; speaking with candor. He’s a straight talker, a man who speaks his mind. Now, saying what you think is one thing; but when saying what you think invokes historical prejudices and stereotypes, you’ve moved beyond inappropriateness to racism; whether it’s intentional or not.

Biden’s most recent “gaffe” when talking about Obama during the Democratic primaries is inexcusable. He insists that his comments are being misunderstood and he regrets that “some have taken totally out of context my use of the word ‘clean.’” He goes on to explain, “My mother has an expression ‘clean as a whistle, sharp as a tack.” On an appearance on Good Morning America he explains. “Look, this guy’s incredible, He (Obama) is really bright. He’s fresh. He’s new. He has great ideas.”

So why not just say that Joe? Instead he chose to use clean and articulate to describe Obama; words historically (and currently) used by white folks have to divisively distinguish between the “good” and ‘bad” black folks. The “good” ones of course being ‘clean’ or ‘articulate;’ and the “bad” ones? Perhaps, as Wahajat Ali sarcastically quipped in CounterPunch they’re; “…disheveled, mumbling, Colt 45 drinking, dread locked, gangsta rapping, sexually threatening and incapable of intelligent speech.”

Actually, using ‘clean’ and ‘articulate are code words to let white folks know the black person in question is “white approved.” In fact, I can see the next Obama ad campaign. Obama steps fresh out of the shower with a sparkling clean white towel wrapped around his waist with a great big, warm smile. They freeze the frame, and from the bottom corner of the screen pops a little Joe Biden with two thumbs up saying: “Joe Biden here! Remember folks, Obama’s clean, articulate, and white approved. Vote Obama-Biden in ’08!”

Well maybe not, but if Joe Biden really is a straight talker then perhaps it should be.

In another “whoops” moment, the senator lets his stereotypes show here:

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