Biden, Others Miss Point

By Malena Amusa Feb 02, 2007

Comments made by Sen. Joseph Biden D-from Delaware about Sen. Barak Obama and ultimately, black Americans may have ruined his presidential aspirations. According to Biden, who this week announced his run for president, Obama was "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." He said it straight-up, with no fumbling or jumbling of his words. He was "quoted accurately," he said. What’s worse is that Biden, who’s known for his purple prose in Congress, unapologetically defended his racist comments, calling Obama a phenomenon on Comedy Central’s Daily Show. This is the same man who said last year the Indian population in his state was increasing rapidly — "you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking." This is also the same man who was thrown off the campaign trail in 1988 (when he faced Rev. Jesse Jackson, another well-spoken and bright black man) for stealing part of a British politician’s speech. But what’s ultimately concerning is the inability of media to frame Biden and people like Michael Richards, star of Kramer-Gate 2006 in the same picture. What Biden said burned of a destructive mentality that sees smart black people as exceptions as opposed to the rule. Or that don’t associate the number of successful blacks people with their blackness. In this day and age, there are few Firsts. So to say Obama is the first smart black public figure is not only historically ridiculous, but also a painful un-memory of people like Ida B. Wells, Sojourner Truth, Fredrick Douglas, Marcus Garvey, Dred Scott, WEB Du Bois, Gwendolyn Brooks, and many others, both big names and small that truly reveal the resilience and intelligence of our communities. With too few leaders, and not just black leaders, holding Biden accountable, what could we expect from him as the powerful man in the nation, if not the world?