Senator Barack Obama seems to be a nice guy; I won’t say he’s “articulate,” because some African-Americans hear that word and take offense. In fact, I won’t give the Senator any compliments other than the nice guy description, just to be on the safe side.
Is there any question that we are living in an age of hypersensitivity? Some of that, of course, is justified. When Senator Joe Biden described Obama as “clean,” it was a verbal disaster—adjectival Armageddon. “Clean?” As opposed to what?
Some whites thought the reaction to Biden’s remark was overblown, but consider this: If someone described me, an Irish-American, as a “sober thinker,” surely most Irish folks would raise a collective eyebrow.
But when President Bush said Senator Obama was articulate, I’ll confess to thinking he was giving the guy a genuine compliment. I mean, who knew some African-Americans would find the “a” word offensive? Many of us are still confused.
According to some columnists, if you label a black person “articulate,” you are implying that other blacks are not. You are expressing surprise that an African-American can actually speak English well. And that’s condescending, is it not?
Well, I guess it could be. But Mr. Bush’s tone wasn’t condescending at all. So I chalk this one up to mild paranoia and/or a victimization play.
Many of us know people of all races who are professional victims. They see slights everywhere. The world is against them, and if you live in the world, so are you. These people are tough to deal with. Anything you say to them can and will be used against you.
Few want to deal with this victim mentality and that’s the danger in this “articulate” controversy. I know some white people who don’t know what to say to black Americans, so they completely disengage. They don’t want to offend, and they don’t really understand the “rules,” so they play it very cautious.
This is not a good thing for America. All responsible citizens should be trying to break down racial and religious barriers and work together. But, believe me, there is fear in the marketplace—fear along racial lines.
None of this, of course, is Barack Obama’s fault, but he may suffer because of it. On January 17th, a Rasmussen poll had him tied among Democrats with Hillary Clinton in the presidential sweepstakes. Two weeks later, Obama was behind Hillary by 14 points in the same poll.
It is speculation, but all this word controversy stuff can’t be helping Senator Obama. For any candidate to be elected to high office, there has to be a certain comfort level with the folks. I don’t know about you, but the articulation thing wasn’t comfortable for me.
The solution here is for honorable people to give other people the benefit of the doubt. Senator Biden made a mistake, but it was not born from malice. President Bush simply did nothing wrong. We have enough problems in this country without creating phantom annoyances. And that’s about as articulate as I can be.