Sen. Joseph Biden has apologized for his comment about assumed presidential candidate and fellow senator Barack Obama: “the first mainstream African American [presidential candidate] who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”
I’ve been called “clean” before and though the white speaker (the one I encountered in college, anyway) thought of herself as benign, the only way “clean” has meaning is if “other” black people or black people “usually” are somehow “not clean” or “dirty.” Dark skin as stained, full of sin or evil, etc. is one of the oldest stereotypes about dark-skinned people. But what she meant was that I was different, somehow better and more like herself than other black people. And even though Biden’s “clean” burns my ass the most, the entire comment smacks of amazement that Barack Obama could be all those things and black.
The uncharacteristic* “man” at the end (I don’t remember hearing that during any committee meeting on CSPAN) also has a smell.