Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S.

By H. Samy Alim; Geneva Smitherman | Go to book overview
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2
A.W.B. (Articulate While Black)
Language and Racial Politics
in the United States

He’s the first mainstream African American
who is articulate and bright and clean and
a nice-looking guy.1

—Joseph Biden

I didn’t take Sen. Biden’s comments personally,
but obviously they were historically inaccurate.
African-American presidential candidates like
Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley
Braun and Al Sharpton gave a voice to many
important issues through their campaigns,
and no one would call them inarticulate.2

—Barack Obama

Let’s paint the picture. We’re at the Takoma Theatre in Washington, DC. Packed house. A predominantly Black crowd with a token White person or two in the front rows (you KNOW they gon get called out!). Well-known Black comedian Chris Rock struts across the stage wearin black pants, black belt, black shirt, and a shiny black leather jacket. “Lotta stuff goin on this year. Everything racial this year. What’s the big thing this year? Election.” Movin his hand across the stage from right to left in that crazy-expressive Chris Rock way, he imitates White Americans’ belief in a potential Black candidate for president, “He should ruuun, he could wiiiin.” [Laughter from the crowd]. Rock responds to the suggestion, “He can’t wiiiin. [He] can’t win! [He] got a better chance of winnin the bronze in female gymnastics [Big laugh from the crowd]…than being the President of the United States. Get the fuck out! White people ain’t votin for [him].” [Laughter]. “Say they are. They. Are. NOT!” [Laughter and applause]. “Okay! Just gon soup his head up, make him run, he’ll get kilt tryna run. Shhhit …” Rock continues with his side-splittin performance, suggesting that White people say they’re gonna vote for this

-31-

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