Senator Biden’s had his ‘macaca moments’

August 23rd, 2008 - 4:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 23 (IANS) Senator Joseph Biden, the man reportedly chosen as running mate by Democratic presidential nominee Barak Obama, has a history of shooting his mouth off, and one of his more recent boo-boos was an insensitive comment on the Indian American community.In a 2006 C-SPAN series titled ‘Road to White House’ Biden, who made a bid for the 2008 Democratic nomination but dropped out early, remarked that “you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.”

Some Indian American groups had taken offence at the remark, with the Indian American Republican Council noting that the senator had a “history of making insensitive and inappropriate” statements.

“But even for him, this recent gaffe is clearly over the top,” the council had added.

In the C-SPAN series, Biden boasted about his links with Indian Americans, and said: “I’ve had a great relationship (with Indian Americans). In Delaware, the largest growth in population is Indian-Americans moving from India. You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.”

He, however, later clarified in a CNN interview that the point he was making was that “up until now in my state, we’ve had a strong Indian community made up of leading scientists and researchers and engineers… (but lately) “we’re having middle-class people move to Delaware, take over Dunkin’ Donuts, take over businesses, just like other immigrant groups have, and I was saying that … they’re growing, it’s moving”.

Biden’s office also said he “admires, supports and respects the Indian American community”.

Biden, who also sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1998, had been forced to quit following accusations that he had plagiarised part of a speech by British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock.

Early in the current race, when his hat was still in the ring, Biden had declared that Obama was “not yet ready” for presidency — a remark that
Republican nominee John McCain’s campaign has already seized on.

Controversial remarks about the Indian American community by American politicians are not new.

In 2004, Democrat Senator John Kerry referred to Sikhs as terrorists and Senator Hillary Clinton, also a Democrat, referred to Mahatma Gandhi as a gas station owner.

Back in 2001, soon after the 9/11 attacks, Representative John Cooksey, a Republican, created a storm when he said: “If I see someone who comes in that’s got a diaper on his head and a fan belt wrapped around the diaper on his head, that guy needs to be pulled over.”

The remark was seen as an insult to the Sikh community, which was then being wrongly targeted, and was widely criticised.

But Republican Senator George Allen made perhaps the most overtly racist remark when he called S.R. Sidarth, a political volunteer of Indian descent, a “macaca”, or a monkey.

“This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is. He’s with my opponent. He’s following us around everywhere. And it’s just great,” Allen had said to laughter from his supporters.

“Let’s give a welcome to macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia,” he added.

Following a storm, Allen apologised, but gaffes against Indian Americans have since been referred to as ‘macaca moments’.

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