You read that headline correctly. Presidential candidate Joe Biden said twice in the last two days that Latinos, “unlike African-Americans,” are a diverse community.
The first instance was in an interview by video conference with NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro, video from which was aired on Wednesday for the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) Joint Virtual Convention. This is the one everyone heard about Thursday morning.
During the interview, Biden said, apparently on his own initiative (i.e., not in response to a question): “And by the way, what you all know, but most people don’t know, unlike the African American community, with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community, with incredibly different attitudes about different things … it’s a very diverse community.”
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) August 6, 2020
It seems like, whatever you actually thought in your own head, you’d recognize that this was a really alienating thing to say.
That’s especially the case if your own orthodoxy proclaims that “diversity,” as defined for political purposes, is a characteristic whose absence means you’re doing it wrong and have bad intentions. That’s the main use Democrats put the concept of “diversity” to: berating their political opponents for an alleged lack of it (and supposed “hatred” towards it). It would be a diss, to say African-Americans lack diversity.
On Thursday, he was speaking to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials convention (again by video conference).
Fox News reports “the former VP vowed that his administration will reflect ‘the full diversity of this nation’ as well as ‘the full diversity of the Latino communities.’”
So far, so good. But then: “Now what I mean full diversity, unlike the African American community and many other communities, you’re from everywhere.”
This is the hill Biden's apparently going to die on. This afternoon he appeared in a virtual roundtable and doubled down on his “Latinos have a more diverse culture than blacks” take pic.twitter.com/j8azhzL5YJ
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) August 6, 2020
What exactly does that mean? Fox quotes Biden elaborating: “You’re from Europe, from the tip of South America, all the way to our border in Mexico, and the Caribbean. And different backgrounds, different ethnicities, but all Latinos.”
Three cheers for the Spanish Empire. Huzzah.
I don’t think that’s exactly what Biden had in mind. But I’m stumped as to what he could possibly mean by twice saying, like a broken record, that Latinos are diverse, “unlike the African-American community.”
That “broken record” analogy could get some legs to it, I think. Biden’s comments on this sound like an elderly person with a track going in his head, repeating the same thing with little control over it. I don’t think he can really hear himself, and adjust based on the cautionary feedback from his own brain.
Not being a specialist, but only a middle-aged adult with a lot of experience hearing old people talk, I’ll just leave it at that.
Meanwhile, for the record, I’ve found African-Americans, or black Americans, whatever people prefer to go by, to be as diverse as the highest stickler could hope for. The same is true for Latinos/Hispanics, and indeed for other broadly encompassing demographic groups (e.g., “Asians,” who include Afghans, Iraqis – who are quite diverse within their own borders, for that matter – and all the numerous subgroups of the Indian subcontinent, and of Russia, China, and Southeast Asia, as well as Koreans and Japanese).
People are people; we come in diverse variety as regards personality, interests, and affinities, not to mention race and creed, without even trying.
The Biden campaign made an effort on Thursday to recover from this bizarre interlude with an apology tweet thread from the former vice president. (Click through for the full thread.)
Earlier today, I made some comments about diversity in the African American and Latino communities that I want to clarify. In no way did I mean to suggest the African American community is a monolith—not by identity, not on issues, not at all.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) August 7, 2020
The apology’s wording is a bit strange. Naturally, it speaks of wanting to “clarify” the previous comments rather than retract or apologize for them. No biggie; standard approach.
But then: “In no way did I mean to suggest the African American community is a monolith—not by identity, not on issues, not at all.”
Something about “I’m not saying you’re a monolith, dudes” comes across the wrong way. I admit, my first thought is, “Gee, all in all, I think I’d rather be a monolith. What did you mean to say?”
Not to spend too much time on this, but I can’t help thinking of Biden’s lament a month ago that his doctors didn’t want him out mingling in crowds. He would miss, he said, the opportunity “to ‘sense’ what people want ‘by the look in their eyes’ and their ‘plaintive voices.’”
Is he thinking of sheep bleating in a pasture? I believe I’ll take being a monolith, thank you.
Biden supporters are trying to get a little drumbeat going.
Wow a guy who apologizes amd takes responsibility for poorly phrased remarks or inconsiderate wording.
— Sinclairitea (@Sinclairitea) August 7, 2020
Republicans turned on the faux outrage machine and instead just gave Biden the opportunity to show that he's capable of what Trump isn't– apologizing.
— Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) August 7, 2020
Strong horse for those 3:00 AM phone calls? Good luck with that.