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filmfann's avatar

Is Joe Biden using an indian accent offensive?

Asked by filmfann (50085points) January 26th, 2012

Joe Biden began faking an indian accent during a speech. He quickly changed back to normal speech, but the deed was done.
Is this offensive?
Should Joe be bounced from the 2012 ticket for this?
Is the “Peggy” commercial equally offensive?
Where is the line?

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19 Answers

saint's avatar

No. But if he used an French accent, he should be sent packing.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Without knowing the context I cannot answer directly.

If you would have found it offensive if Cheney did it then you shouldn’t have to ask when Biden does it.

Fly's avatar

I think the main difference between the two is that in the “Peggy” commercials are just vague enough to not be offensive; the accent is not one that can be immediately identified as one from any particular country/race, nor is it one from a general nationality which is commonly subjected to racial stereotypes. Joe Biden’s “Indian call center” impression, on the other hand, calls attention to common racial stereotypes in America, and is therefore a touchy subject and could easily be seen as offensive. The fact that he quickly stopped and tried to cover it up made it worse than if he had just finished, in my opinion, because that only drew attention to the potentially offensive material. That said, I do think that this is only mildly offensive and it is by no means enough to warrant removing him as the vice presidential candidate; he’s certainly done things that people found equally offensive, if not more offensive, in the past.

saint's avatar

What is offensive about it? He was imitating call centers and plenty of those are, in fact, in India, and many Americans with problems with credit cards or computers know what he was talking about. It is a real observation. What is offensive about fact?

Fly's avatar

@saint For the same reason that it would be offensive if someone used the same accent to demonstrate a conversation with, say, a gas station cashier. It is a very biased, American view to single out a race as call center workers when in reality, very little of the Indian population actually does this, and there are many other nationalities involved in call centers, including GASP Americans. While it does have an element of truth to it from an American standpoint, it is a racial stereotype that often has negative connotations to it in our society, and referencing it for anything therefore has the potential to be offensive.

It was offensive in this case because it was completely unnecessary to single out any particular race; it served no purpose and added nothing to the VP’s points, other than to sneak in a mildly racist/stereotypical joke or comic relief, as evidenced by Biden’s abrupt change in manner.

However, all things considered, the comment is ultimately only mildly offensive; he did catch himself quickly and refrained from saying anything blatantly racist. leaving only a bad “aftertaste,” if you will.

Aethelwine's avatar

It won’t be considered offensive by the mainstream media because he’s Obama’s VP. If Biden was a Republican I’d bet my life on it that a bunch of people would have their panties in a bunch.

and before anyone jumps my shit, I am a registered democrat. I just call it like I see it.

JLeslie's avatar

I understand that it is not PC to do, but personally I don’t find it very offensive. When Europeans mimic an American accent I don’t get offended, and they usually do it while making a joke about us. Still, since people are offended by it, better to not do it.

Bellatrix's avatar

I didn’t hear it and I am not in the US, but for a politician to do this seems like poor form to me.

auhsojsa's avatar

Doesn’t bother me at all. There are a lot of doctors in the US from India, as a matter of fact, there are plenty of professionals (M.D., Physicians, Scientists, Professors etc) in the USA with Indian background. I think people are just trying to make fire out of sand here. Absolutely nothing wrong calling it how it is.

Bellatrix's avatar

@auhsojsa, people with a real Indian accent aren’t the problem. That’s how they speak. A politician bunging on an Indian accent is quite different. Biden isn’t Indian.

auhsojsa's avatar

@Bellatrix It doesn’t matter in my opinion. I can relate to what he’s saying. Clearly when you see the clip alone a bias is formed. He’s simply talking about how the call center jobs stormed over to India at a mega high percentage. When I get directed to call centers, I either get Philippines or India. If he mimic’d a Filipino voice I wouldn’t give two shits about it. And yea I’m Filipino. I don’t feel as if he was mocking. That’s the body language I read anyways.

Boogabooga1's avatar

Being Scottish /Irish and living overseas I often encounter people attempting to get a smile after an attempt at my accent.
That is a given.
Its ok to use certain accents in jest yet if it is a country that one is bombing or threatening to invade in the near future then I can understand that its not just political correctness gone mad.

As in life its ok to make fun of friends but strangers don’t necessarily see the funny side.

filmfann's avatar

@saint I didn’t see your question. I am sorry for stepping on your topic. Thanks for being a participent here.

Besides the Peggy commercial, there is another that shows two Indians doing a radio call-in show. They are obviously Indian, so is that okay? Is this like when it’s okay for black people to call each other N****r?

GoldieAV16's avatar

It’s not just offensive. Humor should be outlawed – then only outlaws will have humor.

Uberwench's avatar

I kept waiting for the accent and didn’t hear it. When I replayed the video, I saw where it was supposed to be. Yes, there’s a voice change. Yes, it looks like it was supposed to be an Indian accent. I guess we have to balance two things: the fact that people have an unconscious tendency to imitate the mannerisms of others, and the fact that we expect politicians to be very controlled in their actions.

We imitate people all the time, and we usually don’t even realize it. Women lower their voices when repeating what a man with a lower voice said, men raise their voices when repeating what a woman with a higher voice said. We imitate the characteristic gestures of friends when repeating something they said. That Biden (barely) slipped into an accent is quite natural, especially since he wasn’t talking about just any old call center. He was talking specifically about call centers that have gone over to India. It’s interesting that he had enough self-awareness to realize he was doing it.

But of course, that’s what we demand of politicians: 100% polished in all public appearances, 100% perfect in private life, and yet 100% relatable to the average citizen. This is the result of the US embracing a politics of image over a politics of ideas. I’m not saying that trenchant racism shouldn’t disqualify someone from public office. It absolutely should. But if every tiny racial misstep is a horrible sin, we’re all fucked. Is this something that would have been better if it hadn’t happened? Sure. But we’re not there yet, as a society or as a species.

cockswain's avatar

Joe Biden. Jesus Christ that guy can be embarrassing sometimes.

KaiHallarn111's avatar

No more offensive than an American trying to imitate a Brit, for example

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