Stereotypes are hate speech — especially when used in a joke.
Don’t believe me? Try telling a joke about a black man eating watermelon and fried chicken or any “dumb blond” joke. The reaction to the use of stereotypes in public is swift condemnation by those who have appointed themselves guardians of correct language.
Stereotypes are hate speech — usually. When the target of the joke is a person of Irish descent, then the definition of “hate speech” is transformed. Laughing about the “drunk Irishman” or “fighting Irishman” is perfectly acceptable. Just ask Joe Biden.
“I’ve been to Ireland many times, but not to actually look up, to find my actual family members. And there are so many — and they actually weren’t in jail,” Biden said to scattered laughs at the annual Friends of Ireland luncheon at the Capitol.
“There’s still a place called Finnegan’s pub … that’s related to my family,” the president went on. “I’m the only Irishman you ever met, though, that’s never had a drink, so I’m OK. I’m really not Irish.”
The president spoke after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) at the annual Friends of Ireland luncheon at the Capitol. McCarthy, who also has Irish ancestry, expressed an interest in working together with Biden — recounting how Republican President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-Mass.) managed to do so.
“I agree with the speaker, there’s no reason why we can’t find common ground. There’s no reason why we can’t hope to change this direction of the extremes in both parties are pushing,” Biden said.
“I think it’s important. I think it’s really important. And that’s the power of friendship. I think it’s the power of — it’s the strength of our partnership, if we work at it, and simply put, I think it’s the Irish of it.”
Biden was taken to task this week by writer Ruth Dudley Edwards of The Telegraph.
“President Joe Biden’s self-delusion seems to be boundless. When he looks in the mirror, he apparently sees an upright Irish Catholic true to the historic values of his deeply rooted religious identity,” Dudley Edwards wrote.”He is, in fact, an appalling Catholic who publicly flouts the church’s most cherished teachings and is about as authentically Irish as a leprechaun hat in a St Patrick’s Day parade.”
Biden’s Irish “heritage” is an affectation, much like his “Uncle Joe” persona. He uses it as a political prop to put his audience at ease. But self-deprecating humor is one thing. Smearing an entire ethnic group using false and hurtful stereotypes is something entirely different.
The president should apologize.