What Constitutes Hate Speech?

Thoughts about Rush Limbaugh, Senator Joe Biden and differing standards about what constitutes “hate speech” from David Almasi and Project 21’s Kevin Martin:

What constitutes “hate speech?” Once again, it seems that it depends upon who says it.

If one is conservative, even the most minor perceived slight can earn a place on the hot seat. For example, when Rush Limbaugh misstated New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin’s name – pronouncing it “nay-ger” — liberals were quick to suggest Limbaugh had barely stepped himself from using the n-word. To them, this theory alone was enough reason for him to be fired from his radio gig (just as when he actually did lose his spot as an ESPN football commentator for suggesting Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated).

Now, Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), a man mentioned as a possible future President of the United States, has made a remark about people of Indian descent that is undeniably belittling. But there is no similar outcry or call for his resignation. Odd? Well, not really.

At a June 17, 2006 event broadcast as part of C-Span’s “Road to the White House 2008” series (the pertinent section is available thanks to Expose the Left), Senator Biden said some young Indian men who engaged him in conversation, “In Delaware, the largest growth of population is Indian Americans, moving from India. You cannot go to a 7/11 or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.”

Such generalizations are expected on “The Simpsons,” but not so from the next potential leader of the free world. Unless, maybe, if you’re a liberal.

Dr. Raghavendra Vijayanagar, the chairman of the openly-partisan Indian American Republican Council, noted, “[T]his recent gaffe is clearly over the top. But this isn’t the first time a Senate Democrat has insulted Indian Americans. In 2004, Senator John Kerry referred to Sikhs as terrorists and Senator Hillary Clinton jokingly referred to Mahatma Gandhi as a gas station owner.”

Project 21 member Kevin Martin had this to add about this latest Biden controversy in particular and the senator’s demeanor in general:

As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Joe Biden is one of those senators who seems more likely to divine where a nominee stands from his own perceptions rather than the nominee’s sworn testimony. It’s clearly not a sound policy, and someone who lives by that sword in my opinion is obligated to die by it when they are in the spotlight. Senator Biden’s recent comments about Indian Americans, captured on C-Span, should not be dismissed as a mere slip of the tongue. I believe his comments reveal someone who is clearly speaking out of both sides of his mouth.

Indian Americans are active contributors to the greatness of America. They are prevalent not just in the convenience industry as Senator Biden implies, but also in business, teaching and healing among other vocations. For him to offer such a stereotypical view is completely reprehensible for a person of his stature.

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