I knew I was asking for it by writing a post about choosing one's words carefully. One reader hit the nail mostly on the head, while making a general appeal for fairness:
Well isn't the key whether it is the kind of comment one might make about a white contender? But there is the additional factor that words might sound different depending upon the stereotypes surrounding other things that identify the person. ...
Is there, at least at some subconscious level, something which makes the choice of words skewed by ethnicity?
Another reader writes:
I'd like to see a little humility and empathy, recognition that in matters of diction and semantics we have even less authority and claim than in matters of theology, which are already inherently tentative. I'd prefer openness, honesty, and candor to carefully chosen words.
[UPDATE: Another helpful comment on this post:
Words can and do hurt and they can and do often say more about the person
speaking them than the person they are about. I have had some personal
experience being on the receiving end of the type of remarks Biden made, so I
know the "sting" it can create, but I have also learned to take it stride and
with one grain of salt and two shots of humor and then to turn it into an
Amen regarding "educational opportunity." I was never suggesting we hate Joe Biden forever--he's already reaping the consequences of his words--but to educate him as we educate ourselves. Thank God for friends willing to challenge me when I've said something racially stupid--and I have.]
For now, see what you think of Biden's explanation on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: