Letter to the editor: On Joe Biden and ageism

Thursday, September 12, 2019 - 2:49pm

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This Letter to the Editor is written in response to an earlier column written by Sam Fogel titled “Joe Biden — a man of many pitfalls.”

The first paragraph of Sam Fogel’s column, “Joe Biden — a man of many pitfalls,” in the Sept. 10 issue uses a variety of derogatory terms to describe candidate Biden. These include “geriatric relic,” “second oldest,” “ripe age of 76,” “antiquated” and “particular baby boomer.” The concluding paragraphs continue to invoke stereotypes, using the adjective “antiquated” three times to describe candidate Biden and his ideas. I presume that the editors of The Daily would think carefully before publishing an essay whose primary criticism of a candidate is the candidate’s race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity or place of birth. There are many reasons to criticize the candidacy of Joe Biden, but Sam Fogel begins and concludes his essay by emphasizing Mr. Biden’s birth date. How does this differ from emphasizing his race, sex or religion?

Most writers are careful to avoid the use of once-popular stereotypes. We no longer assume that women or African Americans are incapable of filling the most demanding jobs. However, the Sept. 10 essay in The Daily appears to endorse a stereotype that those who were born before the election of President John F. Kennedy are far too ossified to understand the far-reaching social, economic and demographic changes that have reshaped the county in recent decades and are likely to be mentally and physically unable to design or implement political policies that are appropriate for the present. I hope we are not in an era when it is appropriate to condemn people on the basis of their birth year.

Reynolds Farley is a Dudley Duncan Professor of Sociology and Research Scientist at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.