Poor Harry Reid. The democrat from Nevada who is also Senate majority leader and speaks with a voice as booming as a mouse has already taken a political thrashing when it comes to the healthcare debate and now he has one more fight on his hands. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Reid was asked by reporters what he thought of then-candidate Barack Obama's chances being elected president. Reid was honest and said that he thought America was ready for a "light-skinned African-American... who doesn't speak with a Negro dialect." This quotation was revealed in the book, "Game Change," by authors and reporters Mark Halperin and John Heilemann that exposes behind-the-scenes accounts of the 2008 presidential race.
I will admit, using the words "Negro dialect" sounds pretty awkward and had I been in the room when he uttered those words, I'm sure I would have raised my eyebrows just a tad. I definitely cringe when I hear an older white person use terms like Negro or colored to describe me, not because I think they're racist, but because they sound out of touch and from a very different era.
On the other hand, those who have a problem with what Reid said, should speak now or forever hold
their peace, because I want to know what the ruckus is all about. Is the problem he used the word "Negro" or is it something more complex (no pun intended) when he referred to Obama's skin color Though he may have used an anachronism, words such as Negro and colored still exist in our vocabulary. We still have the United Negro College Fund, Negro Spirituals, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In fact we have become so accustomed to identifying these institutions by said names that if we were to update them to contemporary language, it would almost seem as if we were being trite for demanding an update. And when it comes to skin color, that's another controversy in and of itself. One much too intricate to try and dissect in an eight hundred word essay.
The only thing I can see that Reid really did wrong was possibly air white folks dirty laundry and now some are attempting to punish him for it.
No one likes their dirty laundry aired in public. Some things are supposed to stay within the family - like the fact your uncle is really your cousin, for instance. Never mind he looks just like your aunt's ex-boyfriend from long ago, as far as the outside world is concerned, your grandparents found an adorable little boy at their doorstep one day and the fact that it coincided with your aunt's dramatic weight loss is serendipity personified. Reid's comments are in the same vein. Had he merely kept his mouth shut, we could continue in the belief that America was truly ready for a black president. Period. Not one with any stipulations attached.
Please note, I am not besmirching all white people. However, it's no secret people feel comfortable with those more like themselves. What Reid did was merely expose an unspoken sentiment in terms of Obama's (and any other black person for that matter) level of assimilation with the larger society. And to be honest, a lot of black people feel the same way.
That is why I am having serious problems with those who would try to reduce his remarks as being racist. If anything, what I heard Reid was saying was "I, an older white gentlemen, am comfortable with someone like Barack Obama being their president and I am pretty sure other older white gentlemen like myself will be too." Do I feel a little uneasy when I read those words? Of course. However, as a light-skinned African-American who happens to not speak with a so-called Negro dialect, I know better.
Strangely enough, what strikes me most is that the calls for retribution are not coming from the president (who quickly accepted his apology) or even from most black people in general. Instead it reads more like a desperation play from white Republicans calling for Reid to be punished. Many have gotten it into their heads that what he did was unconscionable. Ironically their protests are so loud most do not realize how ridiculous they sound. Something is awry when the Black Congressional Caucus is OK with the remarks but the far right is not? Remind me who the injured party here is again?
Even more sad is Michael Steele, the chairman of the GOP, himself a relatively light-skinned African-American who also does not speak with a Negro dialect, going on the Sunday morning political talk shows to voice his displeasure and call for Reid to step down from his post as senate majority leader. Steele likened the remarks of Reid to those made by former Mississippi
senator and senate majority leader, Trent Lott, when he praised Strom Thurmond's 1948 presidential campaign that ran on a segregationist platform. After Lott's remarks, he justifiably suffered enormous political wounds and never recovered. It's a poor comparison to say the least.
It goes to show all's fair in love and politics and publishing.
Well, I gotta scoot...