Monday, January 11, 2010

Harry Reid - Racist, Or Merely Stating Fact?!?

This whole Harry Reid "Negro" story broke a few days ago, and I'm still trying to wrap my mind around how to feel about this thing.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid apologized Saturday for making racially insensitive remarks about Barack Obama during the presidential campaign. Journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann reported the remarks in their new book, "Game Change," which is scheduled to be in bookstores Tuesday.

The authors quote Reid as saying privately that Obama, as a black candidate, could be successful thanks, in part, to his "light-skinned" appearance and speaking patterns "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."

"He [Reid] was wowed by Obama's oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama -- a 'light-skinned' African American 'with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,' " Halperin and Heilemann say. Reid pointed to his efforts to integrate the Las Vegas Strip and the gaming industry, among other legislation favored by African-American voters.

"I have worked hard to advance issues important to the African American community."

The senator called Obama Saturday afternoon to apologize for the racially insensitive remarks.

"Harry Reid called me today and apologized for an unfortunate comment reported today," Obama said in a statement.
Of course Obama accepted the apology. In other news, the sun rose this morning.

Predictably, the GOP is seizing the moment to try and force Reid to step down, drawing parallels to the infamous Trent Lott/Strom Thurmond incident years ago. But that's where things get dicey, because the main person on the Republican side doing the yapping is none other than Michael Steele. Yeah, the same Mike Steele who was being pressured to step down for some ignoramus statements of his own last week.

I know psychological projection when I see it, and Magic Mike is clearly trying to do a rope a dope by putting the pressure on Dems and off himself. Pretty clever.

As for the statement, I can't really, really call this racist to anyone other than White Americas. I mean, seriously, I've said the exact same things about Obama's biracial (or lightskinneded, take your pick) makeup and his ability to code-switch making him more palatable to White voters here several times, and the consensus generally seems to co-sign this theory. You could also look at the other blacks who've run for the highest office (from Shirley Chisolm to Al Sharpton) and their failure to gain traction to possibly validate this theory. While the world may never know if a darkskinned Barack Obama could have won the Presidency, reality is, there's enough evidence to suggest that he might not have.

As for the whole "Negro" thing, well, guilty here as well. That's my word of choice, and I don't see it as being particularly offensive, which is why I thought the whole kerfuffle about the Census designators last week was so silly. Never mind the fact that the term "Negro" has been on the Census form for over 100 years, and some 50,000 people (presumably Seniors who still refer to themselves by that term) classified themselves as such on 2000. Much ado, meet nothing. And no, this is not nearly the same thing as sending out a stocking stuffer with a song called "Barack The Magic Negro". Save yourself the keystrokes, please.

[Editor's Note: I don't personally care for Harry Reid. I think the guy's the ultimate "go along to get along" political opportunist. His lack of leadership in the Senate is part of the reason why ObamaCare is taking far longer than necessary to pass. He's the last guy I'd be sticking up for.]

That said, I suppose I can see why Republicans might call this racist and see an opening here, but that's a pretty silly assumption. Reality is, people judge you on your record, and Reid has done enough good in the past to receive the benefit of the doubt. As for the GOP, given the amount of racial hubris they've hurled at Obama themselves this past year, it's fair to say they might wanna shut up and sit down. The CBC, and even Rebb'n Al himself have co-signed on Reid's apology, and I think it's fair to say all of them know him far better than we do.

I'm sure this story will hang around a few more days, and the usual suspects will be trotted out on cable news TV to state whether or not this is such a bad statement, but personally, I can't get too riled up about this. Not when I mostly agree with the general sentiment.

Question: Was Harry Reid's "Negro" comment racist, a poor choice of words, or merely stating an inconvenient fact?!?

Reid apologizes for racial remarks about Obama during campaign [CNN]

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