Harry Reid · Race

Harry Reid: Faux Pas or Insight?

“The US would be 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.” 
  — Excerpt from the book, Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin     Link

Pundits weighed in all day yesterday when a passage from the new book “Game Change” was released, in which Harry Reid made the above statement.  Pundits on the right are clamoring for Reid’s resignation.  They cite the resignation of Trent Lott when he made a “racially insensitive” statement in 2002.

The problem with the right-wing calls for Harry Reid’s resignation comes down to Harry Reid’s record on civil rights versus Trent Lott’s record.  Lott had a long history of voting against many civil rights legislations, while conversely,  Reid has a record of being a staunch supporter of those legislations.

As ridiculous as the comparison between Lott and Reid are, one must remember that Reid did in fact make a major faux pas.   You see, folks can think the things that Reid articulated, but don’t dare say it out loud and bring it to the forefront of national discourse.  THAT is Reid’s sin, in my opinion.

The Christian Science Monitor  appears to pinpoint the problem here when it asks the question: Harry Reid, racist or political realist? 

‘Too black’

Boyce Watkins, a professor of finance and social commentator at Syracuse University, doesn’t see Reid’s statement as a matter of individual racism, but as a calculation of political fact.

Reid “wasn’t necessarily giving his own opinion. Rather, he was giving his assessment of the preferences of the American public,” writes Dr. Watkins on the website, theGrio.

Reid is “a bellwether of public opinion and an accurate reflection of the ‘political pulse’ of the white American voting population,” he adds.

Watkins’s conclusion: It “reminds many African-Americans across the country that if our speech patterns or appearance are ‘too black’ (whatever that means) or too different from what some consider acceptable, we are going to be deemed inferior.”

Kweisi Mfume and Harold Ford, Jr.  also show real insight into the issue here

Yesterday on Hardball, Mfume said that any racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism, gay-bashing tends to  “deplete us as a nation and rob us of our ability to advance the cause of this country a free open democratic society where everybody is judged by the content of their character“.

The bottom line:  Reid could have expressed himself differently.  Reid’s statement shows that we have a long way to go regarding race relations in our great country.  It’s something no one wants to talk about or read about.  (Even I, contemplated whether or not  I should address the issue here .) 

In my opinion until there is a REAL national dialogue about race,we will always pay attention to the ten second sound bytes on television or hidden recorded statements about race issues, but we don’t dare take it any further.  I’ve often wondered why?