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Racism Rears Its Head In Washington?

Submitted by on January 10, 2010 – 5:29 pmOne Comment

Ever heard the phrase, “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” See why it may apply to one of President Barack Obama‘s greatest allies after the jump.

CNN reported that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had some disheartening remarks about Obama back when he was on the campaign trail in 2008. The comments have come to light after all this time because they are included in a book, Game Change, written by journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. The book is to be released on Tuesday.

The particular excerpt in which the statements are found reads as follows:

“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.

The writers go on to mention that Reid thought of Obama’s race as a factor which worked in his favor as far as winning the election.

Sen. Harry Reid

Now that his words have come to light, Reid has responded in a personal statement:

“I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words.

I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African Americans for my improper comments.

I was a proud and enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama during the campaign and have worked as hard as I can to advance President Obama’s legislative agenda.

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

He also called the president to personally express his apologies. Here’s what President Obama had to say about the situation yesterday.

“Harry Reid called me today and apologized for an unfortunate comment reported today.

I accepted Harry’s apology without question because I’ve known him for years, I’ve seen the passionate leadership he’s shown on issues of social justice and I know what’s in his heart. As far as I am concerned, the book is closed.”

Of course, no book is ever truly closed in Washington. With the divisiveness and partisanship so prevalent throughout the halls and offices of Congress today, many are looking for political gain from Reid’s poor phrasing.

Many are calling for the senator to step down completely. While I know this isn’t a political news/opinion site, I must say that I hate the partisan opportunism which plagues our government. Instead of trying to stir up a fruitless debate, we should first consider a few things.

First of all, is this a racist statement against black people or does it instead show a lack of faith in whites to refuse racial bias?

If the statement accurately describes Obama’s appeal during the campaign, should anyone be offended?

If we are offended, should we be upset with Reid for his words or upset with ourselves because they happen to be true?

I, for one, think the words are completely reprehensible. What exactly is a Negro dialect and how do we determine if someone ‘wants to have one?’ It seems to be another generalization of an entire group of people – in this case black people – that suggests that we all speak in the same way, as if we all use a collective brain and tongue.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and it is time that we all realized that for good.

People, no matter what color they are, choose to define themselves by different standards regardless of what color they are. Those definitions come from each person’s individual thoughts and actions (among other things). Therefore, there is no such thing as “talking, dressing, or acting Black” – or any other race/ethnicity for that matter.

Other than that, Reid’s accusations of the White community as racist also reprehensible. I cannot suggest that such racism does not exist (as comments left on this site and most others say differently), but I can say that there are several people of all races and walks of life who voted for our president. Unless there is some sort of proof (e.g. a poll, survey, etc.) that his complexion factored into the election decisions of a significant number of these people, such comments should be avoided.

As for you and I, we must make sure that we take all necessary actions to make such statements false on a daily basis. If not, the outrage directed toward those who say such things should be turned inward. Comments like these will continue to cause controversy and uproar until we refuse to buy into them – or validate them with our actions – under any circumstances.

Your thoughts?

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One Comment »

  • bruto! says:

    i heard about this on the radio this morning. when i heard them mention it, i thought that he was saying that they were more receptive to a light skinned black man than a dark one, which i happen to believe. Consciously or subconsciously, the color of a person’s skin still holds merit in some peoples lives. I think Obama is/was an amazing choice, and that he would have still won, had he been in the race. I don’t feel very comfortable saying he would have made it to the public forefront if he were dark-skinned.

    As far as Negro dialect, though, that was the stupidity found in the statement. It may have to do with some misconceptions he has of Black people in America, but thats just a guess. It basically, brings up the ‘you talk black/you talk white’ conversation which may be one of the dumbest (and most prolonged) that i’ve been a part of in my life.

    The more i read about it, I don’t think Reid should have said anything of the sort about Obama because he’s not in the position to do so. The public isn’t going to respond well to an old white man (regardless of political party) commenting on the (Black) president’s skin tone and dialect. No matter his intentions, because he is an old white man, people are going to see it as some type of racism.

    good article.

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