For years, I have contended that Republicans will never be viable with blacks until they are able to cease in their deeply internal anti-black agenda. But, while broadcasting that message to Conservatives, Democrats have been looking the other way.
One of the political highlights of the weekeend involves Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the problem he apparently has with people of…uh…Negro decent. In a book set to be released this week, authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann noted the following from Sen. Reid regarding then-Senator Obama:
[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,” as he said privately. Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama’s race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination.
Racism being exclusive to Republicans?! Ha, I say.
Believe it or not, however, the purpose of this post is not to crucify Reid. Not entirely, anyway. Instead, I’d like to deconstruct his thoughts/comments, and examine them for what they are: a precursor to White Supremacy.
(1) To an extent, I actually agree with Reid. Yep. I said it. The sad and painful truth in this country is that black people with lighter skin and more ‘proper’ sounding dialect achieve mainstream validation far more than darker people or folks who speak with a “Negro dialect.” Let’s examine them individually:
First, the issue of skin color has been at the forefront of race relations for centuries. Dating back to slavery, preferential treatment and social acceptance was based on how close to white a person’s skin color was. Reid was merely bringing attention to something we already knew. For that matter, even we (black folks) reinforce the light-skinned/dark-skinned dichotomy to this very day.
As far as language goes, again – this is also something many of us are already vastly aware of. As a product of Gifted programs at school, I was often accused of “talking white” simply because of my ability to use more than common words, to use proper pronounciation, and to shift vocal intonation to sound…well, “white.” Growing up in the predominately-black, mostly urban North-side of Flint, this was unacceptable and largely excoriated by black folks. With whites, however, I was a marvel to behold. “You speak so well” was what I often heard. To me, they were parenthetically saying “You speak so well…for a black person.”
(2) All of that notwithstanding, Sen. Reid’s statements represent a patronizing and ironic type of racism (perhaps even uninformed racism) that has become a staple of the Democratic party. Though ostensibly being committed to offering the voice of morality, social justice, and liberalism, it’s not uncommon to see Democrats exhibiting racist behavior as offensive – if not more offensive – as the folks on the right. People like Reid may very well work in the interest of aiding black folks. But don’t be suprised if he doesn’t think black people have the capability to be on his level; nor would he necessarily want them to be. Engaging in socially beneficial activities for black folks is a lot different than not looking at their blackness as a liability.
As a side note, should I even spend any time commenting on Blago’s (also a Democrat) contention that he’s “blacker” than Obama? I suppose I could, but I’m really not trying to have my blood pressure rise too much more today.
(3) Folks on the right will have a field day with this story. Quite frankly, I would give them a pass in doing so. They will take Reid’s comments and either use them to bring Democrats to bear for demonstrating racism themselves or use his comments to justify their own thinking. This is all fine and dandy. After all, as much as we claim to have a desire for a “Post Racial America”, the fact of matter of is: we all form prejudices and we all lump certain people into certain stereotypes. That is simply human nature. Where we have more control over ourselves and our prejudices (and this is where I would put EVERYBODY to bear; not just Harry Reid) is how we carry them out.
In Senator Reid’s case (and, to be fair, the scores of talking heads on the right), it becomes a matter of not allowing your thoughts to dictate what you say and – more importantly – what you do. Truthfully, that is the source of ALL racial disconnect. We operate based on how we think about a person, instead of getting to know them. One of chief tenants of diversity is that any one of us could have something valuable to contribute; whether it’s the dark brotha who speaks with a “Negro dialect” or the white dude with a degree from Yale (by the way, what kind of “dialect” can we use to classify a certain former President of ours who just left the White House? Idiotic dialect?).
(4) The humanistic predispostion to prejudge each other aside, Reid’s use of the word “negro” is especially troubling. Truth be told, I think that’s the real source of the outrage. His observations about being unfavorably black in this country are spot on…as much as we may not want to publicly profess it. But tossing out a term like “negro”, especially in reference to language is taking a sentiment once thought to only be a vestige of our shameful history and giving it modern day implications. 1965, anybody?! It’s hard to learn from the mistakes of the past if we have not purged ourselves of the very thinking that gave life to that history.
The verdict? I wouldn’t compare Harry Reid to the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Coulters, and Becks of the world. I mean, the messages are equal in many respects, but those guys are just plain evil with both their intentions and their deliveries. But it would be unfair to dismiss Reid’s comments; indicting of American society as they may be. If in 2010 (or in this case I suppose, 2008) Reid can get wowed by the notion that a black man can be intelligent, that he can use proper English, and that certain “dialects” are not exclusive to certain groups, it’s clear that we have a long way to go in race relations.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.