Thursday, February 4, 2010

Race Carded

Harry Reid is prejudiced against white people.

Huh? What's that, you ask. Don't you mean the Senate Majority Leader is prejudiced against blacks? That's what's implied by a new book that's out about the 2008 presidential race called Game Change by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann:

"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,' as he later put it privately".

Let's take each of these one by one, though not in order.

Reid seems to have gotten the most flack from white conservatives, and one notable black, RNC Chairman Michael Steele, for using the now-dated term Negro. It became dated sometime during the 1960s. Before that, both blacks and whites used the term. There's still a black organization called the United Negro College Fund. And the term is still used in a historic context, e.g., Before Satchel Paige joined the Cleveland Indians, he played for the Negro Leagues.

What was it exactly that made the anthropological-sounding Negro fall out of favor? My guess is it sounded a little too much like that other N word, the one that occasionally gets The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn banned from school libraries.

So, if Negro is, at best, passe, why does Harry Reid continue to use the word? Reid was born in 1939, so he would have been about 25 when the transition from Negro to Black occurred. OK, 25's not very old. You'd think he'd have kicked the Negro habit by now. The man's pushing 70! Yes, but it's those words and bywords and buzzwords and catch phrases we hear during out first couple of decades that sometimes stick with us. For instance, back when I worked in a distribution center, I was helping this girl about fifteen years younger than me ID some boxes. I asked her if she had a magic marker. She replied, "I have a marker, but I don't know if there's anything magic about it." She had never heard the term, yet it was common when I was a kid, and I can't help referring to such an item that way. Of course, a marker is unlikely to be offended by being called magic. If it could think, it might even take it as a compliment.

Another thing that got Reid in trouble was referring to Barack Obama as "light-skinned" and that this light skin would make him more palatable to the white electorate than an African-American with a darker hue. Since it's largely the Republican Party that's upset about what Reid said, perhaps they could run a darker-skinned candidate (Michael Steele, perhaps?) against Obama in 2012, and test this proposition. Put up or shut up. Of course, the white electorate may just ignore the color of skin altogether and focus, as Martin Luther King Jr once famously put it, on the content of character. Obama has an advantage there, too.

Finally, Reid said that Obama didn't talk with a Negro dialect unless by choice. I'll leave it to you folks to decide what exactly a Negro, or Black, or African-American dialect sounds like. I did watch quite a bit of C-SPAN during 2008, and I can tell you Obama sounded a little different, a little more southern, when speaking in a black church to an all-black audience. But then, so did Hillary Clinton.

The NAACP has stated it has no problem with Harry Reid's statements. Neither does Al Sharpton. What about President Obama? He's accepted Reid's apology, but then he also accepted Joe Biden's apology for calling him "clean" early in 2007. Whatever happened to Joe Biden, anyway?

So I really don't think Reid has a problem with black people. But I started this piece claiming it was white people he was prejudiced against. Why would I say that? Simple. Prejudice comes from the Latin word praejudicium, meaning, to prejudge. When Harry Reid said whites would prefer a light-skinned African-American to a dark-skinned one, and that these same whites would prefer one that spoke the King's English rather than Dixie, he was prejudging them. Ergo, Harry Reid is prejudiced against white people.

Given some of the stuff that comes out of white people's mouths, who can blame him?


  1. If Harry ever grows a spine and stops polishing repuke balls, I "might" listen to something he says.

    Until then, bah.

  2. Thanks for dropping by, Hill. I'm not critiquing Reid's entire Senate career. In fact, I'm not critiquing ANY of his Senate career. I've got plenty of things I'd like to criticize Reid for, especially his and and the rest of the Democratic senators reluctance to stand up to the filibuster threat (got a post about that coming up in a week ago). But in this particular instance, I thought he was on the side of, well, if not the angels, at least Barack Obama.

    Repuke balls. Ha!