Let’s cut the cookie-cutter debate crap right now. Harry Reid’s comments have been transmitted across the airwaves over the past few days like the sound bytes of gold that they are. And while many people want to get all hot and bothered by all of Reid’s words, not everything he said should have been deemed all that controversial.
For those of you who haven’t heard or seen the quote verbatim:
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.’ – “Game Change” (2010)
When you read that statement by Reid, you really have to break it into two parts; the realist part, and the racist part.
I’ll start with the racist part first.
I don’t agree with the GOP all that often, and I especially couldn’t care for 95% of the things that come out of CNN’s Bill Bennett’s mouth. However, when Bennett called Reid’s comments borderline racist, I really couldn’t disagree with him. Call Reid’s words a gaffe, a misstep or whatever else you want to call it, but when someone of his stature and prestige is still walking the face of the earth using the term “negro-dialect’ in reference to a Harvard grad in his 40’s, racism is only the beginning of the issue.
It’s just common sense that if it’s inappropriate to say a black man is talking in “negro-dialect,” then it’s just as inappropriate to say that a black man lacks “negro-dialect.”
By the way, what kind of antiquated, 1860’s Hicksville is Harry Reid still living in? “Negro-dialect?” I may have been born in the 1980’s, but by my estimation, that term wasn’t even in use at the time of Barack Obama’s birth, nevermind in the 21st century. Yet here Reid is, an elderly, rich, white man, still characterizing some form of black speech as “negro-dialect?”
What the heck is negro-dialect?
During the times of slavery, when black people couldn’t read and often times were encouraged not to read, negro-dialect could have been in reference to illiterate black people with little mastery of the English language. That makes sense. But in today’s society, there’s no room for the term “negro-dialect.” At best, Reid could be referring to the colloquial slang that is a part of the hip-hop culture, but even then he’s going down that treacherous path we explored as a nation with that whole “should Ebonics be taught in class” fiasco during the late 1990’s.
Then again, it doesn’t matter what Reid defines as “negro-dialect,” becausethere is no such thing, and a man in his position should know better than to go around using and promoting a term that cast nothing but a negative light on the black race.
As for Reid’s point that Obama’s light-skin helped him win the election, Reid’s absolutely right. Part of the reason Barack Obama was accepted by the nation was indeed because of his light skin. No, I can’t prove it, because there probably wasn’t a soul on Earth that would have admitted to such a bigoted stance during an exit poll interview on one of the most transcendent days in American history. But to man (or a woman), most people are well aware that the contrast of a black person’s skin plays a role in that person’s life, no matter how disgusting of a reality that is.
There are studies that back up what I’m saying. I don’t have any of them in front of me, but feel free to do a Google search of your own. And if you want real evidence, just take a look at your daughter’s dolls, 90% of black actresses, Bollywood, or even your local news reporters. When it comes to positions of prominence in which one’s face is going to be front and center, the lighter the better is the rule of the land–and that’s the case with a lot of races, not just blacks.
That racism, or colorism as Soledad O’Brien phrased it, isn’t lacking among blacks. Light-skin blacks tend to have a pass that dark-skin blacks don’t, even in their own neighborhoods. Speaking of Soledad, on her own “Black in America” documentary, she profiled Michael Eric Dyson, who sat there on national television and essentially told the world that the only real difference between his educated behind and his imprisoned brother was the fact that one was darker than the other.
So I’m not sure why Reid’s point about Obama’s light-skin is getting more of the attention than his “negro-dialect” comment. His light-skin sentiment is true, and I’m actually glad he said that. After all, in this post-Obama world where we’re allegedly “past” race, we need somebody to put this country in its place and let us know how much farther we have to go.
However, Reid’s comment about Obama’s “negro-dialect,” or lack thereof, was stupid, inappropriate, cognitive and darn-right racist. Do I think he should lose his seat because of his racist sentiments? Perhaps, but only if his constituents choose to do so. Honestly, I would have Reid removed from office for 20 different things before I got to this quote; the least of those reasons having anything to do with anything he has said or done outside of the confines of the Senate floor.
Of course, even on the Senate floor, Reid has managed to get himself in trouble for the words coming out of his mouth. If only he weren’t the leader of the Senate—then he wouldn’t have to talk so damn much. Then again, Clinton doesn’t even hold a political office anymore, and he’s still putting his foot in his mouth.