Another apology?: Sen. Harry Reid is quoted as commenting on Obama’s lack of “Negro dialect”

January 10, 2010 at 3:20 PM | Posted in Ah C'mon!, Don't be a Dummy, Gimme a frickin break!, Hear me ROAR!, Higher Definition, Over it, Sad but true, Seriously?, Snooze, Willy Nilly, Yowzers | 5 Comments

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Washington (CNN) — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid apologized Saturday for making racially insensitive remarks about Barack Obama during the presidential campaign.

Journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann reported the remarks in their new book, “Game Change,” which is scheduled to be in bookstores Tuesday.

The authors quote Reid as saying privately that Obama, as a black candidate, could be successful thanks, in part, to his “light-skinned” appearance and speaking patterns “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

“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.

“Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama’s race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination,” they write.

In a statement to CNN, Reid said, “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,” the senator from Nevada said.

Reid pointed to his efforts to integrate the Las Vegas Strip and the gaming industry, among other legislation favored by African-American voters.

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

he senator called Obama Saturday afternoon to apologize for the racially insensitive remarks.

“Harry Reid called me today and apologized for an unfortunate comment reported today,” Obama said in a statement.

“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.”

Hmmmmm. I’m going to be a little bit objective here. My first thought is Reid’s un-PC remarks weren’t that much different than remarks black people were making about Obama since he started campaigning. The real problem here is Reid is white and sometimes the truth hurts.

It is openly discussed among the black community that “light skin” is easily accepted among the non-black populous versus “dark skin.” It’s “wrong” but that’s the way it is. Reid was making the same observation a person of color has made since the beginning of race relations in this country.

The “negro dialect” Reid was referring to is formally known as “African American Vernacular English,” and casually known as “Ebonics.” Although, Reid’s choice of words in describing this dialect warranted furrowed brows and wagging heads, he wasn’t off the mark. If Obama took the podium in the voice of Lil’ Wayne, every black person would be up in arms about how “ghetto” he is, about how “he can’t act right.” Reid, in less words, was saying Obama was “acting right.” Right enough so that he  had a fighting chance to be elected by those people who wouldn’t ordinarily vote for a black man.

Now we all know exactly how the “black man” is perceived in this world. I said, world and not America, because this folly of a stereotype is on a global scale. Black men are angry, aggressive, dangerous and most of all scary. I can’t count how many times my guy friends have told me that banal story of the white woman that hastily grabbed her purse or crossed the street when she saw them coming. I can’t count how many times I see a young black man get stopped and frisked when he was just minding his own business.

We live in a society that socializes its members to believe black men are one way. So it is absolutely earth-shattering and shocking when a black man does not fit that perception. So much so, the absurd rationalizations start coming into play. “Well he’s light skinned so he’s non-threatening,” “Well he’s articulate, so he’s not ‘really that black’.” “Well he’s polite and well-mannered so he’s likable.” It is unfathomable that most people of color can possibly possess these basic skills.

Black people know Obama is not an anomaly, but he is an anomaly in the eyes of those purse-grabbers and the individuals with the same mentality. Black men in jail, rappers degrading women, basketball players bringing weapons into the locker room, have become the perception of the black man as a whole. Obama transcends that. Reid observed that fact and in his ignorant convoluted way gave Obama a compliment. I say ignorant because Reid knew no better way to give this compliment, as clearly evidenced in his “negro” word choice.

Reid was pointing out Obama’s light skin, and brilliant non-ebonics speech patterns made him a viable candidate. These attributes does not fit into the “scary black man” stereotype so Obama would be easily accepted. I can agree with that because it is absolutely true. I can also agree with Obama’s acceptance of Reid’s apology. We don’t know how Obama feels deep down about this situation and the countless other situations that focus on his skin color, but we do know that Obama’s every move is being scrutinized and judged. Any wrong move will crucify him. His temperance has and will continue to serve him well.  

In my opinion, Obama had no choice but to accept Reid’s apology and every other apology given to him in just the first year of his presidency. If he spent his time getting offended and rejecting every apology and addressing every naysayer that he came across, he would accomplish nothing. Reid apologized, Obama accepted because “he knows what’s in his heart.” Analyzing Reid’s words, I don’t detect any malice in them and I don’t think Obama did either.

To those screaming “racist.” In this case, Reid did not show he was a racists and truthfully, there is really nothing that you can do about racists. Their mind cannot be changed. And why would you want an insincere apology from someone that hates you anyway? They simply have to die off along with that mentality. There’s no use getting “offended” by every single off-color comment (pun intended) because as I pointed out you would get nothing accomplished. We will never live in a perfect world. There will always be an idea, mentality, philosophy, or school of thought that further divides us and magnifies our differences. I believe Obama knows that and so should we.



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  1. He said what all of “them” thought. They put Obama in an tough spot with these comments coming out now, so the only way he could respond is the way he has.

    • Reid said these comments privately, these were his private thoughts so for it to be broadcast now is absolutely absurd. Just another ploy to take our focus on what really matters. Reid’s use of the word “negro,” I’m sure is in the minds of other politicians except with letters taken out and added and ending in “er.” So what? Let’s stay focused on Yemen, and Afghanistan and Iraq and that damn healthcare bill!

  2. As Obama could say if je wanted to, Chutch!

  3. Snooze… Although Reid’s language was archaic and possibly offensive to some, like you write: nothing new. Black people have been code switching for years whether they realize/like it or not.

  4. Oh yeah, what about Bill’s comment? Plz share your thoughts…

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