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Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Harry Reid has recently gotten a bit of flack for some private comments he made about Obama awhile back. In the Wall Street Journal yesterday, Ward Connerly wondered if we can learn from this "teachable moment."
What followed [Reid's] public apology was all too predictable. Mr. Reid personally called President Obama and a handful of presumed leaders of the so-called African-American community—Julian Bond, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson among them—to beg forgiveness for his racial sin.

To no one's surprise, all of those to whom apologies were extended responded by accepting Mr. Reid's apology and saying that the nation had more important issues to deal with, such as health care and national security.

As I have observed coverage of this incident by the media and captains of the African-American community, I cannot help but be reminded of former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who made remarks praising Strom Thurmond in 2002. Mr. Lott said of the segregationist: "When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we [Mississippians] voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years either."

When Mr. Lott's controversy erupted, he apologized repeatedly and sincerely to one and all—even groveling on Black Entertainment Network—all to no avail. Black leaders were unforgiving and persisted in demanding that he either resign from his position or be removed. In the end, they got what they wanted.

When Rush Limbaugh wanted to buy into the St. Louis Rams last year, many of the same individuals who instantly accepted Mr. Reid's apology expressed outrage over allegedly racist statements made by Mr. Limbaugh, despite the fact that zero evidence of these statements existed. They demanded that his participation in the bid be rejected. Ultimately, they got what they wanted.
[I]t's hard to avoid the conclusion that the spirit of forgiveness is universal—except when it comes to conservatives.

For my part, I am having a difficult time determining what it was that Mr. Reid said that was so offensive.

Was it because he suggested that lighter-skinned blacks fare better in American life than their darker brothers and sisters? If so, ask blacks whether they find this to be true. Even the lighter-skinned ones, if they are honest with themselves, will agree that there is a different level of acceptance.

Was it because he used the politically incorrect term "negro"? If so, it should be noted that there are many blacks of my generation who continue to embrace this term. In fact, "negro" is an option along with "black" and "African-American" on the 2010 Census.

Was it because he implied that Mr. Obama might be cut some political slack because of his oratorical skills or his looks? If so, that fact was not harmful to Joe Biden, who was elected vice president after praising Mr. Obama as "articulate" and "clean-looking."

Or, finally, could it be viewed as offensive that Mr. Reid suggested that blacks often have a distinctive way of speaking? If that is, indeed, the offense, then I will offend a lot of individuals when I assert that I can tell in probably 90% of the cases whether an individual is black merely by talking to him on the telephone.

In short, this incident does not rise to the level that it prompts me to join the parade of those who urge Mr. Reid to resign because of it. There are far more substantive matters over which the Senate majority leader's performance should be judged—and I find his performance seriously flawed on any number of them.

Still, to quote President Obama, from another race incident, "this is a teachable moment." This one doesn't warrant a beer summit, but it does require serious reflection for the good of our nation.

We are too quick to take offense about race when none was intended. Some are too anxious to manufacture outrage over matters that do not justify the attention that we give them. And we are too quick to politicize race. {emphasis added}

As far as I'm concerned, Messrs. Bond, Sharpton, Jackson and a host of other Americans formerly identified as "negroes" have forever forfeited the right to be outraged whenever a Republican or a talk show host makes an inappropriate or "insensitive" racial comment.


Chris A said...

I have to agree somewhat. A friend of mine who is black said that the comment made Reid sound like he was stuck in the 50's. In my mind, it wasn't anywhere near being racist. It was just sort of antiquated to use the word "negro" in political discourse, and it is also sort of unbecoming of politicians to try to be sociologists because of the fact that when you are representing people, they want to know that you view them as human. They don't want you classifying them in an experimental sort of way. So in that way, maybe you could say it was insensitive.

With Trent Lott, this was an entirely different matter. The thing that set off the uproar was the fact that Thurmond was running on a segregationist ticket. When you have a guy from the South - Mississippi no less - talking about southern pride in voting for a segregationist president, of course people are going to go up in arms over that. No amount of apologizing is going to erase the implications of such a statement.

Limbaugh? I don't know of any specific racist comments he has made or is alleged to have made, but I do recall hearing what I would characterize as a thinly veiled racist parody of Al Sharpton on his show called, "Barack the Magic Negro" in which it features a rather dumb-sounding man in a "negro dialect", who is supposed to be Al Sharpton, talking about Obama. Racists love this sort of thing. Its a way to degrade black people by using stereotypes of particular personalities that can be disguised as comedy. Its a throwback to "Amos and Andy" and all that, but since it is directed at Sharpton and not black people in general, its easier to escape the criticism that it is racist.

Darius said...

When Limbaugh was trying to buy the Rams last year, several fake quotes (see below) surfaced which were attributed to him by idiot reporters. Turns out, he never made either comment, they were just made up on wikiquote.

* “You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honor? James Earl Ray (Dr. King’s assassin). We miss you, James. Godspeed.”
* “Let’s face it, we didn’t have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: Slavery built the South. I’m not saying we should bring it back. I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark.”

As for the "Magic Negro" parody, from what I found online, that was in reference to some article that an LA columnist has written. I don't know more of the context than that, but if it's anything like what Ann Coulter goes through, it's probably way out of context. Her jokes are always removed from the context in which they were said.

Chris A said...

You know I'm big on context, but in this case I don't think its relevant. When you have some white guys sitting around making fun of a black guy injecting racial stereotypes, black people understandably do not like that. Just like when Rosie O'Donnell was trying to emulate the speech of Asian people by saying, "Ching chong" and all that. You think Asians appreciated that? I don't. At best it's impolite, at worst it's racist.

Here's another thing to consider. Whether the offending person intended offense or not is not that relevant either. I doubt whether O'Donnell meant to offend anyone, but what difference does it make? The damage is done either way. Its actually a little more revealing of racist attitudes when people make glib remarks that they think are funny.

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The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel The Main Thing
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Overcoming Sin and Temptation
According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
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Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Respectable Sins
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Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
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