Monday, January 11, 2010
Ok, here's the deal: a new book, "Game Change," just came out reporting that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) said during the 2008 presidential campaign that Barack Obama was a very viable crossover candidate who was a "light-skinned African-American" with "no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one." And hence ReidGate was born.
Over the weekend President Obama received and accepted Reid's apology, and the Senate Leader has also been supported by several prominent black leaders including Al Sharpton; Rep. Barbara Lee, head of the Congressional Black Caucus; Attorney General Eric Holder; former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume; former Congressman and possible 2010 NY Senate Candidate Harold Ford Jr.; and countless others, both black and white.
But, according to the 99.5% lily-white Republican Party, these poor black folk are either too naive or forgiving or both to understand just how offensive and insensitive Reid's remarks are. Thank goodness, I say, that Republicans are there to stand up for their black brothers and sisters when those racist Democrats disrespect and disparage them.
"There’s a big double standard," charged GOP Chairman Michael Steele. Speaking on "Meet the Press" Sunday morning, Steele, along with Senators Jon Kyl of Arizona and John Cornyn of Texas, called for Reid's resignation and claimed there was no difference between the "racist remarks" of Reid and those that Democrats claimed Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott made in 2002. At that time, Lott had expressed support for South Carolina segregationist Strom Thurmond and his failed 1948 presidential bid:
"I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we 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.”
Let's be very, very clear. There is absolutely no double-standard here. None. Zero. And it's highly offensive to compare the two episodes, in fact. Reid was praising Obama and calling for this young black man to run for president, saying he could win it all and promised his support, while Lott basically said America would've been a much better place over the years without all those pesky black people and their troublesome civil rights advances. Really, Republicans, Reid's and Lott's remarks have the same racist context? To the contrary, they're about as opposite in intent and severity as possible.
And while I am about as aghast at Reid's use of the word "Negro" in 2010 as I was in 1977 when my father innocently referred to our next-door neighbor as a "nice colored gal," it's important to remind everyone that we still have The United Negro College Fund in existence, and that NAACP still stands for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Neither of these two monumentally important institutions have changed their official name, and both remain part of the national vocabulary, no matter how outdated, generational and undesirable they are. In that context, ReidGate is truly a non-story...except for the one Republicans want and so desperately need it to be as a distraction from what's really important in America right now.