The political comment carousel goes round and round, and I can usually set my watch to a GOP rabble rouser or conservative chatterbox saying something blatantly offensive or at the least, somewhat controversial once a microphone or a reporter with a pen is put in front of them.
Needless to say, my political equilibrium shifted abruptly when I heard the comments made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat representing the state of Nevada.
In a new book titled Game Change by Time magazine’s Mark Halperin and New York magazine’s John Heilemann, the authors chronicle the inner workings of the 2008 presidential campaign, which resulted in the election of President Obama.
In the book, it is reported that Senator Reid expressed that he “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.”
I have to admit that I was somewhat shocked that these words escaped the mouth of a Democrat, especially one who by all accounts has been supportive of the president and most civil rights legislation.
What immediately came to mind, however, was how the reaction and responses would differ had it been a Republican who uttered the same backhanded compliment to Obama.
The Congressional Black Caucus immediately stood beside the Senate majority leader, and said the Democrat’s historic support of “minority friendly” legislation overshadows this most recent and regrettable choice of words.
Eric Holder, the nation’s first black attorney general, told The Associated Press that Reid is a good man and “I don’t think that there is a prejudiced bone in his body.”
Quite frankly, I believe that the Black Caucus and Holder are correct in their assessment of Reid. After all, what he said was the truth.
I must say that even though the use of the word “Negro” in his statement is regrettable, at least he didn’t say “Colored.” He also managed to point out that even though Obama does not regularly express himself with the punctuated colloquialisms of Ebonics, he can basically turn it on when he has or wants to do so.
Complexion observation aside, Reid put on the record (willingly or not) a truism that many ambitious African Americans have known and acted upon for some time: An articulate and mainstream-digestible black man is more likely to succeed in this society than his less articulate and less mainstream-digestible counterpart.
Do not misconstrue this sociological observation as a battle cry for mass “selling out” in order to succeed. Look at it for what it is: the reality of why Barack Obama was able to cross racial lines and be elected president of the United States.
As to the Democrat-Republican double standard, it clearly does exist. It reminds me of how African Americans can use the N-word, whereas whites are asking for a problem if they do.
In the American landscape where race and politics intersect, the Republicans’ most recent track record is littered with conservative rhetoric that has consistently targeted blacks and minorities for some of the most degrading and offensive commentary.
It has not always been the actual Republican legislators from Capitol Hill, but often the Republican Party flunkies with radio shows or programs on the FOX News Channel who propagate the supposed tenets of the modern Republican Party, often at the expense of African- American, Latino, homosexual and/or immigrant dignity.
There is a double standard at play here, and if Reid is not forced to resign, it will be just a matter of time before a Republican says something such as Reid did, and when the Democrats push for his or her resignation, we will have the pleasure of riding the political comment carousel once again.