Reid was stating a fact, however indelicate and impolitic.
Obama's appearance and avoidance of "Negro dialect" -- except when reaching out to blacks -- allowed white voters to feel comfortable with his politics and his intellect. He seemed more like them than like Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson; less threatening, more like a guy you'd have over for dinner.
Reid expressed regret this weekend "for offending any and all Americans, especially African Americans," with comments he made in 2008 that only now have come to light.
But I don't know why I should be offended.
If anyone is insulted, it should be whites -- whom Reid accused implicitly of being willing to vote for a black man only if he talks like them and is not too black.
I think the next apology ought to come from Michael Steele -- the light-skinned, dialectically flexible African American head of the Republican National Committee.
Steele has called for Reid to step down as majority leader, likening him to Trent Lott, the former Mississippi senator rebuked in 2002 for saying he was "proud" that his state had supported a segregationist candidate in the 1948 presidential election.
That candidate was Strom Thurmond, who famously declared during his White House campaign: "All the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, our schools, our churches."
Either Steele is playing politics with a combustible case, or he thinks Americans are so incapable of thinking intelligently about race that we can't tell the difference between Lott and Reid.
Now that offends me.
Now this is what I was saying on Saturday, and I'm glad some in the mainstream media are finally starting to say this as well. What Reid said was crude, but ultimately true. Too many white folks are still uncomfortable with politicians that are "too black", and the Obama campaign had to work overtime in 2008 to fight off Republican attempts to portray him as the stereotypical "scary angry black man" and start total racial warfare.
It's just a shame that the corporate media want to focus more on the "gotcha politics" of Harry Reid vs. the GOP and avoid the real story of the frightening racism still plaguing this country.
Peter Beinart also admitted the obvious today.
Is any of this really a surprise, in a country where the extent of one’s blackness, as well as the fact of one’s blackness, has been the basis of oppression for centuries? In the antebellum South, states like Louisiana even maintained special legal categories for “quadroons” and “octoroons,” blacks whose mixed-race ancestry allowed them rights denied their “full-blooded” brethren. And as African Americans generally understand better than whites, that legacy remains alive today. When asked in 1995 why white people liked him so much, Colin Powell replied that “I speak reasonably well, like a white person,” and, visually, “I ain’t that black.”
So if what Reid said was palpably true, why is he in so much trouble? Yes, his use of the word “negro” was unattractive. But overall, his statement was less an example of white racism than an analysis of white racism. He dared to discuss an aspect of race prejudice that people generally find too toxic to publicly discuss. But it should be publicly discussed. Because amid the triumphalism that has followed Barack Obama’s election—the insistence, particularly on the right, that his election proves that racism has all but died out—it is worth remembering that while Obama’s election constitutes racial progress, it is also, peculiarly, testament to how far America still has to go.
Yep, yep, yep. What Reid said is an indictment of continuing white racism, and this is what's really infuriating the radical right.
But above all else, what is this all about? It's a collection of salacious political gossip from a pair of glorified political gossip columnists! Glenn Greenwald really nailed it here.
The book is little more than royal court gossip, churned out by the leading practitioner of painfully sycophantic, Drudge-mimicking cattiness: Time's Mark Halperin. And all of the courtiers, courtesans, court spokespeople (i.e., "journalists") and hangers-on who populate our decadent little Versailles on the Potomac can barely contain their glee over the opportunity to revel in this self-absorbed sleaze. Virtually every "political news" TV show is hyping it. D.C. reporters are boasting that they obtained early previews and are excitedly touting how intensively they're studying its pages in order to identify the most crucial revelations. Just try to contemplate how things would be if even a fraction of this media energy and interest level were devoted to scrutinizing the non-trivial things political leaders do.
Again... Yep, yep, yep. This is just another excuse for the corporate media to gossip about pointless crap while avoiding the real issues still plaguing our society.
What about economic inequality? What about discrimination going on trial with the Prop H8 case? What about our civil liberties possibly being trampled in the name of "airport security"? Oh no, who cares about that when we can talk some more about John Edwards' sex life, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama engaging in a "man fight", Sarah Palin's mysterious fasting, and a new manufactured Harry Reid scandal!
Of course, Republicans will keep trying to milk this manufactured scandal to try to keep alive their chances of toppling Reid this year. Politicos all over the place will keep trying to look into a crystal ball and claim they know exactly how this will affect Nevada politics this year. But no matter what happens next until the media circus eventually ends, let's try to remember what this is really about.