Friday, January 15, 2010

Poor Harry Reid

(I can't believe I actually typed that headline.)

Colin Powell, two weeks after refusing to run for President, said in a speech I attended that his race wouldn't have been a problem because he is light skinned and from Jamaica and "so I'm not that scary a black man".

Post-racial? NPR and Pew reported a survey yesterday where most whites saw Obama as mixed race and blacks, to a much greater degree, saw him as black.

Come back in 50 years.... our voting populace will all be a lovely shade of ecru... or burnt sienna..... and "flesh" will not automatically send the brain to white. Well, that's my dream, anyhow.

And then there's Harry Reid. No one has read the as-yet-unpublished book, but his quote has certainly stimulated advance sales. And yet, as Leonard J. Pitts, Jr wrote, he got it right.

We all have our own "ethnic dialect" - whether it's Brooklynese or Ebonics or a Valley Girl's Whatever insouciance - and we bring that dialect out when necessary. For the most part, though, standard English is still standard English and, for now at least, it defines a civilized person. Yes, our country could embrace a person of color who spoke like an educated human being. Pitts is right when he says that Palin and Bush 43 would have been written off before their first campaigns if they had not been white; skin color gave them a window of opportunity that America has yet to demonstrate towards a person of color.

Now that last sentence provoked an interesting train of thought -- can I come up with the name of a popular/powerful/elected official whose skin is darker than mine and whose language skills are worse than average. Andrew Young, Charlie Rangel, Tommy Thompson, Cory Booker, J.C.Watts.... I'm hard pressed to find one.

On American Idol last night, Randy Jackson had to tell a young black singer that he couldn't understand a single sentence the contestant had uttered. "What are you saying, man??" Why this mangling of the English language is considered cool is a mystery to me; I was glad to see that Randy shared my confusion.

I think Senator Reid's problem was that someone quoted him, not that what he said was insulting to the President. In fact, I'm not sure he was really talking about the President at all. I think his quote reveals an honest reading of the American voting public. I'm just glad that this "light skinned ... no Negro dialect" President happens to be Barack Obama.


  1. What an amazing brain you have.
    Point One, it's not that Reid said this, the problem is that he was caught.
    Point Two, he wasn't talking about the President. (??)
    Point Three, do you not see how twisted his view of the American voter is? How can you excuse that?

  2. Hi, Anonymous. Thanks for reading. I'm taking your "amazing brain" comment as a compliment :-) Thanks!

    As I understand it (and, of course, no one has a copy of the book yet) he wasn't "caught" so much as "outed", since he made the comment in what he thought was a private setting. But then, as the Big Cuter reminded me last night, I've always said "Don't do anything you wouldn't want printed in the NYTimes" so he was stupid to say it at all.

    Is his view of the American voter "twisted" or is it accurate? I'm sure I don't know, though the social-psych research on skin color and perception seems to trend toward accurate. (Just Google "skin color perception" and see what I mean.)


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