Harry Reid’s “gaffe”

What's depressing about the conservative "outrage" over Harry Reid's "racism" is the predictability of the mass media's obsession with it.  The idea that Reid is a closet racist or that his words are anything less than true, is simply absurd. His sole error was using the term "negro" certainly not the other "n" word, but neither does it automatically make one a racist.  Mark Kleiman brilliantly deconstructs the whole mess:

But what, exactly?  Other than using an old-fashioned word to refer to
African-Americans (a word which was the standard word for about the
first half of Reid’s life), what did Reid do wrong?*

It is the case that Obama is light-skinned and that he is a native
speaker of American English, though he can and does, on occasion, use
Ebonic cadences for rhetorical effect.

And it is the case that both his skin tone (and the ancestry it
reflects) and his command of the common dialect are among his political
assets.   If he had looked, or sounded, like Jesse Jackson, he wouldn’t
be President.  A darker hue and a more Ebonic speech pattern would
certainly have cost him some votes among white Anglos, Latinos, and
Asians, and almost certainly cost him some black votes as well.  (The
internalization of racism in the African-American community is a
well-known phenomenon.)

To quote Kevin Drum, "Are we seriously at the point where we have to rely on George Will (!) to talk sense into the conservative movement?"


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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