So by now I’m sure you’ve heard the reporting of and commentary about the statements made by Sen. Harry Reid to one of the authors of “Game Change”. Strangely enough, given the confidence under which these remarks were made, I am reminded of the old adage, “discretion is the better part of valor.” But in a society seemingly overrun with people submitting their every incoherent brain fart in 140 character increments, either the old adage is wrong or valor ain’t so important anymore.
But I digress; let’s take a brief moment to examine what Mr. Reid said. When asked what he thought of Obama’s chances as a presidential candidate, Reid stated Obama was a “light-skinned black man with no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one”. The statement is of course very telling. From the first portion we can easily discern that Harry Reid is sighted. Otherwise how else would he know that Obama was in fact a light-skinned black man? That man has a kung-fu grip of the obvious. The second part of the statement tells us that Mr. Reid actually hears quite well. Not only was he able to note that Mr. Obama not only speaks in a manner becoming a Senator but that he also has a keen ability to code switch. This very observation teeters more on profundity than racism. Now I know what you’re thinking, “But that’s not that POINT! What the *expletive* is a Negro Dialect?!?” To which I respond, “C’mon Son!” From Paul Lawrence Dunbar to Ed Lover we are all well aware of what a Negro dialect is even if we wouldn’t call it that.
Are we just arguing semantics? Honestly, what did Reid say, that at its core, was incorrect or improper? Actually before you answer, let’s get a few things out of the way. We do not live in a post racial United States. For every T-Shirt, website and poster using Obama’s image to invoke Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” there are hundreds of news articles, images, and video segments to the contrary. Not to mention the desperate conditions prevalent in minority and poor (that’s right these are mutually exclusive conditions) communities across the US. So, again I ask, what did Reid say that was so wrong or any different that what we’ve said amongst ourselves? Every honest self respecting Black person has admitted at some point or another that a darker skinned Black man would be a tough sell to all of America irrespective or his credentials. Moreover, these same self-respecting Black people would not dream of their child or anyone with whom they were affiliated walking into a professional setting speaking in vernacular, slang, or any variation therein. They would find the suggestion a bit embarrassing, damning and maybe even regressive. As a matter of fact, I remember a wave a fear coming over me when I saw Obama walk in a fashion I recognized as uniquely “urban” when he met Biden on stage after he accepted the VP nomination. Ultimately, others noticed but little was said nationally. In truth, the real issue speaks to a statement made by Eric Holder early in his tenure as Attorney General, America is scared to talk about race. But not just White America, all of America is to some degree terrified of the subject. That is because a true discussion requires the airing of not only other’s dirty laundry but yours as well. So, I suppose, all I ever really ask whenever America gets on her high horse “Condemnation” (by the way could you imagine that name over the loud speakers at the Preakness) is that she takes a moment to take stock of her own behavior. Real honest self-reflection shows us that we are all of capable of potentially regrettable behavior and in turn reveals to us either the innate qualities or external forces preventing said behavior. Thus, in closing we call upon the wisdom of the fallen king of pop to bring sense to an otherwise maddening world.