Much ado about nothing
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada and Senate Majority Leader, has been raked over the coals recently about a statement he made during the 2008 Presidential campaign. He's quoted in a recently released book as saying that "America is ready to elect a light-skinned Black man with no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one."
Republicans have rallied en masse against Reid, accusing him of making racist statements and demanding that he resign his position; saying that their own Trent Lott was forced to resign after making statements perceived as racist and what's good for the goose is good for the gander.
That would make sense if the remarks were somewhat similar but they weren't. In fact, it's like comparing apples and oranges. Trent Lott, during a dinner held for Sen. Strom Thurmond, who made a presidential bid once under a segregationist banner, said that if America had elected Thurmond, the whole country would be better off, implying that segregation was good and integration was bad.
Sen. Reid, on the other hand, simply made an observation that millions of other people were making at the same time. Few people in this country ever thought a Black man would be elected president of the United States in their lifetime. When Obama emerged as a tremendous orator during the 2004 Democratic National Convention, people were impressed and minds began to change and in large part, many of those minds began to change because Obama IS light skinned and talks like a Caucasian instead of a Black. And when he needs to use his Black dialect when speaking to other Blacks, that's what he does.
This is a political tool that has been used for decades. It's not unusual at all for whites to attempt to sound "Black" when they're speaking to Black dominated audiences; nor is it unusual for them to try and speak with a drawl when they're talking to southern audiences. Politicians attempt to adjust to their audiences, sounding like they think they should sound and saying the things that particular audience wants to hear. A politician can speak to a union group in the morning, extolling the virtues of unionization and then speak to a right to work group in the afternoon, telling them what THEY want to hear.
Although Blacks have made tremendous strides toward equality in recent decades they still have a long way to go. I disagree with Brit Hume's observations that racism now only lives in the fringes of the American population. Racism is still alive and well, especially in the South, and will continue to be for some time to come. If Blacks want to compete for jobs and work their way up the corporate ladder, they have to learn how to act, dress, and talk "White" to be successful.
That's why the attempt at teaching Ebonics in California schools failed so miserably a few years ago. The idea behind Ebonics was that inner city youth develop their own language of the street that sounds nothing like "proper" English and to be able to teach those kids effectively in a school setting, teachers should learn this street language and use it in teaching their students, rather than requiring the students to learn proper English. It failed for a very simple reason; a young Black man or woman can't get a job if they use street lingo in an interview, just like lower class Whites can't get a job using improper English either.
To be successful, everybody has to adjust to their audience. If educated people try to impress their less educated friends with their knowledge, they're not going to have very many friends. I talk differently at a faculty meeting or a television interview than I do when I'm socializing with my friends.
That's all Harry Reid was saying during the campaign and The President understands that. This was a sea-change in American politics and Reid was saying that Obama's light skin would make it easier for White people to vote for him and that he used different dialects depending on his audience.
To suggest that is a racist remark is a cheap political trick akin to calling end of life counseling "death panels" or "pulling the plug on granny."
It is hypocritical, bombastic, self-serving and wrong.