*

Mike Hendricks

Mike at Night

Mike Hendricks recently retires as social science, criminal justice instructor at McCook Community College.

Opinion

Much ado about nothing

Friday, January 15, 2010

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.

Comments
View 8 comments
Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. Please note that those who post comments on this website may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.
  • Gee Mike no comment on Obama your presidential hero and him continuing to break his repeated promises/lying to have a health care hearings on CSPAN on the election trail and now just shutting down the process for the democrats mice to play with our countries future with no public airing of the hearings.. This feels like Russian tactics in the pre-seventies right here in the USA going on today??? Sorry but you telling us Reid is not racist vs Lott in their public comments is left vs right period and it's to bad you don't even see it going on. Facts are both are racists in their public comments to some degree and not approiate but Reid is a left winger so high profile blacks support him period and your support for him vs Republican Lott. The good news is the fact he/Ried is running a distant 3rd in polls for reelection in his state according to CNN so his days are numbered along with many other of his socialistic leaning friends.

    -- Posted by Cornwhisperer on Fri, Jan 15, 2010, at 2:16 PM
  • "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."

    This paragraph defines precisely why so many are feeling so disconnected from politicians/government in this day and age. Be who you are and be willing to learn how to walk in the shoes of those you want to represent, in other words, don't pretend to be "one of us" if you're not, but rather, be sensitive to who we are ... and drop the double-speak as presented in the final sentence of the quoted paragraph, this would go a long way toward mending the fractured political fences in this nation.

    -- Posted by newdawn on Fri, Jan 15, 2010, at 2:48 PM
  • I think most dark skinned black men would disagree.

    -- Posted by wallismarsh on Fri, Jan 15, 2010, at 3:56 PM
  • I agree with Mikes assessment that this is much ado about nothing. I dont think Reid is racist; I also think he is out of touch with his constituency. One question though, Mike; do you think there would have been the same reaction from the left had the statement been attributed to a conservative?

    -- Posted by doodle bug on Fri, Jan 15, 2010, at 4:31 PM
  • Mike is political. He is always going to side with "his" party.

    It is really a shame that so many people will convince themselves that their party is always right.

    I do think that Reid's comments were not meant to be hurtful. However, if a conservative would have made them, the Democrats would have pounced.

    I also do not believe Trent Lott was actually for the 1948 campaign of Strom Thurmond.

    -- Posted by wallismarsh on Fri, Jan 15, 2010, at 4:53 PM
  • Lets see the dems have an ex? Klansman as a senator who by the way I am sure Mike missed it publicly in an interview used the N word several times. They actually called Clinton the first Bleck president, what an insult. Dems have the black vote and take it for granted. They have race hucksters and extortionists in jessie Jackson and the reverend Al, never could find out wehere their churches are by the way? They have a caucus divided by race in the CBC and the republicans are the racists.

    It's simply amazing how the dems can get a pass on all of this and if a repub even dares to say a word about the state of the black community they are lambasted and called a racist. Even Bill Cosby when he points out the problems he perceives and I agree with is absolutely creamed.

    Tell me Mike what have the Dems actually done for the black community? Please pointit out? it certainly wasn't civil rights go back and look at the votes you willse it was southern Dems who tried to block it.

    Obama is possibly the worst president in my lifetime, I never thought I would see anyone worse than Carter by the way. This congress is making drunken sailors look frugal and I believe in the 2010 elections and the 2012 elections they will suffer the consequenses.

    -- Posted by Chaco1 on Sun, Jan 17, 2010, at 10:34 AM
  • Chaco1, The difference is that even Drunken Sailors income is controlled by Congress, and no matter how drunk a Sailor gets, his pocket becomes empty. where Congress just reaches out to the 'Many' pockets to pay for their spending.

    Once upon a time, folks, Congress worked on a system of 'Tax and Spend.' Today the Liberal Congress is working on a system of 'SPEND,' and try to find a way to TAX without anyone noticing the new TAX. Just a thought, from an old-sailor.

    -- Posted by Navyblue on Sun, Jan 17, 2010, at 9:10 PM
  • You are right Navyblue sailors can only spend their own money congress can just borrow or steal more.

    -- Posted by Chaco1 on Mon, Jan 18, 2010, at 9:12 AM
Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: