Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sen. Reid and the Dems: racism vs. hypocrisy

The episode with Majority Leader Harry Reid is regrettable and points to a double standard on racial matters.

(In case you haven't heard, Reid described Obama to a book author (wow!) as a "light-skinned...with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.")

After similarly stupid and insensitive remarks, Republicans forced Sen. Trent Lott to resign as Majority Leader. Democrats have, instead, risen to defend Sen. Reid.

One can make a case, of sorts, for treating individuals differently-- when those individuals have said or done things related to the behavior in question. Ironically, people are often lumped together-- e.g., conservatives-- and judged as a group on such matters. But such is the state of racial dialogue-- if not racial relations.

A few thoughts-- and then the more interesting things I've seen on this topic...

-I haven't seen anyone connect Reid's views to his Mormon faith. While Mormons are not inherently racist, their history and theology with respect to African-Americans (at least into the 1970s) strikes an interesting parallel.

-Only a few people have connected this to Reid's comments about the interim replacement for Senator Obama. Reid expressed concern about four potential candidates-- all of whom happened to be African-American.

-Melissa Harris-Lacewell has an interesting article at CNN.com on the many ways in which Reid is wrong, aside from racial insensitivity. "These comments show that Reid may know about white voters, but he doesn't understand black voters at all." Click on the link to read the entire article.

Jonah Goldberg (hat tip: Chuck Muth): "Just last month, (Sen. Harry) Reid insinuated that fellow senators standing in the way of ‘Obamacare’ were carrying on the tradition of the racists who stood in the way of civil rights in the 1960s. You've got to love it when the gods punish race-card players so poetically."

-Finally, some useful insights from Mona Charen at TownHall.com:

With due respect to the Republicans who simply could not help themselves in the face of this big fat opportunity to play turnabout, this is not seemly. It's true and glaringly obvious that the Democrats have honed this hair-trigger race sensitivity into a political tool that shoots only right not left. It's true that no one gave Trent Lott the benefit of the doubt about what was in his heart when he said something boneheaded in praise of the 100-year-old Strom Thurmond...And it's true that countless honorable conservatives have been unjustly smeared as racists because they disapprove of affirmative action or oppose the teachers' unions.

But let's not get into this smarmy business...

As for Obama being light-skinned, it's certainly possible that his complexion made him more acceptable to some vestigial racists. For Reid to notice that is not to endorse it. And finally, the president's lack of a "Negro dialect, unless he wants one," was clearly an important asset. Most Americans expect their president to speak standard English...

Republicans are right, so right, that if Mitch McConnell had said what Reid said, there would be a prolonged scandal. And they are right that political differences should not be turned radioactive by the malicious charge of racism. But it's enough to point this out. Don't join in.


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