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Reid, Steele and the definition of racism

Our Readers Who Comment get most energized by political tomfoolery. This morning they are chewing over Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele's call for Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid to resign for describing Sen. Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign as "light-skinned" and possessing "no Negro dialect."

Running throughout an extended comment stream is the underlying truth that race continues to be a major unsettled issue in the American conversation, with both Democratic- and Republican-sounding readers citing the other party's sins. Democrats defend Reid, whose apology to President Obama was quickly accepted when the quotes were reported, and attack Steele. Republicans, who have lots of reasons not to like Reid, are demanding his head.

But as Chris Cillizza writes, "Whether Reid stays on as leader -- and conventional wisdom suggests he will -- even Democrats acknowledge privately that he has done his reelection campaign, which was in somewhat dire straits, no favors."

We'll start with love80sdance, who wrote, "I voted for President Obama and still strongly support him. That said, nothing will be gained from having Mr. Reid resign. A person's true feelings... sometimes slip through the lips before the brain can shut it down. When slips happen, they should not be squashed but brought to brighter light. Replacing Mr. Reid with another who may also hold the same hostility or worse does nothing for the problem which hurts ALL Americans..."

medogsbstfrnd opined that "Deranged Republicans who have never in their lives read an African-American scholar, columnist or critic who, if they had, would realize that Reid has said nothing they didn't say. He was clumsy the way he said it, but there is nothing racist here. As for Republicans suddenly getting righteous over racism, that's like rats demanding horses quit pooping in the road."

docent was one of many to suggest that "Steele, Now that is the man who should resign. Everyone makes mistakes but when people make them a lifestyle then they should resign..."

AnnArborGuy said, "Embarrassing as it may be to all of us white liberals, there is some truth in Senator Reid's original remarks, albeit reflecting even more badly on the Republican right wing. Who among us really believes in our hearts that a darker complected Obama, perhaps with a noticeable urban minority dialect, would have been elected?..."

Nissl wrote, "Reid is an ineffective leader who will lose his re-election campaign and cost the Democrats a seat. He should stick around to get health care passed before resigning."

WildBill1 said, "Yep, if someone from the GOP said what Reid did, every liberal member of Congress would be calling for his/her head on a pike....hypocrites!"

gonzie wrote, "...The GOP has already been saying the same things that reid said. Its been going on since Obama took office so if anybody is a hypocite its the GOP"

orange3 said, "Yeah, republicans in office and those on Nazi radio who have spent the last year doing everything they could to incite hatred for the President can always be counted on to defend minorities:-) Tell us anothe joke Michael."

tdl62 wrote, "Of course Obama is light-skinned. Folks, the fact is he has a black father and a white mother. Reid really meant that if he had been a few shades darker, he would have never been considered by the white liberals for President..."

lhudson828 said, "It's amazing that Reid in one breath can make racial remarks about his president and in another breath make remarks just as racial about republicans being obstructionist to civil rights, forgetting that it was the democrat's who ruled the south in those days..."

GordonShumway predicted that "Reid's problem will solve itself when he isn't reelected. Steele's problem is much more deep seated - he will personally be responsible for the forming of a third party comprised of very disappointed moderate republicans and equally dismayed moderate democrats."

skeen66 wrote, "What short-sightedness! Instead of demanding Reid step down for being a second-string socialist and thief of Americans' rights, the GOP wants him to leave over his alleged racist remarks! Leave it to the GOP to spoil a golden opportunity to rid ourselves of this vampire for the right reasons."

vickie105 asked, "Does anyone among us really believe Obama could have been elected if he spoke gangsta cool, or ebonics? Quit straining with gnats while trying to get the country to swallow elephants. That is not to say I am a supporter of my party (Democrat) at this point in time. I believe Obama is trying to take this country and give as much as possible to the Latinos he feels we owe so much."

liberalsareblind wrote, "If Obama and Pelosi were true people of honor they would strongly urge Reid to step down. Any Republican who made such a comment would be forced to step down, and they would have the liberal media, the NAACP, and Jessie Jackson all over their butt for making such a statement. The Democrats can prove that they have a shred of honor by forcing Harry Reid to step down immediately."

We'll close with this interesting view from skeen66, who said, "What short-sightedness! Instead of demanding Reid step down for being a second-string socialist and thief of Americans' rights, the GOP wants him to leave over his alleged racist remarks! Leave it to the GOP to spoil a golden opportunity to rid ourselves of this vampire for the right reasons."

All comments on this article are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  January 11, 2010; 6:48 AM ET
 | Tags: Obama, Racism, Reid, Steele  
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Next: Republicans gain on Kennedy's Senate seat


The issue at hand is not just what Reid said about the POTUS, it is what he did not say but implied about the rest of Black America. Yes, Obama is a highly educated and well-spoken man but so are many other Black men in America (and Black women too). Reid's obviously thinks that Obama is the only Black man he has ever met who has command of the proper grammar and the English language. The Dmes need to hold him accountable for this covert racism.

Posted by: TyroneJonessr | January 11, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

First, I want to say I am a devoted Obama supporter. Second, what Harry Reid said about Barack Obama may be very un-PC, but sadly was also a very true statement. Had Obama been very dark skinned and spoke with a more pronounced "black" dialect he would never have been elected President. And as for the difference between Lott's and Reid 's statements about race one thing is crystal clear. Lott was wrong about the country going in the "wrong direction" without the Dixicrats. Reid received forgiveness for being so candid. And that makes all the difference in the world.

Posted by: logcabin1836 | January 11, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

There are so many reasons to not want to support the Speaker but racism is not one of them. The Republicans have been supported in everyway by The Speaker that he might as well change parties, so he can stay in office.

Posted by: LeeMentley | January 11, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I am an American Black Male of sixty years age. Reid is correct in his assessment of Obama by white America as being acceptable because of skin color to be president. The truth is blacks and whites throughout most of the world apply a certain advantage to lighter-skinned blacks..In fact lighter-skinned blacks are more acceptable to many blacks in this country.
I do not see Reid's remarks as racist or A stupid comment..just a fact of American life. His point of referring to Obama as Negro rather than African American, or Black, or whatever is meaningless. Hell, I don't know what the standard is anymore. My principal concerns about whether Obama would become president in 2008 was whether white American females would accept Michele Obama darker hue even regardless of her attractiveness, exceptional intelligence and academic achievement.

Posted by: october30 | January 11, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

My problem is the double standard..
Trent Lott was branded a racist for trying to make some nice remarks about Strom Thurman on his 100th birthday..
But because Thurman believed in segregation at one time... Libs said what Lott implied means he must of supported it.. Ridiculous.. but Lott was forced to resign being the Senate Republican leader.
Senator of VA George Allen made fun of an Indian-American who was taping his speeches for the guy running against him saying by calling him Macaca. For that he was branded a racist by Liberals.. and many believe that is wht he lost his re-election race..
But Harry Reid can say...
"that Obama was more electable because he's "light-skinned" and lacked a "Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
And Liberals are saying no big deal and all is forgiven???
And we thought calling a Black person a "Negro" was a bad thing??? Hey I don't think ANYONE said anything that bad.. but if you want to brand Republicans racists for saying Poltically incorrect statements then Dems should be held to the same standard... And let's be honest a Republican would have been ripped apart for saying what Reid said...

Posted by: sovine08 | January 11, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Obama's administration continues to set race relations in America back decades.

Posted by: mock1ngb1rd | January 11, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Lost in all the handwringing and shock, however, is any clear explanation of what's wrong with Reid's comment.

Posted by: mloaks | January 11, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

It should be clear to any student of politics what Reid meant in his comments about Obama. He was articulating what made Obama an acceptable candidate to conservatives. Obama worked hard to present himself as a non-racial candidate. Had he espoused "Negro" qualities during the campaign, many moderate and conservative voters who supported him would have been far more uneasy about voting for him.

Posted by: wcwilson2 | January 11, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Democrats and liberals are allowed to be racist and they allow "negroes" to be racist.

Bigotry is in the eyes of the bigot.

Posted by: OneFreeMan | January 11, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

"is equal to Lott's statement of "America would be better off if we'd been able to continue to legally discriminate against blacks, separate the races, and maintain white superiority.""

Which would be interesting if Lott said that. If you had a shred of honesty you'd admit that you project your own racist fantasies on others.

Admit the lie and get some measure of self-respect back.

Posted by: Skeptic1 | January 11, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Maybe the Republicans should ask Reid to apologize to most Americans for suggesting they have a problem with darker skinned African Americans who don't speak with textbook grammar.

Posted by: edlharris | January 11, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Okay, we get it. Harry Reid is racist, and Barack Obama has no problem with that.

Posted by: mock1ngb1rd | January 11, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Michael Steele says there’s no such thing as black dialect, in his blog “What Up?”

Posted by: graybeard_58 | January 11, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse


It's not racist & Steele is actually taking a racist position by reacting as he has.......

Posted by: searider | January 11, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Another glaring example of the old double standard being applied by the so called the dems and their MSM lap dog sychophants. Lott should have gone for what he said. Reid and the Dems should man-up and kick him out on his keister. As far as you nuts who say those of us on the right know nothing of people of color or wouldn't vote for one, you are guilty of broad brushing AGAIN(what a shocker!). It's ALWAYS been a simple matter of the right candidate with the RIGHT ideas (Rice, Keyes, Powell, Watts if you'd like a few examples).

Posted by: rogerherd | January 11, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse


It's not racist & Steele is actually taking a racist position by reacting as he has.......

Posted by: searider | January 11, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

The light skin part helping Obama might have been speaking plain truth. But the "no Negro dialect"? Who uses that kind of talk other than racists? Is Reid stuck in the pre-civil rights 1950's?

Posted by: Rob-Roy | January 11, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Was Reid wrong? Al Sharpton didn't run as Al Sharpton but as a very modified man. Which one is the real Sharpton?

How many Republicans voted for Alan Keyes?

When Flavor Flav wins the White House, we'll know Reid was wrong.

Posted by: achamblee | January 11, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

The Right would have us believe that Reid's comment of "Americans are more likely to vote for a lighter-skinned black candidate than a darker-skinned one who uses black vernacular" is equal to Lott's statement of "America would be better off if we'd been able to continue to legally discriminate against blacks, separate the races, and maintain white superiority."

Reid stated a fact, not a preference. Pointing out racial attitudes is not racist.

The Right is just looking for any ammo. They don't truly care about racial justice - what a joke. And Michael Steele? He's desperate to get the focus off of him. Plus, he's an example of someone turning on and off the "Negro dialect" for a calculated effect. Mr. Hip-hop bling-bling himself.

Posted by: hitpoints | January 11, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

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