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Harry Reid could use a lesson in 'Negro dialect'

When Harry Reid said Barack Obama didn’t speak with a "Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one," Reid wasn't being politically incorrect. He was being stupid. The Senate majority leader didn't know what he was talking about.

Certain words attributed to slaves and ex-slaves carried over well into the 20th century. Their speech, designated "Negro dialect," can be found in some of the oral histories documented as part of the Federal Writers project, launched under FDR's New Deal.

For Harry Reid and his fellow experts on all things African American, here are a few examples of words considered "Negro dialect": ah for I, poe for poor, hit for it, tuh for to, wuz for was, baid for bed, daid for dead, mah for my, ovah for over, wha for where, ifn for if, fiuh or fiah for fire, yo' for you, cot for caught, kin' for kind, cose for 'cause, and tho't for thought.

Of course, with education and acculturation, those expressions have mostly fallen out of use. They are not the slang that some black people currently use for effect under certain social circumstances. Obama is joined by millions of African Americans who don't speak with a "Negro dialect" or ever try to use one.

It wasn't racism, but, ignorance that spewed from Reid's mouth.

By Colbert King  | January 10, 2010; 4:28 PM ET
Categories:  King  | Tags:  Colbert King  
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Comments

Colbert King assumes it wasn't racism -- don't be so sure Mr. King. Reid's use of the word "negro" is troubling in and of itself. When is the last time you heard a statement like this? 1955? Seriously...this man lives in some retro/parellel universe. Were he a Republican, I've no doubt Colbert King was brand him racist and call for his resignation. So pathetic to hear the President let him off the hook...guess political loyalty is most important. Wish he would actually stand up and call Reid out.

Posted by: dbunkr | January 10, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Mr. King, you've got no disagreement from me that Senator Reid was an idiot to pronounce those words, but yours are utterly disingenuous.

You know perfectly well that there is such a thing as a "black accent", and it has nothing to do with word choice. Most people in the U.S. can identify that certain (not all) speakers are black purely from their accent, even if they are using perfectly standard American English. And it is a fact that a substantial number of white voters would not vote for a person who spoke (publicly) with such an accent.

A few years ago, my local public radio station broadcast a St. Patrick's Day piece from a student journalist. As the young woman spoke (in perfectly standard English) about her Irish grandfather, I was dumbfounded, because it was obvious from her accent that she was black. She waited until her last paragraph to disclose that, although she was black, she had one white grandparent from Ireland.

It was a pretty nice piece, especially that ending, and I hope she goes on to a fine career.

But when even a high school journalist knows that a radio audience will recognize from her accent that she is black, why on earth are you trying to deny that such a thing exists?

Posted by: Itzajob | January 10, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Mr. King, and ignorance is the word that describes so many Americans. Whites have not had to be particularly interested in any people of color because whites have had the power!I have a well educated and experienced friend who still asks me why so many of her...yes....Negro... friends pronounce ask as "akxs" ...She forgets that children hear their parents and relatives first and if their family members use that pronunciation...it is what it is...What a mess! We have to far to go, but even trying to talk, share is almost impossible.

Posted by: judithclaire1939 | January 10, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

LBJ and his great society brought about the downfall of the Black American family and the poor white family with the welfare system that rewarded women to NOT GET MARRIED and to have many children so they could receive a stipend for it. This created a great loss in both for there was not a father to teach boys to be real men. If you go to any prison today you will find them filled with poor blacks, whites and hispanics. NOT RICH, poor, what is the difference, (I know the libtards will say the rich daddy's get their children off, which falls right into my trap, they have daddys to get them off! but most do not get into trouble.) YOU NEED TO FACE IT, the unintended consequences of libtard policies is the destruction of millions of lives. They say they care, but that is a myth. Libtards are the problem with this country. They have divided this country with hatred and lies. They are double tongued, hypocritical soul stealers. They are the most unhappy people I know. They think others owe them, and they are stingy. Al Gore proved that when it was revealed he gave a pitly $353 dollars to charity in 1997, while in the same year the libtards current person of hate Dick Cheney gave 75% of his income to charity 6.9 million. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1819260/posts
Yeah libtards are generous, When it is other peoples money.
The real issue here is how can the libtards keep so many blacks and poor whites voting for them for 40 years with all the broken promises? Could it be greed with the carrot of a pittance that comes back to them, the pittance that keeps them on the plantation (inner city slums) and the share croppers hut (trailer parks on the edge of small towns)?
I will give it to the libtards for keeping the poor voting for them.

Posted by: funbowhunter | January 10, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

He IS a racist. Unless Mr. King subscribes to the "Blacks can't be racists" by substituting democrat with black, ignorance.

Posted by: funbowhunter | January 10, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

ZZZzz. Stop being such women about so-called race issues. It's nothing more than a whining competition.

Posted by: hbt2010 | January 10, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

No way he is not a racist. He ought to resign today. He probably uses other words in the private halls of congress that would really upset folks. I don't understand how blacks can support Reid.

Posted by: tonyjm | January 10, 2010 7:04 PM | Report abuse

It's not a a "black accent", it is a dilatect that is distinguished by lack of pronunciation, poor grammar and vocabulary.

Posted by: bal503 | January 10, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Ode to Mr Reid

How does it feel, Mr Reid,
To be labeled a Democrat racist,
The tables have turned, Mr Reid,
Now Harry is mired in disgraces,
The hypocracy's clear, Mr Reid,
Trent Lott won't console your tears,
So how does it feel, Mr Reid,
You'll be walking the streets in a year

Posted by: donchew1 | January 10, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Now according to the Rethugs, John Coffey from the Green Mile could have won the White House. And we all know that if he didn't win that, the Republican base would have welcomed him to chair their party! You betcha, wink, wink.

Posted by: AverageJane | January 10, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

Bal503, I'm not a linguist, so I don't know the technical term for it. But I do know that most Americans can listen to certain black people speak, even when they're using standard American English at a high level, and know that they are black, just the way that they can listen to Henry Kissenger and know that he came from Germany.

Posted by: Itzajob | January 10, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Love the Washington "gotcha" rules, I don't think. Come on, when you have to go back seven years to catch one of the most powerful men in the country in one mistake, that's stretching it.

For reasons not quite clear, all the power brokers of the East dislike Reid. The vote on this one rests with Nevadans. They would be crazy not to keep the man in office.

Posted by: CAMM1 | January 10, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

You have it right Reid is an idiot saying stupid things like that. But let's go one step futher - it was from the heart and he is a racist. I am ashamed to be a democrat. He should immediately resign.

Posted by: willygoo46 | January 10, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Reid's problem is the country's problem.

Though EVERYBODY recognizes that there is a highly distinctive dialect spoken by American members of the 'Black' culture, there isn't a socially acceptable term for it (unless you want to use the clinical term used by linguists: "African-American Vernacular English").

So, how do you talk about something that there isn't a polite term for? Or, more interestingly, why isn't there a polite term for this universally understood concept?

Posted by: KAR_120C | January 10, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

We all know the rules of the game: If democrats use certain words and phrases to describe racial attributes, it is perfectly fine. If Republicans use the same phrases, Republicans will be branded as racists. If Democrats (Bill Clinton?)are engaged in unsavory behavior with women, it is perfectly fine. If Republicans are engaged in any such behavior, it is a high crime.

Posted by: philly3 | January 10, 2010 7:27 PM | Report abuse

To the commentators above...Do you mean to say that I can no longer use the word, Negro? In l954, I listened to Dr. Ralph Bunche give a talk at Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The title of the talk was Prejudice...It was the beginning of my interest in prejudice and how it works. Later, I was interested to read, The Ugly American. Well, folks, we are still ugly.
Also, President Obama is not ignorant...he knows that if he dares say anything about what Senator Reid said or anything much about what others say ...he will catch hell. There are just too many ignorant people in this country and we hear them call in on C-Span in the morning and write comments on the Post Comment columns. We are so far behind and have so far to go....Too many white people still feel their power is neutral, natural and objective..they just do not get it. Perhaps, seven years from now...President Obama and Mrs. Obama will be able to help lead the discussion...but for now...we have to help educate each other. Isn't it something when white folk tell Mr. King and Mr. Milloy what to say,how to think and how to say it. Lord help all of us!

Posted by: judithclaire1939 | January 10, 2010 7:28 PM | Report abuse

Mr. King, I am black and so are you and you know Reid was right. A light skinned black in this country and almost anywhere in the world is treated better than one of darker hue. Many of the persons most against blacks of darker skin are other blacks....You know that man! Insofar, as dialect, give Reid a break; how can he be wrong? Hell, JFK originally caught hell, how about Lyndon Johnson's Texas accent, or listen to the many jokes about so-called Hill-Billies?

Posted by: october30 | January 10, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

The manufactured "outrage" by the Republican echo machine is laughable. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

Fear, Hatred, Distortion, Distraction and division is all Republicans have to offer.

Posted by: thebobbob | January 10, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse

actually, you're being stupid, Mr. King.
Only in the USA can one tell a black american from any other racial group by voice alone.

Obama is half black, half white.. but 100% raised white.
His "black" accent is fake, just as fake as mine would be.

Posted by: tru-indy | January 10, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Give Reid a break. He is a good man who is not necessarily politically correct, but his words were not mean-spirited. Which you certainly can't say for many in the GOP, especially when it comes to illegal immigrants.

Posted by: paris1969 | January 10, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Apparently, what Reid meant to say was "doesn't look black and doesn't talk black." Call it negro dialect, ebonics, or urban slang - what it means to whites (and many African-Americans) hearing it is a notion of being poor, uneducated, unwilling or unable to rise above and beyond the 'hood. That's what scares voters. It was stupid to say it, but it's what many people thought at the time, and probably still think.

Posted by: cpwdc | January 10, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

It's a racist remark. That's not to say that Reid is motivated by racism or shouldn't be forgiven for making such an impolitic remark. But he's a person in a very important position and has to go the extra mile to avoid making such slips. His contrite remarks and all his political actions point to a man deserving of our forgiveness for slipping. Cast a stone if you are perfect in your ways...

Posted by: bryan37 | January 10, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

RE: "Only in the USA can one tell a black American from any other racial group by voice alone."

No, you can tell in Britain also. These group accents apply to lots of minorities in America. For example, Hispanic native speakers (people who grew up here; speak nothing but English) can sometimes be identified after a few words. Very subtle. America would be a very boring place linguistically if everyone had a generic sitcom accent.

Posted by: Matthew_DC | January 10, 2010 8:01 PM | Report abuse

Cobert is one of my two favorite columnists in the Post, but surely he jests when he claims there is no such thing as a "black accent".

Someone above said "there isn't a socially acceptable term for it (unless you want to use the clinical term used by linguists: "African-American Vernacular English")."

Of course there is, Ebonics, something that Blacks pushed for to be taught alongside standard English. They said it was the "voice of the slave" or something like that. We all thought it was funny, but Black professors claimed it was a legitimate dialect.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | January 10, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

. . . SAD.


WHERE IS AMERICA’S LEADERSHIP?

America still waits for promises of speeches, given during the most expensive Presidential campaign in history, to materialize into actions that will be positive for a Nation facing unprecedented debt, deficits and unemployment.

America is still looking for leadership.

http://pacificgatepost.com/2010/01/america-waits-for-leadership.html

Posted by: JamesRaider | January 10, 2010 8:24 PM | Report abuse

OK, so now we all have to help each other "discover" what the word, racist, means and we have to help each other think about the word, idiot. Recently, some white folk have been calling Negro,colored, mulatto, black, African Americans ...."racists" - really? So what is that all about. We are all here to learn.

Posted by: judithclaire1939 | January 10, 2010 8:25 PM | Report abuse

It's really tough being a white man today, it seems nothing that we say nor do is ever right.

Mr. King, I am sorry you have such a low opinion of your self and your race that you find offense at an idiots statement.

You summed it up in your last sentence, it wasn't racism it was ignorance.

What I find most humorous about this whole column is that you verify every thing that Mr. Reid said. There is such a thing as black dialect. Using the word negro doesn't change the group he associated that fact with.

But today people are so thin skinned that if you are not PC, then you are racist, or ignorant.

Which is funny because I saw an interview with James Earl Jones where he called the character in a film "a cracker". I have heard this term used a lot lately, and yet there aren't columns or activist groups running around call the person who says it a racist or ignorant.

I had nothing to do with slavery, and nobody I know has had anything to do with it, so to keep bringing it back up shows your ignorance.

The words you cite are still in use to some degree today, as is another word that is racist for one group to say, yet is in the lexicon of the black youth of today. Isn't that racist? Finding a word offensive based solely on the color of the person using it?

Posted by: gijoe1966 | January 10, 2010 8:33 PM | Report abuse

Reid may have used poor judgement, but he is right. It is easier for a light-skinned man as opposed to a darker-skinned man, period--America, Brazil, Africa, you name it. Speaking the King's english correctly will and should help an educated man get ahead in America. Reid is correct.

Now, some people on this board have trouble with the word Negro. We are Negroes. We are not Black. Some of us did not descend from Africa, but from the Carribeans. That said: my Negro, Colored, Black, African American father was born in Texas. He is an American who happens to be Negro.

Posted by: TheTruthTeller | January 10, 2010 8:35 PM | Report abuse


For Harry Reid and his fellow experts on all things African American, here are a few examples of words considered "Negro dialect": ah for I, poe for poor, hit for it, tuh for to, wuz for was, baid for bed, daid for dead, mah for my, ovah for over, wha for where, ifn for if, fiuh or fiah for fire, yo' for you, cot for caught, kin' for kind, cose for 'cause, and tho't for thought.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

You sure that is Negro dialect. Sounds like my redneck aunts and uncles and their kids. We didn't have but one colored, black, negro or African-Americans(whichever I am supposed to use)family in our community where I grew up. That black family didn't sound like them either. As a matter of fact I didn't know they were black until I got out in the world when I left home. I was a lot closer to them than I was to my Redneck-American relatives. Those Redneck-Americans(Is that politically correct) never got far from home and I can't imagine where they learned the dialect.

Damn. I guess a guy over 70 can still learn.

Posted by: bnw173 | January 10, 2010 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Colbert,
How loudly did Harry Reid call for Trent Lott's head? I don't think any democrats did.

I believe Trent Lott was complimentary to segregation advocated by another elderly senator. This is somewhat different from Harry Reid's statement.

Posted by: vanwahlgren | January 10, 2010 8:49 PM | Report abuse

Blacks make fun of and mock the way white people speak all the time. Just because we have a southern dialect or exercise proper grammar. I don't hear anyone calling them racist. White people criticise inner city blacks for their butchering of grammar and a dialect that hardly resembles english and we are called racist for it. Will the double standard ever end?

Posted by: Howsthathopeandchangeworkingforyou | January 10, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse


I still can't see what is wrong with that statement by Reid, Honest. He described Obama to a tee.

I'm white or caucasian which ever is political correct.

I own one now( much to my regret when Obama's and Bush's economic policies took effect) and at one time owned three franchise businesses. I talked to corporate folks, all over the country, at least 10 times a months. It soon got to where they called me by name before I ever told them who I was. It was because of my Podunk Southern accent, accented, I find out from Mr.King, by some Negro dialect. I have good self esteem so it didn't or doesn't bother me. They weren't being ugly.
I guess they weren't really politically correct, but I knew they had no malice toward me.

Posted by: bnw173 | January 10, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Colbert,
How loudly did Harry Reid call for Trent Lott's head? I don't think any democrats did.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Obama, as a Senator, cried loudly about Lott. Some one posted his quote and source on WaPo today.

When Obama called me, his grandmother and all whites typical racist he never, never, ever apologized. How about them apples.

He even appointed a racist(by Robinson and Clyburn standards) Sec. of State and uses her supposedly racist husband as an adviser. He hasn't apologized for that.

Posted by: bnw173 | January 10, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Hi Guys,
Harry Reid is one of my favorite politicians.
He's laid back and reserved, unlike ranting Repugnant senators who are more interested in monitory responses from their constituents than their total constituents.
Unlike most Repugnant senators, Harry is looking out for all Americans and not just those who fill their treasure chests as most Repugnants are.
By the way, unlike your war-time deserter George W. Bush, Harry was a graduate of West Point and had a distinguished career.
Retired U.S. Army & Combat Vet

Posted by: sandan | January 10, 2010 9:07 PM | Report abuse


The blacks got Imus kicked off the air, after the most sincere apology I have ever heard from anyone like him. Nope. Throw him under the bus.

I watched Comedy Central the other night. To see if black comics were heeding Sharpton's and Cosby's advice Those male and female comics used the "N" word at least one out of every 10 words and MF at least twice in those ten words and all of them were black.

That is a double standard I have never understood or ever will.

Posted by: bnw173 | January 10, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Reid's comments actually had nothing to do with African Americans. They were about whites, and how certain superficial attributes of some African Americans would cause some whites not to vote for them. It was a sociological comment - even with the outdated and sometimes loaded word "Negro" in it.

Try to read the actual words he said.

Republicans DESPERATELY want to use this to sow some divisions, because they DESPERATELY want to get back in power next November. You should know that from the absolutely surreal things they have been jumping on Obama for.

Will we let them? That is up to you.

Posted by: B2O2 | January 10, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

"It's not a a "black accent", it is a dilatect that is distinguished by lack of pronunciation, poor grammar and vocabulary."
Posted by: bal503 | January 10, 2010 7:06 PM

Bal503, "I'm not a linguist, so I don't know the technical term for it. But I do know that most Americans can listen to certain black people speak, even when they're using standard American English at a high level, and know that they are black, just the way that they can listen to Henry Kissenger and know that he came from Germany." Posted by: Itzajob | January 10, 2010 7:18 PM |

Itzajob, I am a linguist. ;-)

It's a dialect. ;-) More appropriately, we speak of "varieties" of a language. All languages vary. And ALL speakers of a language speak one dialect (variety) or another.

Language can vary by any societal variable --age (my mother called the "fridge" an "icebox." I still say I am going to "tape" a TV show (on my DVD!)...) or region or ethnic background, level of education, and even gender ("Isn't that precious!" vs "Man, that's sharp.").

We can tell a lot about the sociological background of people by the way they speak because people, as children, learn to speak like their PEERS.

Take a black kid from an inner city, but adopted by well-to-do white parents, and send him to school with speakers of standard American English and,well, guess how he'll speak?

I had a grad student who grew up in Anacostia and spoke Black English Vernacular (BEV). She was white.

We talk like our peers. It isn't "right" or "wrong" and, contrary to bal503, it's physically impossible for a speaker of a human language to have a "lack of pronunciation" --unless he has a speech impediment. Speakers of "Black English" don't "lack pronunciation." Indeed, you can map pretty easily how Black English varies from other varieties of languages--that is, map its rules.

Speakers of non-standard varieties of a language follow regular pronunciation rules, complete with a grammar and a generally rich vocabulary. Indeed, BEV contains scores of words that I'd have to look up in a dictionary of BEV to understand!

Speaking a non-prestige variety of a language doesn't mean you don't have a complete grammar. And speaking a prestige variety doesn't mean you aren't ALSO speaking a variety-- a "dialect" just as everyone else is.

EVERY human being speaks a "dialect" --even the "Queen's English" is a "dialect." It just happens to be one that people ascribe prestige to.

A famous sociolinguist (William Labov) did interviews of inner-city Black youth. What he discovered was a rich, expressive language, but also just as rule-based as its "white" counterpart.

There are lots of misconceptions about language and dialect, but perhaps none so glaring as the idea that non-standard varieties of a language --or any language per se, for that matter --can be analyzed as linguistically inherently "inferior."

Posted by: ricklinguist | January 10, 2010 9:45 PM | Report abuse


Is It OK To Say Negro?

I Didn't Get A Program On Dialect!

Posted by: sdavis4 | January 10, 2010 9:47 PM | Report abuse

If George Bush would have made these comments? The Liberal lynch mob would be after him. Keep it balance

Posted by: nativeva1 | January 10, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

"...That is a double standard I have never understood or ever will." Posted by: bnw173 | January 10, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

With respect, everybody has that same "double standard." Linguists refer to it as "in-group" versus "out-group" speech.

You don't talk to your boss the same as you talk to your co-workers. You don't talk to your spouse or kids the same way as you talk to strangers or even neighbors.

Within your own group (and we each belong to multiple groups), you get to say things you'd certainly never dare say to outsiders. It may be the topic, or the level of informality--or the use of certain words. A "good ol' boy" talks to his "good ol' boy" friends one way that he wouldn't talk to someone who he doesn't view as a "good ol' boy."

Jews who spoke Yiddish used to refer to one another as a "pintele Yid" (little Jew)--something that was endearing when applied within one's own group, but insulting if an outsider were to say the same thing.

Americans can be "Yankee Doodle Dandies" to one another, but "Yankee" was used as an epithet by anti-Americans who called us "Yankee Imperialists."

It's no different with the "N" word.

So don't say you'll never understand. I suspect you already do. ;-)

Posted by: ricklinguist | January 10, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Is negro off limits or not?

Posted by: charlietuna6661 | January 10, 2010 9:56 PM | Report abuse

You forgot axe for ask.

Posted by: g8rrick | January 10, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

It is quite a sight to see the liberals defending old Dirty Harry for his remarks when they would have been condemning any moderate or conservative for the same thing. Although correct in what he said, Reid was politically incorrect according to liberal manifesto. It goes to show that among the liberals there is "honor among thieves." They take up for each other under any circumstance.

Posted by: johntu | January 10, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Itzajob - Kissinger has an accent. What I am talking about is this dialect which is characterized by a systematic grammar (for example, the frequent use of the habitual tense), particular sound patterns, and in some cases, words that deviate in their meanings from standard English.


From Dr. William Henry "Bill" Cosby, Jr., Ed.D. :

They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English. I can't even talk the way these people talk:
Why you ain't,
Where you is,
What he drive,
Where he stay,
Where he work,
Who you be...

And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk.

Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth.

In fact you will never get any kind of job making a decent living. People marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education, and now we've got these knuckleheads walking around.

Posted by: bal503 | January 10, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

I will love the day when all Americans, but mostly the politicians, care JUST for America

Posted by: cordobes17 | January 10, 2010 10:07 PM | Report abuse

Give Reid a break. He is a good man who is not necessarily politically correct, but his words were not mean-spirited. Which you certainly can't say for many in the GOP, especially when it comes to illegal immigrants.

Posted by: paris1969 | January 10, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

---
He's a sl||t. He is a sl||t to the treasury. He will do anything to milk the treasury dry.

The reason President Obama's presidency is having such issues is because of Reed and the other sl||t pelosi.

You idiots should jump all over this to get rid of him. I don't care if yoiu think he is a bigot or not.

Want to know what will tear the hypocrit party apart(ack, I mean democrat). Pelosi and Reed.

But your quite obviously are to narrow minded to see what those two are doing, so let it be.

I would rather see you people(democrats) kill each other off politically anyway.

It's fun to watch the party of back stabbers(remember the primaries?) go at each other constantly. I would have left the democratic party then. You sucm bags were going to completely remove the rights of two states of your own party from voting. And you say you care about people.

The primaries showed me what hypocrits you sucm sucking back stabers really are. And listening to the sl||t reed just drives the point home.

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

Why no call for his resignation? Oh yeah he is a democrat. . . Come on if this were Rush Limbaugh, or Trent Lott, you'd lead the charge for resignation. (oh yeah , the media is in the tank!)

Posted by: sarno | January 10, 2010 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Itzajob - Kissinger has an accent. What I am talking about is this dialect which is characterized by a systematic grammar (for example, the frequent use of the habitual tense), particular sound patterns, and in some cases, words that deviate in their meanings from standard English.


From Dr. William Henry "Bill" Cosby, Jr., Ed.D. :


They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English. I can't even talk the way these people talk:
Why you ain't,
Where you is,
What he drive,
Where he stay,
Where he work,
Who you be...

And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk.

Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth.

In fact you will never get any kind of job making a decent living. People marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education, and now we've got these knuckleheads walking around.

Posted by: bal503 | January 10, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse


>>>>>>>>

it seems all these commenters lack a little ghetto wizdom ...negro dialect was just a euphemism ....
this quote from cosby is exactly what Reid was talking about, and Reid's was a racist remark... however cosby doesnt really seem to truly appreciate hip hop culture or how it evolved anyhow,

Posted by: PiscesProject | January 10, 2010 10:19 PM | Report abuse

"You forgot axe for ask."Posted by: g8rrick | January 10, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

There are two interesting things about "aks" for "ask":

The first is that "aks" was actually the "literary" (if you will, the "correct") form until as late as 1600, and "ask" was 'dialectal'. "Ask" was used in Northern English dialects in England, and is still found in British Midlands and Southern dialects. Eventually, "ask" became "standard" English, but neither form is inherently "good" or "bad." Language is a convention.

The second point of interest is that the phenomenon of switching consonants (called "metathesis") is pretty common in languages. And, indeed, it gave standard English its fair share of words, including "bird"--which was originally "brid."

Variation in language is the norm. And every human speaker of language speaks some variety or varieties of a language. We all internalize the rules and patterns of the language of our peers.

Posted by: ricklinguist | January 10, 2010 10:22 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand what the fuss is all about. Negro ISN'T the "n-word" - it may be considered outdated and obsolete, but it doesn't connote something derogatory. It's an indication of Sen.Reid's age, and when I was growing up, age was a reason to pay respect to our elder statesmen. Mr.Reid was not commenting negatively on Pres.Obama - to the contrary, he was expressing which characteristics might add to Obama's appeal to the electorate. I find it especially disturbing that the Republican leadership seems unable to distinguish between racism, and what was clearly meant as support for Obama's electability. THAT is why President Obama said that the subject is closed -- he recognizes what was meant as a compliment. And as he says, he knows what is in Senator Reid's heart.

Posted by: skannerCom | January 10, 2010 10:23 PM | Report abuse

this quote from cosby is exactly what Reid was talking about, and Reid's was a racist remark... however cosby doesnt really seem to truly appreciate hip hop culture or how it evolved anyhow,

Posted by: PiscesProject | January 10, 2010 10:19 PM | Report abuse

----------------------

hip hop and poor speaking skills are two different things, though it can be hard to tell the way many entertainers speak. Being lazy, cursing openly in public places and not learning grammer in school is an excuse to talk 'ghetto'.

Posted by: bal503 | January 10, 2010 10:27 PM | Report abuse

My problem with African-American as a synonym for black: there are white Africans. Teresa Heinz Kerry was born in Mozambique to Portuguese parents and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. Does that make HER African-American?

Posted by: angelas1 | January 10, 2010 10:35 PM | Report abuse

It should come as no surprise that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican.

Posted by: mock1ngb1rd | January 10, 2010 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Is "Negro Dialect" A Form Of Ebonics?

If So Do I Need An Ebonics Translator To Speak A Negro Dialect?

Inquiring Minds Want To Know?

Posted by: sdavis4 | January 10, 2010 11:01 PM | Report abuse

"Being lazy, cursing openly in public places and not learning grammer in school is an excuse to talk 'ghetto'." Posted by: bal503 | January 10, 2010 10:27 P

With respect, the notion that speakers of non-standard dialects are "lazy" isn't a new one. But it certainly is difficult to justify.

Non-prestige dialects are just as complicated as standard, prestige dialects.

That people look down their noses at those who speak the non-standard forms is a different issue from whether there is anything inherently "good" or "bad" --linguistically.

There's simply no evidence to support that some dialects are linguistically better than others--and lots of scientific evidence to show that all dialects are rule-based and complex.

Posted by: ricklinguist | January 10, 2010 11:05 PM | Report abuse

The media need to quit making gigantic mountains out of impossibly small ant
hills!

Posted by: surfer-joe | January 10, 2010 11:07 PM | Report abuse

It is very foolish for any white politician to say anything about race without thinking very carefully before opening his/her mouth. But Colbert, you have your head deep in the sand if you don't believe that there is a noticeable African American vernacular/ebonics. And that's obviously what Reid was talking about, not 19th century slang as you suggest.

Posted by: Booyah5000 | January 10, 2010 11:13 PM | Report abuse

now we know that obama is a dark skinned white that does not talk like one.
now we can call a spade a spade.

Posted by: infantry11b4faus | January 10, 2010 11:14 PM | Report abuse

'The second point of interest is that the phenomenon of switching consonants (called "metathesis") is pretty common in languages.'

You mean like calling someone whose last name is Favre - Farve? Just aksing.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | January 10, 2010 11:14 PM | Report abuse

"You mean like calling someone whose last name is Favre - Farve? Just aksing."Posted by: waterfrontproperty | January 10, 2010 11:14 PM

Yep. ;-) Better known examples are "nucular" and "pasgetti." Of course, random cases usually are just that, and don't become the norm.

But, well, many do.

And once they do, as in the case of "bird" for "brid"--we cease to notice or care.

Posted by: ricklinguist | January 10, 2010 11:32 PM | Report abuse

The pronunciations that Colbert King ascribe to uneducated blacks are used by most of my southern white friends and relatives. Some of them are indeed uneducated but most aren't and they all talk that way. Southern accents are beautiful to my ear and I believe the musicality and cadence of southern speech underlies southern literature which is a gem of western civilization. I am drinking a toast to all the uneducated black folk who have done this for the world.

Posted by: prine1 | January 10, 2010 11:37 PM | Report abuse

Tough to say if Reid is a racist, although using the term Negro seems pretty out of date and a bit worrying in that regard. Certainly, given his position and the current political environment, his statement was foolish. But was it inaccurate? Probably not - it seems to me one of those facts from the reality-based world that if Obama sounded black to the middle American ear - and I don't know the PC way to refer to that - then he would have had more problems getting broad-based support. Reading the other posts here, and following the development of this verging-on-non-story story, it seems to me the whole thing is getting way overblown. That's another sign of how we have gotten far too PC in this country, unable to have a rational dialogue. Given the nature of our numerous pressing challenges, THAT is the most worrying aspect of this whole episode.

Posted by: harkish | January 10, 2010 11:51 PM | Report abuse

You are wrong, Mr. King. It was racism at its worst. You see, Harry Reid truly believes that he and his ilk are above the average person. To accept a black person as his boss, this black person would have to have white attributes in order to pass the 'smell' test for Harry.

In August, Harry Reid actually said that he could 'smell' the public entering his office building for the tours. These smelly, unwashed peons were the American public that paid his salary. Harry Reid lives in a fictitious state of mind, where he sees himself as a god and the taxpayers as stupid, ignorant people who do not care what is going on in government and do not care what he and his coherts do or do not do. Harry is wrong, but you will never convince him of this truth. Harry Reid is more than a racist, Mr. King, he is a very dangerous person who happens to be in charge of the destiny of millions of people.

Posted by: prossers7 | January 11, 2010 12:06 AM | Report abuse

The hypocrisy of the Democrats knows no bounds; it is truly limitless.

Posted by: jcp370 | January 11, 2010 12:35 AM | Report abuse

Mr. King you need to get back on the front porch. Quit making excuses for Reid and call him what he is..Racist.

Posted by: speedo1 | January 11, 2010 4:05 AM | Report abuse

I disagree with Mr. King's assessment, and with those who think Reid's words were racist. First, King's feeble lesson in black speak actually supports Reid's point. And to the contrary, many blacks still speak that way, especially in poor, depressed areas of the South. I don't see how King's history lesson makes Reid stupid, but actually dead on. Reid just spoke truth about the subtle skin color game that plays out with blacks in America; this is supported by the fact that, historically, light-skinned blacks fared much better economically and socially than darker ones. Some of them even passed for white if they could. A 2006 University of Georgia study confirmed that light-skinned blacks get hired first and make more money than dark-skinned ones.

Very few people will acknowledge this because it's "politically incorrect" to even mention blacks and skin color. But that doesn't make it any less true. Stop confusing the truth with racism. Reid's only crime was being a white man willing to say what a lot of us won't.

Posted by: shumphrey08 | January 11, 2010 5:07 AM | Report abuse

Of course this is the same Harry Reid that said "President Bush is a loser." and "We have lost this war (Iraq)."

Who cares what he says?

Posted by: gary4books | January 11, 2010 5:10 AM | Report abuse

Mr. King;like all liberals,you are quick to point out Reid's new clothes,ingnoring the fact that he is naked to others, with his racist statments.
By The Way Mr. King; I wanted To Axe, Are You A Black Man Cultured In Negro Dialect?

Posted by: sdavis4 | January 11, 2010 5:23 AM | Report abuse

Far too much as been made of this. Congress needs to act in a responsbile manner to fix the economy, end the 2 wars, improve education and help all of the states that are unable to balanced their budgets without sever cuts to social services

Posted by: munsonb | January 11, 2010 5:48 AM | Report abuse

The real issue here is the party affiliation of the offender.

If a Republican had issued such statements about B.O. and African-Americans in general, the liberal outrage would have erupted like a dozen Mt St Helens volcanoes. That Republican would have been, figuratively, tarred and feathered and he would have been ruined forever.

But, since Harry Reid is a liberal puppet, he is given a free pass by the liberal media and its followers.

The hypocrisy is simply stunning but par for the course in a Democrat controlled environment.

Posted by: battleground51 | January 11, 2010 6:09 AM | Report abuse

I do not know what all this fuss is about. I am not deliberately racist nor am I in any way politically correct. But imho there is only one colour black and that is the colour you get when you remove all other colours. All other "blacks" are just shades of brown. Also some one some where seems to have lost the plot of the "N" words. Which if translated from their original French and Latin just mean Black or a black person. Check your dictionary. If a politician has made a goof, then he or she has made a goof. By not making a big fuss over it, you can be certain it will die down, but by making a fuss over it, you continue publicizing the issue and bigots on both sides of the divide will have a field day. Plus most of the people who get offended by non PC talk are not the people the talk is about. There would appear to be a large professional(?) group of offendees out there, who like nothing better than to get offended on behalf of others who would not really worry about being offended about something until they are told they should be!

Posted by: iat09 | January 11, 2010 6:33 AM | Report abuse

You can try to explain away the "negro comment" piece, but what about Harry's assertion that only light skinned black americans are electable to the office of President? Every now and then ordinary folks get a peak through a window into the souls of our feckless politicans. In Harry's case, he's exposed himself as an elitist Democract who runs for office and holds on to power because he knows what's better for us then we do. Just ask him and he'll tell you.

Posted by: ericnestor | January 11, 2010 6:40 AM | Report abuse

light, bright and almost white

Posted by: californicationdude | January 11, 2010 6:42 AM | Report abuse

I don't know Sen. Reid and I certainly don't know his heart. But I, frankly, was shocked to hear this comment attributed to Sen. Reid. One of the basic signs of respect for each other is calling us what we want to be called, in private as well as public.

Posted by: MNUSA | January 11, 2010 6:54 AM | Report abuse

How's this for negro dialect

Yo Bro resign M F

Posted by: frankn1 | January 11, 2010 7:07 AM | Report abuse

Democrats will try any approach to save their fearless senate leader. He is a must in order to pass health care, and in no way, as they are in control, throw him under the bus.

The 2010 election is a different story.

Posted by: EZ2C | January 11, 2010 7:13 AM | Report abuse

Harry is many things but stupid and ignorant are not among those things. I don't buy Mr. King's point.

Posted by: hz9604 | January 11, 2010 7:22 AM | Report abuse

You left out "finna" for--whatever the hell "finna" is a contraction for.

Posted by: MaxJrSamples | January 11, 2010 7:35 AM | Report abuse

Mr King,

If a white man offered you a job and said he was hiring you because you didn't "sound like a negro" or didn't "speak with negro dialect", you wouldn't think he was a racist? I think you would be offended if he said you didn't sound "black" never mind using the word "negro". We have to stop the double standard...a racist is a racist.

Posted by: scdv44 | January 11, 2010 7:40 AM | Report abuse

it was his opinion...
you decide if that is good or bad...
since you seem good at giving dems a pass...

Posted by: DwightCollins | January 11, 2010 7:41 AM | Report abuse

it's not about what he thinks of obama...
it's what he thinks about you and the rest of the african americans...

Posted by: DwightCollins | January 11, 2010 7:43 AM | Report abuse

Harry just simply was NOT thinking.

apparently this might be good for him

http://worldbyherbst.blogspot.com/2010/01/promoted-by-demotion.html

Posted by: j33braden | January 11, 2010 7:49 AM | Report abuse

What is wrong with his comments? The truth is that if Obama was really "dark", he may not have won. What about his speaking? Obama can switch his dialect to any audience including anything from a speech at Notre Dame to an uneducated group of black women in Harlem. Nothing wrong with that at all. Good politician and good business people do it all the time.

Looks like the real problem with Harry is that he used the word "Negro". White folks just can't get it right, no matter how much truth there is in what we say. Time to get over it, we got a lot more stuff to worry about than an old white dude not using the correct "terminology of the day".

Posted by: savannah4 | January 11, 2010 7:53 AM | Report abuse

The democratic party was founded on racism and their support for slavery. Martin Luther King was a Republican because he rejected democratic racism.

Posted by: ItsOver2 | January 11, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

King of sarcasm---who knew? I nearly spit out my coffee. Thanks for the best belly laugh I have had in some time.

Thank you Senator Reid and other "speakers of white dialect" (or majority leaders who also only talk that way when they want to and when they are sure Mr.King is out of the room)---for advancing the cause of racial distancing and anxiety.

For those who may have missed the Federal Writers project oral histories, some of them can be found in a book called "Bullwhip Days: the slaves remember."

Read those stories and weep, at a holocaust that will forever be diminished in the minds of many because its victims had no language the white majority who read and write most opinion and history books are bound to respect.

It's true. If those powerful stories had been written down in the King's English they might well be required reading for every college freshman. On the other hand, maybe not. I'd been out of college at least 20 years before I heard the name of W.E.B. DuBois and it was even longer until I knew the importance of his work and read some of it. As with the "negro dialect" of which Mr.King speaks, that wasn't my fault. It was ignorance and lack of education. We are born ignorant and must keep going forward every day.

Posted by: martymar123 | January 11, 2010 8:19 AM | Report abuse

A "few" years ago--Bill Cosby wrote a most entertaining piece on Eubonics(sp?) for "The Wall Street Journal" I would suggest that it be reprinted and opened for discussion in view of the current "outrage" over Reid's comments.

Posted by: Masonjazz | January 11, 2010 8:24 AM | Report abuse

The writer of this article does not live where I do, I guess.
Ebonics is used all the time. Whilst I deplore people like Imus, Reid and Limbaugh all rowing the same boat, I remain grounded in the real world.
Speech patterns of African Americans in the deep south are perticularly affected by slang and contractions.
The road up is still a long one
but proper speech by minorities of any
ethnicity must be achieved

Posted by: huckstered | January 11, 2010 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Ricklinguist: Thank you! for your comment.
I learned a lot from it.

Posted by: martymar123 | January 11, 2010 8:30 AM | Report abuse

This is just your typical liberal double standard. Do as I say not as I do. Hypocrite does not do you people justice.

Posted by: GaGator | January 11, 2010 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Mr. King invokes "Slavery" and Obama. The two have nothing in common.

As much as the retarded Democrats and other low information voters love to fantasize, Obama is NOT an "African-American" which is a term used to describe those who descended from slaves.

Obama's blood lines are not traced to slavery, except for the fact that his East African Sudanese Arab Luo tribe ancestors were and still are some of the world's most prolific slave traders.

In fact, Obama was not raised in inner city America. Far from it.

Therefore, if Obama learned "Negro dialect" and uses it, then it is simply because he wants to. Not because he grew up immersed in the culture. Nor is it because his "roots" trace back through American slavery, brought to our shores, courtesy of the Democrat party - which the Republicans put an end to.

Posted by: C0rrupt_0_Crats | January 11, 2010 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Under the rules of modern journalism and political correctness, Reid is a racist and should be hounded from office.

Reid is an idiot because he said what everyone knows to be true. Black people in America have their own dialect and accent that is easily recognizable by most Americans.

For a white person to recognize this, however, is racism. Therefore, Reid is a neo-Nazi, KKK member and should be thrown out on his ear.

Posted by: InTheMiddle | January 11, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

As a gay man I'm sitting here laughing my a** off. The Mormon's God didn't change His/Her/It's mind until 1978 about how cursed and lowly the black race was. Read the previous sentence again. Yes it says 1978! I still waiting for the Mormon God to include me. Maybe someone need to remind Reid that things changed.

Posted by: charlie-Imac | January 11, 2010 8:48 AM | Report abuse

So which is it? Is America to follow Mr. Reid's example and refer to blacks as "Negros" or what?

Oh please teach us and enlighten us.

Which is it? What do we call "ye"? Negro, "Colored", Black, African-American? What? One of the nation's top political leaders has just taught us that the proper term is "Negro". So is he correct or not? And if so, then NOBODY should take offense to the term Negro and blacks are now back to being refereed to as Negros and all is well insofar as the term we are all supposed to use to refer to a certain shade of skin color and negroid features that Democrats deem makes one a "Negro".

Oh, and how can you call Obama a "Negro" since he is half white?

After all, it seems that the Democrat Left changes what we are to refer to blacks as, about every 50 years or so.

OR, should we not obsess with color and race as the Democrats do and just refer to American citizens as Americans period regardless of their race, creed, skin color and the like.

Ah but see, then that would not cause division in American society which of course the Democrat party has worked on for decades to achieve.

Oh what a tangled web you morons on the Left weave. And oh how right everyone else is to make fun of you because of your pathetic manipulative little cry baby thumbsucking ways.

Posted by: C0rrupt_0_Crats | January 11, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Intellect is used to provide plausible reasons for decisions made at an emotional level. Harry Reid is a Democrat. Democrats are my tribe. Therefore, his comments are not racist.

If he made the same comments and was part of the other tribe, the Republicans, the same comments would be horribly racist.

I got your number, Colbert King.

Posted by: edbyronadams | January 11, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

There's nothing racist about Harry Reid. What he said is basically true and certainly wasn't intended to be offensive. I don't know about "negro dialect", but there is a certain manner of speech among less educated blacks, just as there is among less educated white people. Call it whatever you want. If Obama spoke in a so-called "negro dialect" or in some manner that suggested he was uneducated, it would obviously hurt him. And, it's also true to say that his lighter skin does in fact make him more palatable to many white folks. The idea that Republicans are jumping up and down about this is truly beyond the pale. The GOP has been shamelessly attacking Obama as if they're fighting a war with him rather than terrorists. They look the other way when their friends at Fox or another GOP colleague makes race baiting comments or accuses the president of being racist.

Posted by: ggwalt | January 11, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse


Saban doesn’t like his assistants to make lateral moves, but this wouldn’t be a lateral move for Smart even with a double salary. It would be a move DOWN.

Posted by: GaGator | January 11, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Do anyone remember the brown paper test? I was one of the "lucky" blacks that passed the test and yes, I did get more opportunities. If not ask someone. Was this statement stupid. Yes. Was it true? Yes. Asking for Reid's resignation is well politics as usual.

Also remember, the Time Vs. Newsweek and the lighter and darker versions of OJ Simpson. Unfortunately the darker you are the more sinister you are projected.

As for Michael Steele to equate this with the Trent Lott statement, now that was stupid. Comparing this to segregation and how much better the country would be? And didn’t speak with a "Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one," A little history on Michael Steele is appropriate here.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says his party is going to launch an "off the hook" public relations campaign that will update the GOP’s image by translating it to "urban-suburban hip-hop settings." Michael Steele said he will soon announce his plans for the GOP to "get jiggy with it. The new GOP leader told the Washington Times that the party’s defeat in states like North Carolina and Virginia made it clear they needed a new approach. “We need messengers to really capture that region — young, Hispanic, black, a cross section…” he said in an interview. “We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-surburban hip-hop settings.”

You'd think I of, all people, would be sympathetic to Michael Steele's effort to bring some slanguage to the GOP. You know how I do--my beef is simple--From citing ancient rappers, to shouting out "urban-suburban hip-hop settings," Michael Steele is abusing the language.. The last straw is where Steele tells Neil Cavuto, "I'm always open for everything, baby."

Dear Michael. For the black in all of us. Please stop now. Talk like a regular human being and stop trying to teach the dun language. You are not prepared.

Posted by: sherardg | January 11, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Frankly, as for Mr.Ing's examples, the dialect and their normal equivalents sound like any person from the deep south, black or white.

Posted by: chopin224 | January 11, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

With the gargantuan shift of the GOP to the extremist right, saying Martin Luther King was a Republican in his day is like saying Hitler was a Catholic.

Posted by: coloradodog | January 11, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

You forgot aks for ask (which I've heard some blacks more educated than myself use) and we be going instead of we are going.
As to the use of Negro. Get over it. The blacks call their own the big nasty N word and say that it's different when they say if because they say it with love. Oh vomit.
Yet it's okay for some blacks to make disparaging remarks about white people so whine somewhere else.
Also, obama is part black and part white and like a lot of the mixed race children from that era he may never have figured out who he really is.
I call him a socialist and I would be more offended if I was called a socialist than the N word.

Posted by: tjmlrc | January 11, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Lets give it a rest. Harry Reid was accurately describing the potential political benefits of Obama's heritage. His analysis was on the money & was, I'm sure, part of the political calculus which got Obama the nomination.

One is unlikely to be accepted unless he/she fully accepts themselves. Until "people of color" stop being so sensitive to non-insulting descriptive phrases, they are unlikely to be fully accepted.

I grew up as an Irish Catholic in an era where we were widely considered inferior by some. Neither I or anyone I knew believed that about ourselves & couldn't be bothered with hurt feelings. We were too busy making a place for ourself in the world.

Posted by: pat1652 | January 11, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

I, a 61 year old white guy, have a term for black people...my brother.

Posted by: chopin224 | January 11, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Speaking in a dialect that may sound less than educated or less than intelligent may have hurt Obama although it did not hurt Bush. I find that interesting.

Posted by: chopin224 | January 11, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

I worked with a black engineer who told me he spoke "white" around white people and "black" around his friends. And yes, you can hear the difference.

Posted by: impressed1 | January 11, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

The pronunciations that Colbert King ascribe to uneducated blacks are used by most of my southern white friends and relatives. Some of them are indeed uneducated but most aren't and they all talk that way. Southern accents are beautiful to my ear and I believe the musicality and cadence of southern speech underlies southern literature which is a gem of western civilization. I am drinking a toast to all the uneducated black folk who have done this for the world.

Posted by: prine1
______________________
Beautifully said!

Posted by: capitalist1 | January 11, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

As long as Mr King is consistent, I have no problem with his argument. It's the consistency that is the problem, though, the comments issued by someone who is not a political fellow traveller might ellicit comments of "Although things are not as bad as the past there is still a 'subtle' deep, pervasive racism" or similar words.

OK, let's call this day one. The test will come when the same is uttered by someone with whom Mr King doesn't usually agree.

Posted by: jhtlag1 | January 11, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Blacks make fun of and mock the way white people speak all the time. Just because we have a southern dialect or exercise proper grammar. I don't hear anyone calling them racist. White people criticise inner city blacks for their butchering of grammar and a dialect that hardly resembles english and we are called racist for it. Will the double standard ever end?

Posted by: Howsthathopeandchangeworkingforyou | January 10, 2010 8:50 PM |
------------------------------------
The only people calling Reid racist are white republicans trying to make a political point.

Most black people, myself included, realize this was a bad use of words but completely true in content. The country would have a harder time electing a darker skinned black man who spoke with an urban dialect. A white man can still get elected even if he doesn't have a good command of the English language like Bush. That's not racist is just the truth.

Posted by: wmwilliams14 | January 11, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Colbert King has zero credibility on this issue. Discerning readers know full well he'd loudly holler "racist" if Sarah Palin or any other conservative made such a comment. The story would be front page news for weeks, not buried in the middle of the Sunday edition.

Posted by: TArbiter | January 11, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English. I can't even talk the way these people talk:
Why you ain't,
Where you is,
What he drive,
Where he stay,
Where he work,
Who you be...
-----------------------
I've have news for for you; Many WHITE people in the South use those same expressions in everyday language. Most of them are older Americans but their educated children still talk that way in the rural south. So, may be, it was southern blacks who learned it from them.

I'm white and lived in the south all my life and I was shocked, flabbergasted mind you, the first time I heard Black actors in London speak with a British or Cockney Accent. Oh! The wonders of Television!

Posted by: ddoiron1 | January 11, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

If Steele and RNC have any sense they will call out everyone of the five faced libs who are now making nice with each other over caustic race comments from Sen. Crupt er…I mean Reid. They will save every scrap of film and print with quotes GOB senators and Rev. Al and others of his ilk that show them playing down Reid’s comments.

In the future, if a conservative makes any stupid comment about race that is even close to the offensive language Reid used and the libs scream for blood (and being two faced hypocrites, they will) Steele and the RNC should trot out all of their files on this sordid episode to call them out again.

At that point they should point out that libs:

1) Don’t really care about race issues and just use this race card as a political lever when it’s expedient or…
2) They do believe in racial injustice but are two faced bas terds who apply it only to political opponents.

Posted by: Portland1 | January 11, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

I think it's worse to have someone want to "cut your n**ts off" as Jesse Jackson said about obama than to be called Negro, etc.
So you see, some people (red, yellow, black or white) have big mouths in general.
obama has made comments about the mouth on his vp, biden.
Some people (no matter the color) don't know when to shut up.
It's a human thing King so stop trying to make it a OMG!

Posted by: tjmlrc | January 11, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

It's time for Reid to step down.

Posted by: askgees | January 11, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

This is just a fervor, King just had to get involved.

Reid did not make a racist statement, it was stupid. So now only Republicans make racist statements, right?

Shoe on the other foot time! Let's put those same words in Sarah Palin's or Mitch McConnell's mouth.

Is it still just stupid? Same words, same exact words, still just stupid? I don't think so, libs will just lie when asked this question.

I went back to read the Trent Lott comment. That comment had no racially tinged language in it. The collective decided that praising Thurmond on his birthday meant that Lott was endorsing the segregationist policies that Thurmond, as a Democratic candidate for president in 1948 advocated. From the actual remarks, it is not clear that he was endorsing the policies, but certainly the circumstances would let one believe it.


Yet, here the only racist part of Reid's 'faux pas' (the memo is out and the talking points are being repeated) was saying that Obama could turn on/off the Negro dialect.

I mean, Obama is light skinned compared to many African Americans, yet darker than some as well.

The term Negro seems to pretty much have died out in normal folks' lexicon. What a throwback word. I thought Negro was a racist code word (there are code words used by racists, you know).

How is it a complement to say that an African American candidate can turn on/off the 'Negro dialect'?

Please define the Negro dialect, anyone?

Posted by: thelaw1 | January 11, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Bal503 and RickLinguist, your points are interesting, but perhaps you could explain to me the following. If Henry Kissinger, a black person with a "black accent" and a northeastern white person all read the exact same text, and most Americans could pick out from their speech the speakers who were black and of German extraction, why does that mean the black speaker is using a black dialect?

I would think that a "black dialect" involved different words and grammar. But there is also a black accent, which can be applied to entirely standard English, just as a German accent can. That is the point I am trying to make (although I don't know the linguistically proper terms for these things.)

Plainly a large number of white voters would reject a candidate who overtly used "black" grammar and word choice. But I think many would also reject those who simply "sounded black" over the radio.

I can't imagine why Senator Reid would use such a dated and controversial word as "Negro" in addressing such a sensitive topic, but fundamentally, his point was correct.

Posted by: Itzajob | January 11, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

It's all "Jimmy the Greek" to me.

Posted by: mitlen | January 11, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I've known even educated African-Americans to pronounce "ask" as if it were the same as "axe" and conversely to pronounce "aunt" differently than "ant," like most Euro-Americans. I also remember the whole issue raised by some commentators that Obama wasn't "authentically" black enough.

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1584736,00.html

Posted by: sjpatejak | January 11, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

In my recent experience, it appears that the word "Negro" is becoming a euphemism for the "N" word in polite and educated company.

Perhaps the new term will now be, "those people."

Posted by: pgould1 | January 11, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

King is quibbling. There is of course a way of saying things that is ascribed to blacks, especially poorer ones. This way of speaking was disastrously attempted to be formalized as "Ebonics" some years ago. We all know what's being discussed.

Reid was incredibly stupid to say that, given the number of politicians who have met their doom on the rocks of political correctness, from George Allen on up. But he was not being racist.

Posted by: Nemo24601 | January 11, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

There is one thing people have realize, Black people, Asian, and others have distictive words that in many cases give away their raical background. I have traveled all over the United Stats and when I hear a voice on the phone 90% of the time you can identify who you are talking to. This is because of where people are raised. Just like souther accents people from certain areas are easily identified by the words they use and how they are pronounced. While I have no use for Haywired Reid I heard his comment at the time since it was on all the news and TV stations. His choice of words was ill chosedn but accurate in most terms.

Posted by: jmsmaxwell | January 11, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Consider the fact that studies have shown that job applicants with very "black names" get their resumes thrown out more than those with "white names", or black loan applicants have had harder times getting approved versus white applicants - would it be ignorant or racist for Reid to have said "in America, a white person or lighter-skinned black person stands a better chance of getting a loan"?

The Right keeps bringing up Trent Lott as a comparison. In the above scenario, Lott was basically saying "it would be better if whites got preferred treatment in jobs and loans."

See the difference?

Posted by: hitpoints | January 11, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

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

http://twitter.com/ebertchicago/status/7632948004

Posted by: graybeard_58 | January 11, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Alot of democrats are racist. Reid, for one. Sen. Byrd, the supreme KKK'er, another. Their "war on poverty" has been a give-away to keep Afro Americans sitting on the porch collecting taxpayers dollars. Some Afro Americans have managed to succeed in spite of this "war."

But, the biggest racist in American is Obama. He used the racist factor over and over in his campaign to get elected. He lost the right to call anyone a "racist." His speeches were all recorded.

Posted by: annnort | January 11, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

The question to be answered is whether a light skinned African American is more acceptable to Reid than a a darker skinned African American for President, then we can decide if there is racism "in his heart." Commentary on the preferences of the electorate (if that is what Reid was truly commenting on) may give him and African Americans an out in chosing not to condemn him which they have obviously chosen not to do for political and/or pragmatic reasons or because they are just psychologically unclear about when they are being insulted.

Posted by: godiva1 | January 11, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

"but what about Harry's assertion that only light skinned black americans are electable to the office of President?"
Posted by: ericnestor

Do you deny this is the case? And Reid didn't say "only" that type were electable, he said it gave Obama an advantage.

How well did Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Alan Keyes do in their runs for the White House?

Pointing out truths about racial attitudes in America is not the same as endorsing them.

Posted by: hitpoints | January 11, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

What is sad is what Harry sad was a poor choice of judgement not words or facts just as Jimmy the Greek did just stating facts but in this PC world can't state facts someone may get offended. Kida strange that Harry could say whta he did and the rappers and atheletes say what they do but it is ok......Wow can some one say double standard.....and this following comment sums it up
Lets give it a rest. Harry Reid was accurately describing the potential political benefits of Obama's heritage. His analysis was on the money & was, I'm sure, part of the political calculus which got Obama the nomination.

One is unlikely to be accepted unless he/she fully accepts themselves. Until "people of color" stop being so sensitive to non-insulting descriptive phrases, they are unlikely to be fully accepted.

I grew up as an Irish Catholic in an era where we were widely considered inferior by some. Neither I or anyone I knew believed that about ourselves & couldn't be bothered with hurt feelings. We were too busy making a place for ourself in the world.

Time for blacks to get over themselves I personally think half or more of the racism is caused by the blacks and perpretrated by the blacks and they are themselves very racist get over already sick of your whining phony poor me bulls**t

Posted by: lildg54 | January 11, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Harry Reid is guilty of being "Politically Incorrect" only.
Case closed!

Posted by: bestowens | January 11, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Y'all ah makin' fun uv thuh way ah tawk.

from an educated white male eclectic southern septuagenarian.

Posted by: billh39 | January 11, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Reid, like all Democrats, should get a free pass for making stupid, ignorant remarks about race. It's OK because of all the wonderful things Dems have done for African-Americans, like... and, ummmmm... well... you know, they must have done something...

Posted by: Regis09 | January 11, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Please define the Negro dialect, anyone?
Posted by: thelaw1

***

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_American_Vernacular_English

Posted by: hitpoints | January 11, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

If Mr King thinks the negro dialect is no longer in use, he hasn't been to St Louis.

By the way, Tiger a ho.

Posted by: alstl | January 11, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

How about...Whatup, just chillin', and my personal favorite..An, um (And, um).

Hey let's talk about valley girl english, which is like totally awesome.

or how about spanish Si, fooda stampas ...

Who remembers when things were groovy?

In other words, each culture has their dialect, and who cares...

Zzzzz, wake me when the hysteria is over...

Posted by: MUPPET | January 11, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Mr. King, you've got no disagreement from me that Senator Reid was an idiot to pronounce those words, but yours are utterly disingenuous.

You know perfectly well that there is such a thing as a "black accent", and it has nothing to do with word choice. Most people in the U.S. can identify that certain (not all) speakers are black purely from their accent, even if they are using perfectly standard American English. And it is a fact that a substantial number of white voters would not vote for a person who spoke (publicly) with such an accent.

A few years ago, my local public radio station broadcast a St. Patrick's Day piece from a student journalist. As the young woman spoke (in perfectly standard English) about her Irish grandfather, I was dumbfounded, because it was obvious from her accent that she was black. She waited until her last paragraph to disclose that, although she was black, she had one white grandparent from Ireland.

It was a pretty nice piece, especially that ending, and I hope she goes on to a fine career.

But when even a high school journalist knows that a radio audience will recognize from her accent that she is black, why on earth are you trying to deny that such a thing exists?

Because blacks always play the race card the victim have a double standard andquite frankly are more racist then we will ever be sad but true they cannot accept blame or critisize themslves always someones else fault get oover the black cause the racism with their actions thought and way of life ....

Posted by: lildg54 | January 11, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Not only is Obama light skinned without a dialect, he hasn't gone to jail.

Posted by: scvaughan | January 11, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

What would Richard Pyror do?

Posted by: Tupac_Goldstein | January 11, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Everyone in America seems to know what Reid meant, Mr. King.

Posted by: fishcrow | January 11, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

What this is a prime example of is not racism but media bias. Could someone explain to me why this story lay buried for so long other than partisan considerations killed it soon after the "conversation with reporters" happened.

Posted by: edbyronadams | January 11, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Stupid remark? Perhaps. But we all know he's right. If Obama had a less sophisticated speech pattern, white voters wouldn't have voted for him Call it the hip-hop effect. The same will hold true should a Hispanic run. If that canidate should have an accent, they will not be voted in. Call it what you want, but it's true.

Posted by: jckdoors | January 11, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

So, if Reid is racist for using the word "Negro", does that mean that the NAACP is racist for still using the phrase "colored people" in their organization's name, even though that phrase hasn't been in popular use for about 40 years?

It may be un-PC, but there's an enormous difference between "Negro" and "colored people", which are merely outdated, and the other N-Word, which is and always has been incredibly offensive.

And by the way, Reid was right. Like it or not, every black person needs to know how to speak using "standard English" (for lack of a better term) if they're going to succeed in life. If Obama had given a speech where he said "I's ain't gonna keep Gitmo open, I'll aks mistah attuhney gen'ral to close it", no one would have taken him seriously. White candidates need to do the same thing; an Appalachian or Bostonian candidate needs to minimize their use of colloquialisms from their necks of the woods.

Posted by: marclips | January 11, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

clumsy truth

Posted by: mloaks | January 11, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm. There are some very interesting comments in this thread - more than usual and says to me that maybe all the daily uproar and nonsense about race is having a positive effect. People are being less vehement and articulating their feelings much better (I include myself here) which means that we are learning something - finally - about how to get along and what some of our differences can mean to the general populice. Mr. Kings' sad attempt at illustrating the Negro dialect is as bad as Mr. Reid's choice of words when he described Mr. Obama. One could go back even further to the 'dem' and 'dey' time when black folk talked like an Uncle Remes storybook. I think instead of calling for the resignation of people there should be fines - fines for rudeness, ignorance and wanton bad spokesmanship. These fines would then be used for an education fund. Anyone who wants or needs a better understanding of black culture, history in America, Ebonics, hip-hop clothing styles and the evolution of slang can get their groove on or learn the correct application of 'get jiggy', what's the latest term for your non-white neighbor or why it is that the moniker gangbanger and terrorist can be applied to young black men but never to a KKK member. Or why it's cute for Netflix to use hip-hop slang in their commercials, why Timberland was upset that so many young black kids were buying the boots that should be used by rugged white men, why Quentin Tarentino was applauded for his over-use of the N-word in movies, why more people are not speaking about the
'light-skinned' comment so much... guess people don't know how foolish it is to call Obama light! Being someone who has never been 'black enough' - in part due to my light skin... it is quite humorous. Even Whoopi Goldberg commented on that on "The View" this morning. Once more the great orator, Rodney King comes to mind... "Can't we all just get along?!"

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

Before people were ready to admit that African originated people were and are as intelligent as all others, pidgin English was deliberately taught to them, in the US, in the Caribbean and in Africa. It was designed to prevent them from reading, and keep them back. Remember, in the slaveholding US, teaching a Negro to read carried a heavier penalty than one white man killing another. That those vestiges of non-standard English still exist in parts of rural America is a tribute to the efforts to keep the African originated person(of the last four hundred years) back. The availability of TV and radio in most/all homes over the last fifty years or so, as well as books being available; have taught everyone, the rural people of Appalacia, the First American child stuck away on a reservation in Montana or New Mexico, as well as the farm girl from Iowa to speak standard English. All the children now watch Sesame Street and other intelligent cartons, and parents have learned the value of speaking standard English to their children.
Mr. Reid's unfortunate remark ties him to a generation that did not expect much from "The Negro". I wonder where he was, when that commander of the English language, Martin Luther King was trumpeting his pleas for racial equality? I used to REQUIRE my students to read the entire "Letter From A Birmingham City Jail". It remains one of the most erudite pieces of writing anyone in English has produced. It's full of learned allusions that come naturally to a scholarly man, and was drafed on the edges of newspapers and the backs of prison bulletin board notices. Now, given that Mr. Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review, was it not to be expected that he would be erudite? If Mr. Reid made these remarks prior to the Democratic National Convention in 2004, he could have been forgiven the backward remark,but when Obama burst on the national stage, he was speaking a dazzling level of language.
Mr. Reid, like so many other Americans who have not really come to terms yet with the oneness of this nation, needs to remember that no remark made by a public person is a private remark. It is the price of public life. If one is surprised by the level of language of a Harvard graduate, what was one expecting, some affirmative action baby who got in for meeting a quota? Come on! Unfortunately, his type of statement is found in universities and other places where people should know better. Educated Americans sound like educated Americans. That is all that there is to it. If any American exceeds your expectations for people of his "group" the wise thing to do is keep your mouth shut, and revise your opinions of that group upwards. Some people demonstrate their intelligence when they speak, some demonstrate their ignorance.
I do not want Sen. Reid to resign.I want him to stay on, in the ignominy of that remark, and daily, from here on, may he remember to think before he speaks.

Posted by: elainedatter2 | January 11, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

There are many words Americans cannot pronounce clearly, even educated ones. One is Aunt, and they over-emphasize the "th" sound, forgetting that Thomas and Thames-the river, are pronounced without the emphasis on the "h". No English person thinks they are ignorant. We know that there are thirty-two vowel sounds in British English and thirteen in American English, and a person cannot pronounce a sound he or she cannot differentiate. Sen Harry Reid, addressing the British House of Commons would have a hard time being understood.No one would assume he is speaking "ignorant American". He would be just speaking American.

Posted by: elainedatter2 | January 11, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Harry Reid was absolutely correct in his comment.

Obama is light-skinned and he rarely slipped into the "negro dialect" during his campaign.
A few times when he was in front of black audiences, he strayed from his customary crisp pronunciation and grammatical correctness. Not exactly Ebonics but he was clearly and consciously changing his speech pattern to suit the audience.

I think Reid chose "negro dialect" as the most delicate way of describing a very real form of speech that everyone has heard.

If Harry Reid were a Republican, he would have been drawn and quartered by sundown for speaking the truth.

Posted by: spamsux1 | January 11, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

"It wasn't racism, but, ignorance that spewed from Reid's mouth."

Copy editor, please....

Posted by: RealityCheckerInEffect | January 11, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

My 87-yo mom uses "Negro" and I cringe. Then I find out a substantial number of her age cohort, phenotypically black, refer to themselves as "Negro" (as do Black Brazilians). The dialect set forth by Mr. King sounds an awful lot like the speech patterns of my mother's Southern relatives, phenotypically white. Then there's that DNA piece of me, that my mother and her Southern relatives also share, that is African.

For all these entangled reasons, I look forward to the time when race language in this country can be cool rather than hot.

I also think that anyone in public life oughta know they must be aware of how what they say might sound - to anyone.

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

And now........

the award for Most Uses of the Word "libtard" in a single comment box goes to.......

::::tears open envelope:::::

.... funbowhunter, who shoehorned it in seven times in his January 10, 2010 6:48 PM comment.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | January 11, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

So, if Reid is racist for using the word "Negro", does that mean that the NAACP is racist for still using the phrase "colored people" in their organization's name, even though that phrase hasn't been in popular use for about 40 years?

It may be un-PC, but there's an enormous difference between "Negro" and "colored people", which are merely outdated, and the other N-Word, which is and always has been incredibly offensive.

And by the way, Reid was right. Like it or not, every black person needs to know how to speak using "standard English" (for lack of a better term) if they're going to succeed in life. If Obama had given a speech where he said "I's ain't gonna keep Gitmo open, I'll aks mistah attuhney gen'ral to close it", no one would have taken him seriously. White candidates need to do the same thing; an Appalachian or Bostonian candidate needs to minimize their use of colloquialisms from their necks of the woods.

Blacks need to get over it their own worst enenmy is themselves

Posted by: lildg54 | January 11, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Reid is not ignorant, because that he knew what he was saying. When some voters went to the both and voted for candidate Obama, it was more palatable that he was not all that Black and spoke standard English beautifully, and of course he can put on the "accent" when he wants to, i've heard him. If Mr. King were honest, he would admit that very frequently whether on radio or TV or the telephone, one can identify a Black person speaking without even knowing they were Black. Call it an inflection or accent and I am not talking about pronounciation or bad grammar. Mr. Reid was being honest, maybe not politically correct, but honest. It is getting kind of tiresome being politically correct all of the time.

Posted by: Listening2 | January 11, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

I am an American black male of sixty years. Mr. Reid is 100% right..We blacks know just as whites that lighter-skinned blacks are deemed more acceptable...sometimes even by other blacks. "Lighter is righter". Its Horrible, but true..its the American way.

Posted by: october30 | January 11, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Michael Steele speaks in an Uncle Tom dialect.

Posted by: PepperDr | January 11, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

The African American Community is absolutely blind to politics. One can go to any major urban city in the US and see the devestating effects of Democratic Rule. When are you going to wake up and see that they want to keep you down. Public housing has been a disaster. Look at the Presidents hometown of Chicago. Thousands of homes and apartment buildings in shambles. When you have no stake in the property such as public housing, it is doomed to fail. They want to give you a fish everyday instead of buying you a fishing pole and many of you are willing participants. Slavery that ended over 150 years ago is no longer an excuse. If you want to take responsibility then join the Conservative movement as that is what it is all about. I grew up poor as a church mouse but made no excuses. Joined the USMC and spent 22 years serving this country. There is a myth that if your born white you got a leg up on everyone. Well that is pure BS.

Posted by: Cobra2 | January 11, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Cobra2
The poor white community (red States) are blind. Did you know that the fattest, most unhealthly, lowest paid, and least education is in the Red States (the GOP stronghold) yep they keep voting for the GOP. Can you explain that one?? I can. We Americans like to suscribe a racial condition to an economic one. Poor Whites and Poor Blacks do the same things. Watch Cops or Jerry Spinger for a refresher course on poor Whites. What you alluded to is NOT a race problem, but a poorly educated problem!

Posted by: Julescator | January 11, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Obama sounds like a Black man when I hear him. Sometimes to most of the time, you can tell a person's race by their voice. Just like most people can identify an Asian person over the phone. It's not really a grammar thing or a pronunciation thing, because White people and Asians mess up Queen's English all the dangitty time. I can't really explain it, you just hear it. Even when I run across a White person trying to be Black, the voice is still, well, a White person's voice. So, I really don't know what Reid meant by "Negro dialect." Maybe he was just trying to say that his grammar was decent.

Posted by: forgetthis | January 11, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

While inarticulate, Reid spoke the truth.

My mother lives in Iowa where the Democrates would "vote for a n____r before they'd vote for a woman" (and yes, that is a direct quote). Had O'bama been dark skinned or been "less articulate" this would have changed the equation enough that we might have Hillary in the White House.

Racism is still around, and Reid was truthful in acknowledging that the American electorate is still racist. To acknowledge racism is not racism.

Posted by: streff | January 11, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Good grief, Harry Reid is 70 years old. Consider what he said in terms of his age. He meant his comments as a compliment, as he gauged Obama's chances of success. And he was right as far as electability.

The truly disgraceful thing is that those who defend him would have joined the mobs against any Republican who made a similar comment. Macaca, anyone? Trent Lott?
The only question in my mind is what Sen. Reid thinks about dark-skinned blacks or those who speak in "Negro dialects." Like Clarence Thomas? Condi Rice? Ken Blackwell? Michael Steele? Thomas Sowell?
For some, it's all about political advantage.
Reid had it coming for what he has done to others.

I'm no fan of Sen. Reid's and will be glad to see him gone if that happens, but we gotta stop playing gotcha. You reap what you sow.

Posted by: parkbench | January 11, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Come ON! When it has been a proven fact that African American kids are stigmatized for using correct English (and why have we not seen Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson condemn this, as Bill Cosby has?), how dare you have the gall to say there is no such thing as Negro dialect????

Posted by: ChrisW1958 | January 11, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

ALL of the benefits (racially and politically speaking) that Obama may have gained from being "light-skinned" were completely and absolutely nullified by the fact that his name was "Barack Hussein Obama." Any identification with the White race gets thrown out of the window at that point.

Posted by: forgetthis | January 11, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Just another black liberal giving cover to a liberal bigot. It's okay to be a bigot as long as you're a liberal Dem! Grow up or quit drinking the kool aid the Dems give you man! I know a bigot when I see one. Even a latent one!

Posted by: rustynailx | January 11, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

You dont have to examine the federal writers project to understand Black Americans often speak a distinct dialect of English. Go to any street corner, go to any public space, black Americans revel in their difference.

As point of fact Blacks that do not speak "Ebonics" with an accent distinct and their own are persecuted by the greater black community 'for' their difference. Its a fact.


I think its ridiculous for Black Americans like King to lash out at others, and pretend like most Black Americans are speaking oxford English when they are not. Its not 'slang' used for effect under 'certain' social conditions. Unless the 'effect' is to prove to cultural separatists how 'black' they still are. King knows what I'm talking about.

Posted by: Homunculus | January 11, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

The African American Community is absolutely blind to politics. One can go to any major urban city in the US and see the devestating effects of Democratic le.
Posted by: Cobra2 | January 11, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse
*****************
good for you. Care to change colors? Probably not. What you say is true. My God. Its been over 40 years since jim crow. We should all be rich by now like you.

As Racism Wanes, Colorism Persists
By BRENT STAPLES

A few years ago, I sat down to read Back Then: Two Literary Lives in 1950’s New York, by the novelist Anne Bernays and her husband, the biographer Justin Kaplan.
I was cruising along, as calmly as you please, when I came to an eye-opening passage about the once-famous New York lunch-counter chain, “Chock full o’ Nuts.’’
The passage read: “The owner of Chock full o’ Nuts, a white man named William Black, advertised in the tabloids for ‘light colored counter help,’ an example of nth-degree discrimination.’’ I knew that employers had once ruled out black applicants with ads that listed whiteness as a job qualification. I knew from growing up in a black community during the 1950’s and 60’s that my lighter-skinned neighbors (and even one of my relatives) got jobs at dress shops and other businesses that turned away darker-skinned applicants.
And I also knew of black families in which siblings of the same parents came into the world with dramatically different skin tones, which often meant that they experienced the color-coded world in entirely different ways.

Even so, I was surprised to learn that the longstanding preference for lighter-skinned black people had been laid out in 20th Century newspaper ads.
I’ve begun to find those ads in the archives of old newspapers near the Pennsylvania factory town where I grew up. The skin-labeling was so common in the 40’s that black job seekers used it when advertising their skills.
In the “situations wanted’’ section, for example, cooks, chauffeurs and waitresses sometimes listed “light colored’’ as the primary qualification — ahead of experience, references, and the other important data.
Does anyone remember the brown paper test? If not, ask someone. I was one of the "lucky" blacks OR Negro that passed the test and yes, I did get more opportunities.. Was this statement stupid. Yes. Was it true? Yes. Asking for Reid's resignation is well politics as usual. If a republican said this would the dems complain and charge racism, you bet.
Read the rest of this article at:

http://theboard.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/08/22/as-racism-wanes-colorism-

Posted by: sherardg | January 11, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Will Reid soon restore the term "high- yellow" with impunity as he did the word "negro"? Is negro acceptable again?

Posted by: iphony | January 11, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Mr. King needs to "lighten" up. Reid was referring to Obama's acceptability among whites--a valid issue to discuss, one would think, if we are to be honest. The factors he mentioned--Obama's relatively light skin colour and his argot- and accent-free speech--would naturally be part of the discussion. On the other hand, no doubt Obama is quite capable of "getting down" linguistically when he feels like it. And why not.

I am in Canada. A federal party leader from Quebec hoping to form a national government would definitely be discussed in terms of his or her style of speech, if not appearance--the point being personal appeal to the greatest number of voters.

Reid isn't stupid; the authors who quoted him from a private conversation were being both politically mischievous and commercially opportunistic.

The great irony is that Republican senator Trent Lott wasn't forced to resign because of his racialist comments; according to AP, "Lott eventually apologized but resigned nearly two weeks later after a growing number of Republicans questioned his effectiveness, especially after he told Black Entertainment Television he supported affirmative action, no longer opposed the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and would back programs aimed at minorities." He was done in by his own party because he backtracked on his racialist comments. Whew.

Posted by: nickcw | January 11, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Sounds to me like King seems to have confused the Southern literary "dialect" tradition, regional pronunciation, or accent with BVE. (The rest of you seem to have it confused with hip-hop slang.)

Posted by: blackjacque | January 11, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

What's interesting about this entire episode is the number of whites that speak with broken English. I am black and notice the shock people have when I meet them in person after having spoken with them on the phone. There is no "black accent". Black people come from various parts of the US and have different accents. My black friends from NYC sound completely different than those from Georgia, St. Louis, or Seattle. The next time I listen to white representatives of Congress I'll be sure to listen out for that "white dialect".

Posted by: negee99 | January 11, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Reid is not ignorant, because that he knew what he was saying. When some voters went to the both and voted for candidate Obama, it was more palatable that he was not all that Black and spoke standard English beautifully, and of course he can put on the "accent" when he wants to, i've heard him. If Mr. King were honest, he would admit that very frequently whether on radio or TV or the telephone, one can identify a Black person speaking without even knowing they were Black. Call it an inflection or accent and I am not talking about pronounciation or bad grammar. Mr. Reid was being honest, maybe not politically correct, but honest. It is getting kind of tiresome being politically correct all of the time.

Posted by: Listening2 | January 11, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

HARRY REID IS NO RACIST; LOTT IS, AND NO DEMOCRATIC SENATOR ASKED HIM TO RESIGN—LAZY JOURNALISTS WOULDN’T TELL YOU THIS

Harry Reid entertained the idea that a black man could be President and was looking for a way to rationalize it. Trent Lott, on the other, left the Democratic Party because of his segregationist thinking. Later Lott publicly stated during an honor gathering for his hero Strom Thurmond that the country would have been better off had it stayed segregated and if Strom had been “elected president in 1948.” There is no comparison between Lott’s and Reid’s comments. Both were insensitive comments. Lott was a true believer about the dividing and unbreakable line between Whites and Blacks; Reid is a progressive. I would pick Sen. Reid any day over the Michael Steeles and Clarence Thomas of this world as more sympathetic to black causes and progress. As usual, lazy journalists run with Reid’s misspoken words, easily accepting that his words were equivalent to those of Lott. Rubbish! They also accept the Republican assertion (e.g., Sen. Kyl) that there is a double standard—that Democrats demanded Lott’s resignation. They could not even rebut this obvious falsehood. In truth, no Democratic senator demanded Lott’s resignation. Just check the record! Without objective and truthful journalistic information, our democracy is doomed and the people will not be educated intelligently in the virtues of our political democracy. All they will see is misinformation and a biased media.
Dr. Sam

Posted by: drsam8 | January 11, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I just did some research on Harry Reid. I wonder how his parents sounded when he was growing up - neither of his parents were educated... one didn't finish grade school and the other high school. The father worked in a mine. He lived outside of Las Vegas, which was a desert. From all accounts, his parents were poor and he lived in an insulated community like most whites... who've never seen a Black until adulthood. Just remember readers, there are people like Arnold Schwartznegger who doesn't speak clearly and has a "poor" pronunciation of English words as do the asians, and many of the third world immigrants who have flooded this country over the past 20 years. To the point, Reid probably wants to sell his book at a "hefty" price and politicians knows that "race books" makes a profit and this was his "golden" opportunity. Ask Harry Reid if his parents, or siblings for that matter, spoke standard English in the country where he came from? Mr. Reid, please read this email. I guess a lot of whites want to feel superior to Blacks... but those days are long gone! No man is superior to another!

Posted by: periodot | January 11, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Whether it was based on racisim or ignorance, it was offensive, pure and simple. What else has Harry Reid said behind closed doors (along with many other pols?)How about healthcare reform? Any choice morsels there, senator? Hopefully Reid will retire and spare the voters the expense of an election.

Posted by: pjsilva | January 11, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Reid is just remembering his days as child during the Civil War.

Posted by: dlkimura | January 11, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Once in a while my college-educated black wife, who generally speaks racially-neutral mid-Atlantic (Baltimore) English, will slip in an "aks" for "ask" or "mines" for "mine," which is what she heard from the grandmother and great-grandmother who helped raise her.

And now and then, a Yiddishim or two might slip into my speech, courtesy of the immigrant grandmother who helped raise *me* in otherwise accent-neutral Southern California.

Harold & Kumar weren't Chinese and Indian. They were New Joisey, just as Cheech and Chong, a generation before them, were generic L.A., not Mexican and Chinese.

Capisce?

Hey! We *all* say that these days, don't we? :)

Posted by: roblimo | January 11, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Reid is a product of America. Only he should not say it or put it on paper.Racism is a tool meant to benefit some and belittle others has held this country back. Until we all move forward America has successfully underminded itself.

Posted by: alwaysAlabama | January 11, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Let's all sign up along with Harry over at ACORN. Then maybe we can pick up all the nuances of the... lingo...

Posted by: AlongTheWatchTowers | January 11, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

How about "axe" for "ask". I've heard that by educated Blacks that would never use the examples listed by Mr King.

Posted by: cyberfool | January 11, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Reid probably doesn't have many close personal friends who are black. If he had, he'd have known that "Negro" is so 1968.

He's not racist, he's just "ig'nant".

Posted by: gbooksdc | January 11, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Mr. King,
Obama requiring an apology at this late date looks bad ....really bad.
This fraud cat Obama needs to stop squeezing people for power and control, and open his own illegally secreted intel, (which no Public Official should ever have secreted in this Country).

Obama is thin skinned, when he wants to squeeze, he pulls a race card.
What a kook!!!
Terrible stewards of my colorless US Constitution, by trying to make it all about color today, have done nothing but embarrass me.

It sounds like Reid is just getting shoved around by a thug, who waited to long to pull the trigger on this matter.

Posted by: dottydo | January 11, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

"My boy Barry is a light-skinned Nîgra."
Harry "sheets" Reid.

Posted by: screwjob2 | January 11, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Mr. King,
Obama requiring an apology at this late date looks bad ....really bad.
This fraud cat Obama needs to stop squeezing people for power and control, and open his own illegally secreted intel, (which no Public Official should ever have secreted in this Country).

Obama is thin skinned, when he wants to squeeze, he pulls a race card.
What a kook!!!
Obama is a terrible steward of my colorless US Constitution, by trying to make it all about color today, he has done nothing but embarrass me.

It sounds like Reid is just getting shoved around by a thug, who waited way to long to pull the trigger on this matter.

It has been over a year, so this sudden insult and shove now, is just lame.

Posted by: dottydo | January 11, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

It must be hard being a Black person in America.

For some, you are either too Black and for others, you are not Black enough.

Posted by: lcarter0311 | January 11, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

I think a dark-skinned black man with a heavy negro-dialect (democrat) could have been elected against John McCain in 2008.

Much as the dead dog catcher could run against Harry Reid in Nevada in 2010 and win.

I suspect any one running against a democrat in 2010 will have a good chance of winning. Sadly, some good democrats will not be elected because of thugs like Harry Reid. Ironically, Artur Davis of Alabama could have won if he didn't have the corruption of Harry Reid, Ben Nelson, and Mary Landrieu bringing him down.

Posted by: Cornell1984 | January 11, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Harry Reid is a moron, but his statement, while crass was basically true. Obama catered to the Blacks with the accent used by some preachers. They were swaying and yelping during the campaign and everyone knows it. Obama had plenty of practice as he spent 20 years listening to the rants and raves of Jeremiah Wright the anti White, Anti American, Anti Jewish Black Theology Church of Unity leader.
Obama is good doing old jewish women as well. He also talks elitist in San Francisco when he dissed the hard working, religious people of Penn. who cling to their guns and religion he said behind their backs. Obama is a two faced snake oil con man.

Posted by: mharwick | January 11, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

"a few examples of words considered "Negro dialect": ah for I, poe for poor, hit for it, tuh for to, wuz for was, baid for bed, daid for dead, mah for my, ovah for over, wha for where, ifn for if, fiuh or fiah for fire, yo' for you, cot for caught, kin' for kind, cose for 'cause, and tho't for thought."

Um, no... That's just how they spoke down South, still do in some cases...

Posted by: SUMB44 | January 11, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Reid was correct. Those arguing otherwise are not. The issue at stake is whether people in the USA (Blacks, Whites, Mulattos, etc.) are ready for plain talk.

Reid said - other words - that in the USA today, people (Whites in particular)were more likely to accept Obama because of those particular characteristics: "light skinned" and :no Negro dialect".

And, that is correct. Obama recognizes that, too.

He weighted those characteristics as well. He knows they are favorable to him and have been using them well.

This situation is similar to a white Hispanics with no accent preferring not to be associated with Hispanics, which happen often(just ask within the Hispanic communities). Why? Because their chances...are better.

I am Hipanic of origen and Mulatto and I am not offended by Reid comment. But, I am very much offended by analysis like those of Mr. King and other commentators. They all try to cover the sun with a finger rather than accept the reality and learn to live with it. It is what it is. Reid was correct.

P.S.: I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican and I do not particular care about Mr. Reid as a politician. He is just that, a politician.

Posted by: scv3456 | January 11, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse


Out of the mouth comes the things of the Heart!

Posted by: sdavis4 | January 11, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

I lie, and taught, in Texas.I encouraged my students, African originated, European originated and Latinos to speak "neutral" English for the simple reason that America(the USA) is very class conscious, and if they are to move ahead, they need to lose the Texarse accent.Dan Rather did. I recommended listening to National Public Radio, and PBS. I did not want them trying to sound like me. My accent is from outside the USA, and I was careful to point out that potential job interviwers, college admissions people, and potential landlords make decisions, before they see you, on how you sound. I made them read aloud in class, from a variety of texts, and when they protested that I wanted them to "sound white" I insisted that it was that I wanted them to sound educated. Today, they hold, some of them, jobs like pharmacists, lawyers for the federal government, school principals and other public service jobs. They went to a wide variety of universities, including George Washington and Rice. I allowed no one to make decisions about them, based on how they sounded. They always knew, however, to switch to talk to their communities. No matter how successful you are, you need friends in your own neighborhood, but Hispanic, African American and Euro-American youth need to leave their local dialects behind, and cross over to the language of business. All smart people know that.

I wish that we had used this space to discuss something more earth shattering, but perhaps America will never overcome its racial animus. There is so much nutrition available to feed it.

Meanwhile, those who use this incident to scurge the Democratic party need to remember that every piece of legislation that ever benefitted poor people, came from the Democrats in the last 60 years. Some individuals stumble, I believe Mr. Reid did, but they can be propped up by the wealth of social good that they have done. This Democrat will chastise him, but we are not jumping ship.

Posted by: elainedatter2 | January 11, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

I don't think Reid was being ignorant. I think he didn't have the vocabulary to effectively say what he wanted to say. As a black person, I understood immediately what he was trying to convey. And I took no offense at the word "Negro." It's accurate, it's historic. Had he said "colored people," that might have made me cringe a bit, but the truth at the core of what he said would be no less deniable.

Cut Harry some slack.

Bill Clinton, and the GOP... now that's another story.

Posted by: jade_7243 | January 11, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse


Looks like Harry Reid's comment,"Negro Dialect",will prove to be "Dark Days",ahead for him!

Posted by: sdavis4 | January 11, 2010 7:51 PM | Report abuse

Agree or disagree with the sentiments, every person in America knew exactly what Reid meant--including you, Mr King. Nothing underscores the point better than Obama's absurd habit of dropping his g's when speaking to a black audience (as pointed out by numerous journalists of all political persuasions). If President Obama believes there is a black manner of speaking, who is Colbert King to disagree with him?

Posted by: jd5024 | January 11, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Reid's a Democrat. So it's OK. Next?

Posted by: mftill | January 11, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse


We now know that the only reason Obama was elected President was because he did not speak with that "repulsive" negro dialect and was a light skin black.

THANKS HARRY!!

Your wisdom is sooooo insightful!!


Posted by: charko825 | January 11, 2010 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Another WMD -- "weapon of mass distraction". Take a compliment, twist it around to make it seem like an insult and discuss it ad nauseum.... Personally, I dislike being referred to as an "African-American" since I've never been to Africa and have more White blood than African. Why is it even necessary to change the label every other decade? Negro, Colored, Black, African-American, what's next? I'm an AMERICAN, born and raised. Harry Reid was not wrong in any way. I've always known that because my "color" was acceptable and I "speak well", I am usually given the benefit of the doubt, or at least, a "chance" and I try my best to dispel the myths at every opportunity. Let's get back to real issues, like the fact that Black males age 18-30 are experiencing unemployment at levels of 30% or more (Detroit 50%) and not the fabricated 10% that's being lied about. And how about the fact that mortgage lending ought to be reformed so that people are not forced to be in a 30 yr loan when these days, no company will be able to keep anyone employed for 30 years. How about a "loan assurance" program that allows people to restructure their loans if unemployed through no fault of their own? Forget stupid comments, let's talk about some real issues.

Posted by: sharron1128 | January 11, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Hary Reid is NOT STUPID and he should not apologize for telling the truth.Blacks can call whites honky and other slang names and we don't pay any attention to it but let some white person say the least litle thing and the blacks and media go nuts.If if blacks think it's so bad here let them go back to Africa. Our welfare rolls would go down to nothing and the prison population would go down about 90%

Posted by: LDTRPT25 | January 11, 2010 9:03 PM | Report abuse

"Bal503 and RickLinguist, your points are interesting, but perhaps you could explain to me the following. If Henry Kissinger, a black person with a "black accent" and a northeastern white person all read the exact same text, and most Americans could pick out from their speech the speakers who were black and of German extraction, why does that mean the black speaker is using a black dialect?...I would think that a "black dialect" involved different words and grammar. But there is also a black accent, which can be applied to entirely standard English, just as a German accent can.Posted by: Itzajob | January 11, 2010 10:51 AM"

As we all know, "accent" is something that tends to follow us from language to language --or dialect to dialect. One can be a fluent speaker of any language --or dialect-- but with a 'foreign' accent.

So it's not surprising that someone who is fluent in both Black English vernacular AND standard American English may know the grammar of American English while retaining his 'native' accent.

Despite all the discussion here, the truth is that ALL dialects of English, including Black English, are far more similar than dissimilar to one another. So learning the handful of grammatical differences, the vocabulary differences, hand so on, is very doable.

Plus, written forms tend much more to be standard language -- more formal, and less filled with markers of dialect -- than spoken language.


Posted by: ricklinguist | January 11, 2010 9:33 PM | Report abuse


Should Reid resign? No. He should keep apologising until the last African American tells him to shut up about it.

Posted by: strattonriv | January 11, 2010 9:45 PM | Report abuse

"Prior to 1950 the most prevalent term used to designate the race of United States slave descendants of African origin was "Negro".

Thus, in the pre-1950's literature on the language of the descendants of African slaves, the appellation used to designate their language was "Negro English", "The Negro Dialect", "Negro Speech", Non-standard Negro English or Negro Non-Standard English and "Nonstandard Negro Dialect" etc. (Defrantz, 1975)

When Harry Reid emerges from his time warp can we go back to the issues of health care reform and economic recovery.

And didn't Strom Thurmond that grand old man of Dixie have a black daughter like many of his grand old predecesser during slavery? Did she speak with a Negro dialect?

Posted by: hakafos44 | January 11, 2010 10:26 PM | Report abuse

"It wasn't racism, but, ignorance that spewed from Reid's mouth."

Sorry but the way I see it, "It wasn't ignorance, but, condescension and arrogance that spewed from Reid's mouth.

Posted by: delusional1 | January 11, 2010 10:54 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, RickLinguist, for the clarification!

Posted by: Itzajob | January 11, 2010 11:03 PM | Report abuse

I disagree with the author. When you paint someone as speaking the Negro dialect you are indeed labeling someone for the color of their skin.
Obama has called this "some unfortunate comments"...I say this is Trent Lott type racism at its purest! I don't care who is being racist, only that it should not be happening in 2010, especially at the higher levels of power.

Posted by: huntyrella | January 12, 2010 12:09 AM | Report abuse

I think Reid was thinking how many whites think when he made that comment. I think white Southern men with their accent sound downright ignorant. Do we want an ignorant sounding man as president? The Negro "dialect" is no more offensive than the Southern white man's dialect..Also, we should be aware by now that light skinned black actors get leading roles, like Denzel Washington, but a darker skinned actor is not given the main part in the types of movies that Denzel stars in. In Precious, doesn't she say that she wants a light skinned boyfriend with good hair? Unfortunately, most white voters think exactly what Reid stated.

Posted by: cgeejay1 | January 12, 2010 3:24 AM | Report abuse

"Thanks, RickLinguist, for the clarification! "Posted by: Itzajob | January 11, 2010 11:03 PM

You're welcome!

In re-reading my reply, it struck me that the main point is that we each shift styles depending on the context. We don't speak the same when talking informally to a spouse or friend as when we are presenting a briefing or, say, giving a eulogy at a funeral.

And the less formal the context, the more likely grammar--including pronunciation-- will tend toward non-standard forms, and vice versa.

And again, many of us speak more than one variety of a language. The Scottish-born actor who played "Jack" on Dr. Who grew up in Illinois. He can switch back and forth between Scots English and Midwestern American English, depending on the audience.

I had a friend in college from South Carolina. He always sounded very "Midwestern" to me. Then one day in his dorm room, the phone rang. It was his mother. He immediately shifted to a Southern variety so alien to what I was used to that I could barely understand it. ;-)

Posted by: ricklinguist | January 12, 2010 8:05 AM | Report abuse

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