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Harry Reid's ill-advised, accurate, analysis

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid acted like an idiot.

Also, he was right.

It’s a measure of the suffocating culture of political correctness that it feels risky to say that. It’s a measure of the insulting how-dumb-do-they-think-we-are culture of incessant partisanship that Republicans leapt on Reid's remarks as racist.

Reid, assessing Obama’s chances in 2008, cited the fact that the candidate was a “light-skinned” African American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” Those ill-advised comments, to Mark Halperin and John Heilemann for their new book, “Game Change,” have produced an apology by Reid to the president. That was followed immediately by presidential forgiveness: “As far as I am concerned, the book is closed.”

Not quite.

For a politician, especially a white politician, to comment on another politician’s race is treacherous. Remember Joe Biden's “articulate and bright and clean” description of Obama in 2007?

For anyone in public life to use the word “Negro” in 2008 is beyond stupid. What was once polite has become demeaning. (Although, interestingly enough, the U.S. Census chose to retain the word on the 2010 census form because so many respondents wrote it in 10 years ago.)

The lame explanation offered by an aide -- that the remarks were not intended for use in the book -- is about as convincing as Jesse Jackson’s assertion that he did not consider his “Hymietown” comments to the Washington Post’s Milton Coleman on the record. (“Let’s talk black talk,” Jackson had said to Coleman.)

But there's a big difference between Reid 2008 and Jackson 1984 -- or, more to the point, Lott 2002. When the then-soon-to-be-former Majority Leader Trent Lott said that the United States could have avoided “all these problems” if Strom Thurmond’s 1948 segregationist campaign for president had succeeded, there was an unmistakable -- if unintended -- whiff of racism. As much as Republican critics would like to use the incident for partisan purposes, Reid’s blundering comments were made in the context of supporting an African American candidate, not praising a segregationist one.

Not that critics were stopped by this distinction. “These are fairly racist comments,” declared Liz Cheney on ABC’s “This Week.” Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who ought to have some charity toward those who say dumb things, called on Reid to step down as majority leader.

So much for the idiotic part. But, to a degree, Reid’s assessment of the salience of Obama’s skin tone was relevant. Not only do we not live in a colorblind society, we live in an exquisitely color-sensitive one. A 2007 study that used magnetic resonance imaging to examine brain reactions to photos of light- and dark-skinned subjects found more activity within the amygdala, which reflects arousal to perceived threats, when dark-skinned faces were shown. “Disconcertingly, to the extent that Afrocentric features increase the likelihood of making stereotypic inferences, this may result in severe consequences for those possessing high levels of Afrocentric features,” the authors wrote.

As for “Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,” well, do we all have to pretend we don’t know what Reid is talking about? There is a distinctly recognizable African American voice and some African Americans dial it up or down depending on the setting. It was striking during the campaign how Hawaii-born, Indonesia-raised, Chicago-living Obama sounded so strikingly southern when he was campaigning in southern states. That “blaccent” was useful to Obama in some venues. But I have little doubt that it would have been held against him by some white voters, perhaps subconsciously, if it were his regular voice.

Reid’s analysis was correct. Even if it was, as he said in a masterpiece of understatement, “a poor choice of words.”

By Ruth Marcus  | January 10, 2010; 9:05 AM ET
Categories:  Marcus  | Tags:  Ruth Marcus  
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Next: Harry Reid could use a lesson in 'Negro dialect'

Comments

So this becomes a teachable moment, right? Belive whatever you want, but you know full well that if Trent Lott had said this EXACT same thing, the story would be leading for the next two weeks.
It's a double standard and extremely hypocritical.

Posted by: Bailers | January 10, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

If a Republican like Trent Lott had said something like that he would have been run out of office...OH WAIT! HE WAS!!!
The democrats can't be held to a higher standard because they have no ethics or morals...

Posted by: totalkaosdave | January 10, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Just think, what if Sarah Palin had made the same statement.

Posted by: johntu | January 10, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

After proofing the article, we suggest the author change the words "Harry Reid acted like an idiot" to "Harry Reid is an idiot".

Thanks, WAPO proof reading department.

Posted by: scollins | January 10, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

"We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race." - Strom Thurmond's Dixiecrat Party Platform, 1948

"All the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, our schools, our churches."
-Strom Thurmond, 1948

"I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either." - Trent Lott, 2004

Hard to pretend to everyone that the racial import of these words of Trent Lott's in 2004 are "the same" as Harry Reid's in 2008 when those words and the historical context are staring every reader in the face.

Posted by: washpost29 | January 10, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

According to Ruth Marcus, Lott--unlike Reid--is probably a racist because "Reid’s blundering comments were made in the context of supporting an African American candidate, not praising a segregationist one."
Flawed logic. I don’t believe Reid's a racist—nothing he’s said leads me to that conclusion. I would just make the point that his support for Obama's presidency doesn't preclude him from being a racist. Nor does Trent Lott's stated belief that things would be better if Thurmond had been president make Lott a racist.
Racism is a very complicated thing, and Marcus' analysis is painfully simplistic.
Additionally, it’s curious that Marcus bemoans the “incessant partisanship” that led Republicans to “[leap] on Reid's remarks as racist” when she herself reports “an unmistakable –if unintended –whiff of racism” in the Trent Lott matter but not in the cases of Biden or Reid.
In light of this last point, one might argue that Marcus’ piece is just another "measure of the insulting how-dumb-do-they-think-we-are culture of incessant partisanship.”

Posted by: Wallace_Quinn | January 10, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Of course there would have been a different reaction to Trent Lott. His reputation precedes him!!

Posted by: wsking | January 10, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Excellent Post!! I totally agree with you. I’m Black and I’m told all of the time, “your so articulate” I know White people honestly mean that as a compliment, but really what their saying is that I’m one of the few that speaks well. I rarely hear a White person compliment another White person for being articulate. There is no need. The expectation is clearly stated.

If my “personal” conversations were revealed to the world, many would label my friends and me as racists, sexist, etc. If everyone said exactly what was on their minds, we would have civil wars daily. Look what uproar Reid’s personal comments are causing. I find it interesting that conservatives are so quick to jump on the bandwagon when they have Rush making millions saying exactly what’s on his mind. If people want to say that the difference is Reid is a politician and Rush is a talk show host, as Bill Clinton would say “That dog won’t hunt” Rush is the leader of the RNC. Steele is just the not so dark figure head with no Negro dialect.

Remember the economy? We have bigger issues that this folks. The POTUS accepted the apology for all us with no Negro dialect. LMAO !!!

Posted by: letsgetreal | January 10, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

“A fairly racist comment,” declared Liz Cheney on ABC’s “This Week.”
No, a racist comment was when Congressman Dick Cheney supported South African Apartheid, declaring that Mandela should be kept in prison for his own good!

Posted by: wsking | January 10, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

In light of Obama's decision to “forgive” Harry Reid's racist remarks about Obama's skin color and lack of a "Negro dialect," the Weekly Standard recalled the following comments from Barack Obama in the December 12, 2002 issue of the Chicago Defender.

Here’s what Obama said about Trent Lott in 2002:

'The Republican Party itself has to drive out Trent Lott'

Illinois Senator Barack Obama (D-13th), who hosted WVON's Cliff Kelley Show, challenged the Republican Party to repudiate Lott's remarks and to call for his resignation as senate leader.

“It seems to be that we can forgive a 100-year-old senator for some of the indiscretion of his youth, but, what is more difficult to forgive is the current president of the U.S. Senate (Lott) suggesting we had been better off if we had followed a segregationist path in this country after all of the battles and fights for civil rights and all the work that we still have to do,” said Obama.

He said: “The Republican Party itself has to drive out Trent Lott. If they have to stand for something, they have to stand up and say this is not the person we want representing our party."

Now we can add “hypocrite” to the long list of character flaws of Barack Obama.

Posted by: Jerzy | January 10, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Well I will never vote for a black presidential candidate that continually chooses to mis-speak words like "with" and "alright".

Posted by: state82 | January 10, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

"We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race." - Strom Thurmond's Dixiecrat Party Platform, 1948

"All the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, our schools, our churches."
-Strom Thurmond, 1948

"I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either." - Trent Lott, 2004

Hard to pretend to everyone that the racial import of these words of Trent Lott's in 2004 are "the same" as Harry Reid's in 2008 when those words and the historical context are staring every reader in the face.

Posted by: washpost29 | January 10, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

------------------------------------------
so two wrongs makes it alright for Harry? Wow, great logic. Thanks.

Here is a third- Obama has big lips and a sloped forehead. He walks with only the slightest shuffle in his step.

I'm not a racist, just a speaker of the truth.

Posted by: rm2slam1 | January 10, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Excellent, Miss Marcus. Thank you for putting matters into perspective.

Posted by: Hellmut | January 10, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Couldn't agree more. No one would have voted for Obama if he had said, "Yes we can, aight?"

Posted by: tristesse27 | January 10, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

If Harry Reid is such an "idiot", as you said, should he continue to be the leader of the senate democrats?
I think not. A person with such a racist perspective should not be the leader of the majority party in 2010. This is simply not an issue between Reid and Obama, it is an issue that has a wider relevance for the country as a whole. When the country is becoming multi-racial, multi-ethnic, this type of anachronistic, racist, devisive expressions are simply unacceptable. It is time that Reid should call it quits.

Posted by: mannyphilipps | January 10, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

If Harry Reid is such an "idiot", as you said, should he continue to be the leader of the senate democrats?
I think not. A person with such a racist perspective should not be the leader of the majority party in 2010. This is simply not an issue between Reid and Obama, it is an issue that has a wider relevance for the country as a whole. When the country is becoming increasingly multi-racial, multi-ethnic, this type of anachronistic, racist, devisive expressions are simply unacceptable. It is time that Reid should call it quits.

Posted by: mannyphilipps | January 10, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

WOW - what is racist about a white man telling the truth about how the U.S. treats/views black people. White people make statements all the time about how articulate blacks are yet you never hear them say that about whites, not even Southern or Applachian whites. Why because white people don't expect blacks to be able to speak "articulate" even if the white doing the speaking is inarticulate. As for color Time magazine darken O.J. Simpson for their cover. Why? Because a dark man is to be feared but a light skinned Negro is not as intimating.

No comparison between Lott and Reid.

Posted by: rlj1 | January 10, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

In other words, racism is really astuteness and perceptiveness when our side does it, but just plain ol' racism when the other side does it.

Posted by: liam358 | January 10, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Marcus, You just said Reid was right. What is the negro dialect? Please explain how Reid was right that Obama has no Negro dialect. I am black and I have never heard of the Negro dialect.

Posted by: honeylamb | January 10, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

RuthMarcus, I am a fervent (white) Obama supporter. Your ridiculous rationalizations merely undermine liberal credibility. I am afraid the Republican commentators here are absolutely right: if Trent Lott had made these remarks he would be gone, amidst a how of righteous indignation from Democrats. Reid needs to be gone without any further mealy-mouthed defenses. One of the reasons we elected Obama was for his integrity.

Posted by: wotcher | January 10, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

To Whites In America and Around The World

President Barack Obama is not light skinned. He's the same complexion as myself and many other U.S. Negro citizens. His skin tone is brown, not light or fair skin. Lena Horne the actress, the late Dr. Charles Drew, D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, former Congressman Harold Ford Jr., and former Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. are all light skin or fair skin Negroes. I am glad Harry Reid said what he said. I think the man is a closeted racist as many are in the Democratic Party.


Posted by: Ward4DC | January 10, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

No comparison between Lott and Reid.

Reid accurately and mildly, in what he thought was private discourse, described two aspects of Barack Obama's image that he thought would contribute to Obama's broad acceptance in the US. He was correct.
Lott, in public remarks, indicated (in jest??) that it would have been better if an overt segregationist had become President in 1948 (as opposed to Harry Truman, who had the courage to integrate the armed forces and set the civil rights ball rolling).

As I said, there is NO COMPARISON.

Posted by: mhd51 | January 10, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Ruth Marcus. I supported President Obama because of his views, his obvious intellect, and his even temperament. However I had the same reaction to Senator Reid's remarks as you express. They have an element of truth in them. Good for you for expressing this point of view.

Posted by: Cleo6 | January 10, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Ms Marcus was absolutely correct! Race matters and for many Barack Obama was more acceptable because of his skin tone and his background. Don't compare Harry Reid who was in support of him running to racists or people who use race to divide such as Trent Lott, Liz Cheney, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, or the clown Michael Steele. This is laughable that the republicans cry racism. And yes I am an African-American.

Posted by: callmeljok | January 10, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Note the number of posters whose arguments turn upon us accepting their invitation to pretend that we are all children squabbling on the playground about "words" and "rules," and not who we are: adult citizens of a democracy with a common culture and a shared history, who can with reasonable accuracy perceive the personal and political intent of other adults from what they say and when and where they say it.

Posted by: washpost29 | January 10, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

"As for “Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,” well, do we all have to pretend we don’t know what Reid is talking about? There is a distinctly recognizable African American voice and some African Americans dial it up or down depending on the setting."

No please explain what Reid is talking about?

Posted by: clark202 | January 10, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Look, we are what our words and actions reveal. Harry Reid spoke from the heart and we got a look into his paternalistic, patronizing heart.

Posted by: barbzwire | January 10, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

So here is the question: Would Leah Marcus have written this same column if it had been Mitch McConnell and not Harry Reid making these comments?

If not, then she is showing her own ugly, partisan biases.

Posted by: blert | January 10, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Reid's comments, and now Marcus's, reflect the blatant racism that infects much of the Dem establishment, beginning with Obama himself, and the Dem-leaning media. Not only do they continually insult the vast majority of African-Americans with this exclusionary attitude, they condemn all American voters of every race and color as racists.

Of course Obama accepted Reid's apology --in truth, no apology was needed. The mindset Reid expressed was ever-present in Obama's primary and presidential campaigns, and now his presidency.

Posted by: JBinVA | January 10, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

I think more of us should watch South Park more often. Then we can move on to more important issues in this country.

Posted by: dummy4peace | January 10, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

I am so tired of either party demanding resignations when a politician says something dumb! We are human. We often talk before putting mouth in gear. If we behead every politician for error, Washington will soon be an empty town.

Posted by: DavidinDallas | January 10, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Seems the people most offended by Harry Reid's remarks are white Republicans (anti-Democrats). Other than his use of the word "Negro" - no Negroes in American since the 1960s - Reid's comments were the correct Democratic strategy...obvious by the results.

I am Black, live in Las Vegas, Nevada, and will continue to support Harry Reid. He is honest with best intentions.

Posted by: stargatepl | January 10, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Seems the people most offended by Harry Reid's remarks are white Republicans (anti-Democrats). Other than his use of the word "Negro" - no Negroes in American since the 1960s - Reid's comments were the correct Democratic strategy...obvious by the results.

I am Black, live in Las Vegas, Nevada, and will continue to support Harry Reid. He is honest with best intentions.

Posted by: stargatepl | January 10, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

The Gospel Channel had a movie on this morning called Time Travel where a professor from the 1890's travels to 2000. The Christian movie makers used nergo inspired rhythmic music and ghetto take to symbolize the decay of society. This conservative movie embrassed Black Culture as devil culture just as the preachers of the '50's and 60's called black music the devils music.

Posted by: Emmetrope | January 10, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Ruthie,

If this was a Republican, you'd be calling for his or her head.

To those of you who "support" Reid, in addition to being foolish, you're in a very tiny minority.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | January 10, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

The bankers may be making out like bandits but the country, in terms of unemployment, is still stuck in the Great Recession. Yet we are so worked up on a few words such as "light-skin" and "Negro talk".

Of course Reid was right. But more importantly, what if he was wrong? If a politician is to resign because of saying a few words that are wrong, poorly chosen, or whatever, then the enitre political system in our country, including States, will have to shut down.

The Republicans are idiots trying to jump into it. As it was pointed out, Lott's sin is not because of his words but his pro-segregation sentiment.

Posted by: steviana | January 10, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

"“your so articulate” I know White people honestly mean that as a compliment"

I've never heard that phrase used in that way, but those people probably said:

"you're so articulate"

You should probably understand the difference, or else you don't seem very articulate.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | January 10, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Marcus' double standard is this: if the comments are supportive, like Sen. Reid's, then its an idiotic comment, but if the comments are critical then its racism.

A racist is making a point of conclusion based on race, just like saying all Blacks are better at sports, all Asians are better at math, etc. Are these supportive? Yeah, probably, but they are also racist because race was the factor used to conclude each trait.

Reid's comments are the same, Obama is a good black candidate for president because he doesn't act typically black, implying that blacks acting black are NOT good candidates. Racism just the same.

Perhaps Sen. Reid and Fmr. Sen. Lott should lead Congress in the song, "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" from Avenue Q.

Posted by: Arlington_Libertarian | January 10, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Ruthie, let's talk about idiots. You used the word Negro in your column. You are an idiot. Don't EVER let us catch you using the word Caucasian. You caught onto the PC trend which appeared in the news a few days ago when some idiot said he was horribly offended by the word Negro. I have already sent out communiques to people to stop giving to the UNCF. I am horribly offended when people refer to my race as White. I am not white and you are an idiot if you say White. Start saying yellow and Red, Ruthie. And Brown and Slavic- American. You want to talk about idocy, Ruthie? We can give you 40 plus years of PC idiocy. And we can givce you 40 plus years of Democrat opportunists labelling things "racist". Why don't you want to talk about Trent Lott being forced from his position by idiots, Ruthie? Why don't you want to talk about Byrd? When they give a farewell to Byrd are your Dem friends going to be forced to resign if they tribute the KKK man? It's only Republicans who need to keep their mouths shut or resign, isn't it, Ruthie? Why don't you just go around to all the older Americans you can find who have been kind and generous to negroes all their lives and call them IDIOTS and STUPID, Ruthie?
You want to call me, or my parents idiots and stupid? You have the gall to write "suffocating culture of political correctness" out of one side of your mouth and then call people idiots and stupid out of the other side. Well, Ruthie, LISTEN UP: Negro, Negro, Negro, Negro, Negro.....you stupid idiot.

Posted by: chatard | January 10, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Somethings we don't think about color. I had a friend when in my teens that was black only he had a spanish background. It seems the moors from north africa moved into spain and were nolonger african. Then of cause they went to United States. It was years later that I realized this childhood friend was black. But than we sometimes don't always pay attention to such things.

Posted by: artg | January 10, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Hey readers, check any sociology text.
In Amrica, we judge ourselves by how well we speak English. That is why Obama speaks in such stilted English. There must be 50 to 100 million new Americans who are striving to speak standard American English. For someone to be born in this wonderful country and not speak standard English is not a question of skin color, it is just very sad.

Posted by: iamafg | January 10, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

This Just In!

George Stephanopoulos, remarks were "supposed to be "private."

George Stephanopoulos (D) ABC News, tried to put the best face on things during a conversation on a weekend show.

Steph said that Harry Reid's remarks about then-candidate Obama being "light-skinned" and having no "negro dialect" were supposed to be "private."
.

Posted by: geo82170 | January 10, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse


The Republican leader would be hounded without mercy by the same allegedly objective media professionals who are exonerating Reid.

KKK alumni Robert Byrd would have been defeated a long time ago, too, if he were a Republican.

Same old song, different verse.

Posted by: DagnyT | January 10, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Rather than seeking resolution to a major economic recession and an asymetric war, the chattering class indulges in the small and the petty. Its pure escapism.

Senator Reid is quite right to opine that many Americans found it possible to vote for Obama because he was "light-skinned" and didn't have a "Negro dialect." But, it is considered "politically correct" not to say so.

How about a little honesty in the chattering class and everywhere else, too. Lets stop rationalizing prejudices by being "politically correct."

Hey, Ms Marcus, assume you want to be elected to political office and assuming that your are Jewish, is your nose size acceptable? Do you see how small and petty this whole discussion is?

Posted by: pbarnett52 | January 10, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Oh, for heaven's sake! At least half the US population thought exactly what Reid said and I imagine everybody believes it's true.

Posted by: QBee1 | January 10, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Once all of us over 50 are dead and gone, this Country, will be less focused on a person skin color. Hopefully, the focus will be on trying to be the person God had in mind when he made mankind of all skin colors.

Posted by: auntminnie | January 10, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

It's always amusing, in a "children say the darnedest things" sort of way, to hear Republicans trying to talk about racism. It's something they rarely think about it, and have a very poor grasp on, so it ends up like watching kids with training wheels try to keep their little bikes upright. Same thing with sexism. They vaguely gather that the two concepts have something to do with when you make reference to sex or race, but the concept doesn't go much beyond that for them.

So to see people here, like Wallace_Quinn, thinking that pining for the old Jim Crow hero Strom Thurmond and how "the country would have been better off" (on what, monetary policy? science funding? whatever could Trent Lott have meant???) was not the very definition of racist, is sad but unsurprising. Sadly, conservatives have a long way to go in understanding this concept.

As far as Reid's comments about the "turn it on and off" accents, we've all seen that in a wide variety of candidates. Anyone old enough to remember the campaign of Yale-preppie Connecticut Yankee George H. W. Bush knows what I'm talking about. Get him down at a rally in Dallas, and "danged if he weren't jus' a local boy!". Or Hillary Clinton when you got her in the midwest. Many politicians are like this, and it's carefully crafted. People subconsciously respond to you as "in group", "one of my tribe" if you sound like them. It's extremely effective. I have no doubt that Obama turned his on and off too.

And the skin tone thing is something everybody talks about already. Reid was not being denigrating. That's the crux of it. Conservatives just don't get that basic distinction. Pining for the days of lynching when black men were called "boy" and knew not to talk to white women or sit in the fronts of buses in seats more fit for white folk... it's just like night and day. But they still don't get it. It's amazing, isn't it?

Posted by: B2O2 | January 10, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

So is the Obama buttboy and buttgirl media which is covering for rat and 1/2 Reid in this situation, going to continue to call anyone who disagrees with Obama a racist?

No, I'm sure they won't because one thing the media never is - is hypocrites.

Posted by: bandmom22 | January 10, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Republicans never have anything substantial to attack so this is what they jump on, it's all they got. I think when you evaluate comments like Reid made you need to look at the INTENT. Obviously it was meant to be a positive comment on Obama's electability in him being able to attract a larger electorate rather than just one group. It was really comment on logistics, the electorate and electability, and not at all meant to be racist, obviously. Why would Reid who was trying to get Obama elected at that point in time back in 2008 when this was said, say something racist about him? don't drink the Koolaid the Republicans are peddling, let's stay focused on what this country needs to do to get out of the huge gaping financial debt hole Bush and the Republicans dug for us all.

Posted by: Hillary08 | January 10, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

You want to call me, or my parents idiots and stupid?

Posted by: chatard

Judging from your unhinged post, yes, yes I do want to call you and your parents idiots and stupid.

Posted by: kreator6996 | January 10, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Isn't Harry Reid from Nevada? Isn't he Mormon? Didn't they ban blacks from participation in their church until after the invention of Television?

So if he used an oudated term, he's racist? He probably has few black constituents, so is anyone suprised he's out of touch.

Was Lott's praise of a segregationist like Thurmond political suicide, yes. Trent Lott has plenty of black constiuents in Mississippi, and his praise of Thurmond's policies was a slap in their faces.

I used the word "black" to describe african americans, becuase that is the term that was used in the late 70s, early 80s when I was raised. It's also the term my high school GF and her mother preferred for themselves when African American first appeared on the scene.

My kids will probably cringe if I still refer to african americans as "black" when I turn into an old white man.

Posted by: hatchlaw | January 10, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Steele is as hypocritical as the rest of his sad party these days.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/chi-talk-michael-steele-jan07,0,7450772.column

Susan Power, 85, the last living founding member of Chicago's American Indian Center, said she was offended by Steele's comment.

"I'm really disgusted with him," said Power, a longtime activist and member of the Dakota nation. "He's an intelligent man and I know he's probably kicking himself all over his office for saying it, but he should know better. It would hurt if he were white, but it hurts more because he's black. How can you be so stupid?"

She said that "injun" is one of two words -- the other is "squaw" -- that should never be used because they are throwbacks to a time when Native Americans were defined almost exclusively by negative stereotypes.

"Are we so unimportant that he couldn't have caught himself?" she said. "I would never use the N-word. I know not to. This man must know nothing about native people, that's what's so hard about this. Native Americans know everything about everybody else, but there's so little interest in knowing who we are."

Posted by: B2O2 | January 10, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Arguing equivalency between this and what Lott said is typical of the superficial analysis and intellectual dishonesty that pollutes our political discourse these days. Yes, if a Republican had said this it would have sparked a much bigger firestorm and likely would have resulted in a resignation. But that's because of the GOP's record over the last 50 years on racial issues. I agree with Marcus: Reid spoke the truth -- stupidly -- but it was the truth. And he does get different treatment (i) because he's a Democrat and a supporter of Obama, and (ii) because he was commenting on -- not engaging in -- the racial stereotyping in our society. Does anyone doubt that Trent Lott was speaking admiringly of Strom Thurmond's political (and racial) views? Of course! That's why he had to step down. Come on, people! Put your brains in gear before engaging your mouths.

Posted by: jac13 | January 10, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

The reaction to this article is so predictable that I question the point of even publishing it. People are going to react to Reid's comments (and Obama's response) based on their political affiliations and fundamental notions about race relations. In other words, there's not a lot of objective or progressive thought going on, just regurgitation of preconceived opinions and ideas.

I take it that Reid was trying to say that it was great to have an African American president with mainstream appeal -- the same point Biden attempted to make. But the choice of words was awful, and the underlying presumptions about mainstream America and our prejudices are obviously too close for comfort. The notion that lighter skin tone makes Obama more acceptable is particularly disturbing. And I'm tired of the implication that Obama's rhetorical skills are exceptional for a black man. His thoughtful, non-reactive, and logical presentation of ideas is stands out among political candidates of any race... And Biden and Reid should have left no room for doubt about their personal beliefs on this matter.

So I wouldn't personally take up the cause of defending Reid's comments. But I think Obama sets an admirable example by refusing to take personal offense at someone else's ignorance and clumsiness and for recognizing some misguided attempt to extend a compliment about his widespread appeal. It's true enough that white Americans are uneasy about having a president who is preoccupied with their minority identity, be it ethnic, religious, sexual orientation, or otherwise. (JFK being Catholic was no small issue in it's day.)

To me, Lott's suggestion that we'd be better off as a segregated society is disturbing in a more profound way. He was talking about public policy -- vaguely questioning the path America has taken toward promoting equality. Obama wasn't so much taking personal offense at Reid's comments, he was logically questioning the position of the Republican party on race relations and civil rights. The Republicans were wise to distance themselves from any notion that they would tolerate or promote a segregated society.

Posted by: MontaraCA | January 10, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

All Americans are racist. It's baked right into our culture.

Exhibit A: the census only asks 10 questions, and two of them are about 'race'. And NOBODY thinks this is weird.

Posted by: KAR_120C | January 10, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

"“your so articulate” I know White people honestly mean that as a compliment"

I've never heard that phrase used in that way, but those people probably said:

"you're so articulate"

You should probably understand the difference, or else you don't seem very articulate.

---------

You certainly worked and savored that insult, but in vain.

If you've "never *heard* that phrase used in that way," you're a rarity.

For most American speakers of English, "your" and "you're" are pronounced identically -- yər, ˈyu̇r, ˈyȯr -- hence the common typing mistake, even among the ahr-tik-yuh-lit.

The written error is almost never a failure of "understanding," neither of the difference in meaning between the words -- speakers invariably know the meaning they speak -- nor of "understanding" in the sense of general intelligence, as your insult would insinuate.

Pick on other people's hastily written posts at your own peril.

With so many errors in these posts, including in my own, one has to wonder about your intent in singling out this particular poster's mistake.

Posted by: washpost29 | January 10, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

In other words, racism is really astuteness and perceptiveness when our side does it, but just plain ol' racism when the other side does it.

Posted by: liam358 | January 10, 2010 12:47 PM
===============================
Of course. When your brain has voluntary left the building as you pursue policies beneficial to your adversaries and proven throughout history to fail anything is possible.

When you abandon all logic in pursuit of an ideal you can justify any behavior, statements, actions etc that pursue that ideal. Thus is the mental disorder classified as modern liberals.

Posted by: Cryos | January 10, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

MontaraCA wrote:

"The notion that lighter skin tone makes Obama more acceptable is particularly disturbing."

Yes it is, but it is a disturbing statement about white people, and has nothing to do with African Americans.

I actually haven't looked at the context of Reid's words, but if he was discussing the concept that a lighter skin tone is less threatening to some whites, that is simply pointing out (ie, being the horrible messenger on) an unfortunate reality among some WHITE people. I don't see how that is racist. It's about race, and it's uncomfortable to think about, but it's about the well-documented (see Marcus' citation of the fMRI study) reaction in WHITE people.

This is very different from, for instance, saying that Obama would BE a better president than a darker-skinned African American because those with more melanin actually are dangerous or would make poor decisions or whatever. That's what everyone seems to be missing here (if I understand that context right): Reid's comment was about WHITE people, NOT African Americans. Just a minor detail.

IMO, grouping this in with Trent Lott's homily to the glorious days of Southern Apartheid says a lot more about the commenter than it does about Reid.

Posted by: B2O2 | January 10, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Reid comment was most like Biden's and he is now Vice President of the United States. It is nothing comparable to Lott's desire for the return of segregation. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any exact reporting of the context to Reid's unfortunate words, but if they were in the context of whether the majority is more comfortable with lighter skinned African Americans who speak well, he undoubtedly was right as well as politically incorrect. In this respect, his comment was not a slam at the President or at African Americans so much as it was a reminder that, yes, there are still some in America who judge African Americans primarily on how they look and speak. Don't fool yourself, an Obama with Palin's strikingly poor command of the English language and lack of clear thought would never have made it to the Senate let alone to the Presidency. Another ah-ha moment--Michael Steele's comments were nothing more self-serving banter. As if the Republicans have ever been concerned about depictions of the African American community. I don't recall them stepping to the plate when the Obamas were characterized as militants; where were they (McCain excepted) when innocently taken pictures of Obama in Muslim garb were sent to the press for the specific purpose of inciting racist sentiments; hum, and how about the constant barrage of Rush Limbaugh Obama-isms (but then Steele is not allowed to tread on that rich soil). This stupid incident is Steele cache. Yesterday, he was on the hit list because of his book; today, the Republicans need an African American to be "offended"--another piece of gum thrown at the health care wall in the hope that it will stick. From man of attempted substance back to token in less than 24 hours and the Republican party is still wondering why African Americans are not running toward them in droves.

Posted by: CharacterCounts | January 10, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

While light-skinned Negroes are preferable to dark-skinned ones, the best is none at all.

Posted by: ravitchn | January 10, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Ruth Marcus, bless her heart, is often so much more alert than other opinionators. In this column we see that she knows that this brouhaha is not about Harry Reid or about President Obama or even about race. It is about how the shackles that we call "political correctness" so often constrain both private and public speech. Subtle gradations in skin color have been a constant topic of fascination and horror for American Negroes/African Americans for time out of mind. But God forbid any White/Anglo/European person should mention it. How can we have the national "dialogue" or "conversation" on race so often called for when 80% of the population is terrified of the PC police.

Posted by: miglefitz | January 10, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

So Marcus writes every day now.
The Post so poor that even it's editorial board members must fill some space every day. Even a silly obvious vanilla piece like this one.

Apparently the Post's on it's last legs. What will we do without the Israel Centric propoganda? Krauthammer, Kristol, Milbank,Cohen et.al.

Posted by: whistling | January 10, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

We spent the whole Democratic primary arguing over whether America was ready to elect a black man. It's hardly surprising that Senators argued over the same question.

In the linguistics field we have replaced "negro dialect" or even "Ebonics" with African-American Vernacular English. It doesn't exactly trip off the tongue though...

Posted by: philogratis | January 10, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

"He's clean and articulate too". Say that as a Republican and you're a bigot. Say it as a democrat and you're the Vice President.

Posted by: carlbatey | January 10, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Once again, Conservatives prove that a drowning man will grasp at a straw.

Posted by: JD15 | January 10, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Republican's are yet once again looking like whinny fools and the party of obstruction and divisiveness. There is a difference between personally expressing racist thoughts and acknowledging that racist thoughts still exist in others.

It is NOT racist to acknowledge that racism exist (Reid). It IS racist to imply that the country would have been better off with segregation (Lott).

It is despicable to use the "race card" for political gain.... to do so inappropriately is even worse - gutter politics in it's lowest form... but then what's new from Republicans these days?

Posted by: mb56 | January 10, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Do people not realize that Reid was making a statement about white racist attitudes? This was a comment about white people, not about African Americans. It was pointing out an unfortunate reaction that some whites have to skin tone and accent.

It's like if your friend Mary was lamenting the mean spiritedness of your bitter and socially inept co-worker, who consistently makes snide snickering remarks about the old car you drive. Mary is the messenger (Harry Reid) lamenting the co-worker (white racists). Mary isn't talking about you, or your car, she's talking about what a shame it is that your co-worker has such a sad life that he is focussed on running down your choice in cars.

It's sad that people are so confused over this. Do they hear "race" and shift their brains into neutral? I do believe so.

Posted by: B2O2 | January 10, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

If Harry Reids statement that “light-skinned” African American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” makes for a viable candidate and this, according to the authors headline, is "accurate analysis" then what you are saying is a dark, ethnic speaking negro is cannot be elected to office. Sounds racist to me.

Posted by: mbjohnson | January 10, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: johntu; just think, what if Sarah Palin had made the same statement.


ANSWER;
thinkink ; thinking ; thinking ; thinking..............DIIINNNG!!!!!

Still she wouldn't be able to say it, because she loves black men.

Posted by: BOBSTERII | January 10, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

This was a really dumb comment along with being racist. Would someone define just what a "Negro dialect" is? I am a white southerner and I have had northern friends and acquaintances tell me that it is difficult at times for them to distinguish between white and black southerners over the telephone. Well, naturally, unless the whites hail from the Appalachian hills. That´s southern. I also recognize a dialect from the northern cities that many African Americans use, and perhaps that´s what Reid had in mind. It just seems to be more appropriate to say that many African Americans have different dialects, just like whites, Hispanics, et al, according to region, level of education, and perhaps sense of humor. I´ve know several educated southern white men who love to put on the "well Ah´ll be danged" accent just to fool unsuspecting "furriners" (otherwise known as Yangkees).

Posted by: Aquarius1 | January 10, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

The extreme right wing pines away for a time when women and black people knew their places and white men had the power to work their will with impuny. Take away women's right to work, women's right to vote, women's right to choose, and you've almost got the world of 1955 if not 1895. Put back the school segregation, the "we reserve the right not to serve anybody we choose" lunch counter public accommodation discrimination, the poll taxes, the lynchings, the pervasive fear that oversexed black men craved the affections of white women, and you've almost got the world of 1859 Mississippi. Ah, say right wing Traditionalist, THOSE were the days. If science were more familiar than religion, people would generally understand that racial differences are biologically insignificant. What differences there are between races emerge from the social contexts in which people of different colors are raised. The master race teaches the slave races that they are intrinsically stupid and require the guidance and discipline the master race offers. This is clannishness, a useful construct from early human existence, extended to the industrial world. It has gotta go.

Posted by: BlueTwo1 | January 10, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

To B2O2:

We are essentially in agreement. I believe Reid was pointing out that Obama's skin color made him more acceptable in the eyes of the majority electorate, not that he thought it was any valid indicator of inherent suitability. It doesn't suggest that Reid is a racist; it says he thinks a significant number of Americans are. I'm not sure I agree wholeheartedly on this assessment of the importance of the subtleties of skin tone, but the point is well taken. As I said, it hits too close to home to not wind up being a controversial comment.

As for dialect, communication requires being able to reach your audience. Obama has the intelligence and sophistication to adapt his oratory style to his audience. Bush, in contrast, attempted to charm us all with his pseudo-folksy Texan colloquialisms. To some it read "you're one of us!" to others it read "I don't care who you are or what makes sense to you."

Reid likewise sounded boorishly unsophisticated using the phrase "negro dialect." Maybe it's not racist per se, but it's so antiquated as to come off as woefully insensitive and out of touch.

Posted by: MontaraCA | January 10, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

"It's a double standard and extremely hypocritical."


Indeed and just goes to make it clear that the Republicans are only concerned with promoting Republicans and bringing-down Democrats. They are not just the Party of No, they are also the Party of "Heads, I am right and tails you are wrong".

Posted by: dubya1938 | January 10, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

I wish that people would focus upon more important things. I agree with Republicans that if _____________ said these things all hell would break loose.

I'll remember Harry Reid along with Max Bacus for the flawed health-care nonsense. Otherwise, Reid is a forgettable hack, no different from the rest of the folks in Washington watching the country slide and slide downhill.

Posted by: rusty3 | January 10, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Obama's mother was white. He is a dark skinned white man.

Posted by: AlanGoldberg54 | January 10, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

POTUS Mao Bama, aka "the Liar in Chief" IS "light skinned" and "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one." !!! .......AND, I will NOT apologize !!! I don't feel a need to apologize for telling the truth !!!

Posted by: thgirbla | January 10, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

who really cares?liz cheney doesnt acre michael steele doesnt care. they are just looking for something to cause division.the president doesnt care. hes trying to do some work for america.and these idiots could care less about what reid said or america.i for one am getting tired and fed up with this he said s**t.let the man do the job he was elected to do.

Posted by: donaldtucker | January 10, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

I don't see anything racist in commenting about dialect. There were frequent comments about Jimmy Carter's dialect, and the discussion of Black English Vernacular (aka "Ebonics") is the subject of hundreds of linguistic papers and dissertations.

Dialects exist. Everyone, even those of us who speak a standard, literate, "white" American English dialect, speak a dialect--it's just a prestigious one.

To claim that it doesn't matter which dialect a candidate speaks is disingenuous.

Trent Lott's opinion that "we" would have been better off if Strom Thurmond had succeeded as a candidate for segregation is also worth discussing--but largely because of how reprehensible his statement was.

So how is Senator Reid's comment similar? After all, Harry Reid was stating his opinion that there is still racism in this country, and that, well, speech and looks do matter. Does anyone on here really disagree with that?

Posted by: ricklinguist | January 10, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

I don't like Harry Reid as a leader of the senate but it wasn't ignorant or out of place to tell the truth and that's what Reid did.I'm sick and tired of black's making everything racist,they do and the media is so happy to let them get away with it.Michael Steele who is about to get fired is as usual shooting his mouth off about Reid resigning--who cares what Steel thinks speaking of idiots

Posted by: LDTRPT25 | January 10, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

"The extreme right wing pines away for a time when women and black people knew their places and white men had the power to work their will with impuny. Take away women's right to work, women's right to vote, women's right to choose, and you've almost got the world of 1955 if not 1895. Put back the school segregation, the "we reserve the right not to serve anybody we choose" lunch counter public accommodation discrimination, the poll taxes, the lynchings, the pervasive fear that oversexed black men craved the affections of white women, and you've almost got the world of 1859 Mississippi. Ah, say right wing Traditionalist, THOSE were the days."

The funny thing is that you went from one thing through another to get to this point, and if the former depends on the latter, white men are a lot weaker than they want to admit. If they need to subjugate women and blacks (not to mention black women) to be happy in life? I mean, what do you do with this?

However, the flip side of this is that if they would be happy if blacks and women (not to mention black women) were subjugated, then it would be virtually impossible for a woman or a black (not to mention a black woman) to hold a major political office, at least where white men play a significant role in the constituency. But in any constituency that you want to name, of any significance whatsoever, women outnumber men (at least in the civilian world). Obama should finally put to rest all of this stereotyping, but amazingly it seems that yet again if there are 50 wrong explanations for something, someone will continue to believe every one of them even when the correct explanation is clear. The question, in the end, is simply one of whether you are going to argue with every idiot who believes in all of the wrong answers.

This is a simple question. The RNC can call for Reids (and Pelosis') head on a daily basis about 20 things. You either listen to them or you don't. But do you seriously think about why they are doing this?

It's obvious why they are doing this.

Posted by: dubya1938 | January 10, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Let's be frank here: there is nothing that Obama or the Democrats can do that will make the Republicans happy other than either to resign or promote Republicans, one for not being Republicans, and second for supporting Obama in the first place. A black Democratic president has no chance in hell of gaining the support of the Republicans in this country short of, literally, resigning and promoting them to his seat in the government.

We need to accept that on both sides, and just move on.

Posted by: dubya1938 | January 10, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Ruth, this is a courageous and excellent article.
And I 2nd these comments from wsking:
“A fairly racist comment,” declared Liz Cheney on ABC’s “This Week.”
No, a racist comment was when Congressman Dick Cheney supported South African Apartheid, declaring that Mandela should be kept in prison for his own good!

Posted by: paris1969 | January 10, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

I believe Reid's statement shows he's an idiot like the article says, but it also shows his true character. He is so inept he is an unwitting puppet for Obama. I.e., he is blindly abetting Obama in his effort to "fundamentally transform America". Obama is taking advantage of Reid's unrelenting revenge toward the republicans.

If I lived in Nevada I would be ashamed to say he was my senator. If I lived in Nevada I wouldn't walk 10 feet to vote for him, but I would walk 10 miles to vote against him.

Posted by: thehamptons1 | January 10, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Palin and McCain ran a very racist campaign, remember the emphasis in Barack HUSSEIN Obama and the tacit encouragement of "lynch him" shouts from the audience. Since then various republicans have encouraged the birther campaign where various nutcases refuse to accept Obama's legitimacy. The stated rationale is that he was not born in the USA but the subtext is that they don't accept the legitimacy of a black president. Reid's comments on how Obama are very innocuous. As for 'Negro accent', to say 'Black accent' wouldn't make sense. Isn't it like saying somebody speaks Mexican?

Posted by: glennet | January 10, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Second generation Asian people speak the same standard English that 80% of us speak. Why is this?

A majority of "African American" people whose family has been here for 200 years speak with a "Negro" accent and grammar. Why is this?

Posted by: billwald | January 10, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

So, side by side, and knowing very little about each, would people vote for Al Sharpton or Barack Obama? When most images we see of Black folks on TV are athletes or entertainers who use more "street" than "library" talk and dress in hip hop style, seeing a handsome, conservatively dressed, well-spoken Black family man is a plus. Gee, how much lower do conservatives have to dig themselves to find an idea? They offer nothing so they try to raise cain with a two-year old statement.

Posted by: mikel7 | January 10, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Don't you wonder what Reid thinks of Michelle Obama? If Obama's light skin makes him attractive, does her darker skin make her unattractive?

I bet in his eyes, if she was lighter skinned they would make the perfect couple. Harry, your true character is showing!

Posted by: thehamptons1 | January 10, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Reid is an embarrassment.Scurrying down the corridors of OUR Whitehouse like a weasel - plotting back room legislation, resorting to bribery to get bills passed, calling main street Americans insulting names. Disgusting little vermin with a mouth that overflows with ignorance and intolerance of others.

Posted by: inmanorj | January 10, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Marcus, I generally respect your opinion, but in this case it's pure sophistry. This is a clear case of a double standard and there's no denying it. Explaining it away only highlights the hypocrisy.

Posted by: squid1 | January 10, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Harry Reid acted like an idiot once before also. Does Roland Burris ring a bell. Reid didn't Burris in the Senate because he was a black man. So that blows his theory about a Negro man who speaks with a dialect. The truth always comes out. A slip of the tongue. A cat out of the bag. Harry Reid wasn't talking about the people, he was talking about himself. The only reason Reid supported President Obama is because he's a light skin African American who doesn't speak with a Negro dialect. Reid hasn't listened to the people so far so, which proves it's what Reid was thinking.The white boy Democrat mentally surfaced again and it's no big deal, because the blacks know their for the people so it's OK to be a racist. Right Reid.

Posted by: houstonian | January 10, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Marcus's use of the word "idiot" in reference to the words of Senator Reid is no better than the senator's words about President Obama. And those who decry that there is no "Black English" are evidently unaware of the term, "Black Standard English", derived, in part, from the Gullah and Geechee African-American cultures. Anyone familiar with the language patterns of African-Americans in South Carolina and Georgia are aware of differences in language patterms. I suspect that all the brouhaha over Senator Reid's comments is being fomented by the Republican Party and the press.

Posted by: marmac5 | January 10, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

"Second generation Asian people speak the same standard English that 80% of us speak. Why is this?...A majority of "African American" people whose family has been here for 200 years speak with a "Negro" accent and grammar. Why is this?"Posted by: billwald | January 10, 2010 4:41 PM

For the same general reasons that white people in Mississippi don't speak the same as white people in Minnesota, or that steel workers in Pittsburgh don't speak the same as high school teachers or college professors in Pittsburgh. Language is a marker of our identity.

Language is a social phenomenon. We end up speaking like the people in the speech community we most identify with as peers.

I had a white grad student who grew up in Anacostia and spoke Black English Vernacular (BEV). Well, to be fair, she was bi-dialectal and could switch between BEV and standard American English. So can many Black people. We speak like our peers, and sometimes, that means switching between dialects --or even languages-- depending on who we are identifying with at the time.

Posted by: ricklinguist | January 10, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Marmac, I'm sure Mr. Reid is, like you, informed on the different speech patterns between African-Americans and white Americans, and his comments were actually intellectually-informed and race-sensitive. I'm also sure that Obama didn't grow up in SC (in fact, half a world away), had one white parent from Kansas and a Kenyan father, who had as much in common with the Gullah dialect as Harry Reid. In other words, your theory is strained to say the least.

Posted by: squid1 | January 10, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Ruth,

I know I should not be shocked, but come on, there is not a chance you would defend anyone but a fellow far left wing nut and the fact that you are trying to say otherwise is pretty funny. Did you defend Lott, of course not.

You far left wing nuts believe you can have it both ways and decide what is racist or not. Using language that is from the jim crow era is exactly what Reid said. His opinion that obama could speak is also a thought pattern from the jim crow days.

Oh well, if it were not for double standards, you libs would not have standards. Keep it up, it won't be long before you are in the minority again.

Posted by: irish031 | January 10, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Letsgetreal makes an interesting point, but I would say that he is mistaken about how white people assess each others' speaking styles. When I hear a deep Southern accent, especially from a white male, I have to force myself to listen with an open mind to what is being said. My expectations for any sensible remarks about topics other than cars or football are not high. Incidentally, I was born below the Mason Dixon Line.

I do a certain amount of public speaking, and it is very common for people to tell me that I speak unusually well. My adopted grandson, now 25, tells me that hanging out with me as a baby and a young child gave him a vocabulary that was seriously superior to thqat of his peers. He thanks me for it from time to time.

How people speak is influenced by their family of origin, their education, their willingness to pay attention to speaking well, and their general approach to living in the world. People size each other up with respect to this quality all the time, irrespective of skin color.

Posted by: carolyn4driving1 | January 10, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

No wonder race relations are so bad. The white people who think this was "ill-advised" or racist are clueless. Just mentioning race is not in and of itself discriminatory or indicative of any prejudice.

What is racist is constantly ignoring the plight of low income people of color in our midst, always using money as an excuse even as we waste trillions on war and financila bailouts for the rich and hundreds of millions on baseball stadiums that aid us in keeping America's "untouchables" invisible. Racist is when you ignore people who need help as you breeze by to your next "important" meeting, into a fancy restaurant that the homeless could never even dream of eating in, or almost running someone over in your expensive car because you value poor people so little. Racist is yelling at someone for even having the temerity for interrupting your highness to ask for some change. Racist is all of the condescending white liberals who all of these years later only have a token black friend or two who thinks just like them--the ones who would never invite someone from a different class out for a bit to eat, or home for dinner with their family. Racist is when conservatives don't even have any black friends. Racist is when you think you have the right to blow up tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children because someone attacked you.

Posted by: faithfulservant3 | January 10, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Ruth Marcus, it is the height of hypocritical for a progressive left author of an opinion piece in the Washington Post to call the Republicans actions on anything "incessant partisanship".

Nor do your attempted justifications for Reid's comments justify them at all. Reid should step down from his leadership position because comments like his, justifications like yours are racist in themselves. Racism isn't ok just because it is done for political reasons, or to win a political race.

Nor is President Obama accepting the apology make it ok. It is racism whether it is done by a progressive or a Democrat, a black or a white. Stop justifying it in the name of winning a political race if you truly believe it is wrong.

Posted by: win1 | January 10, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Reid's comment had more to do with an assessment of the inherent prejudices of the voting populace rather than any racially insensitive remark toward Obama.

The unfortunate reality is that appearance does matter when it comes to popular appeal of elected officials. The American public was drawn to Obama's intellect, charisma, and message of hope and change, but they also felt that they could identify with his overall persona.

If Sarah Palin were unattractive or overweight, she would not be nearly as popular in right wing circles, especially since she is so lacking in the other attributes that make someone electable.

Posted by: labman57 | January 10, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

What the Democrat Senate Majority Leader was saying, implicitly, was that were Senator Obama darker skinned, or had he a "negro dialect," he would not make a good presidential candidate. Who in their right mind doesn't find that offensive?! Stop making stupid excuses. I can't believe the contortions you Dems will go through to give this guy a pass. Every D would be calling for resignation if an R had said that, and that is just a fact.

Posted by: TriggerfromErie | January 10, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

"It was striking during the campaign how Hawaii-born, Indonesia-raised"

For 3 years obama lived in indonesia.. for 14 he lived with his white family in hawaii...
now explain how he was indonesian raised.. by being in indonesian for a few years when he wasn't old enough to pee standing up...

Posted by: tru-indy | January 10, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Why don't any of you have the balls to state what is obvious to me?

You rage that most media outlets are defending Harry Reid for his comment while having failed to defend Trent Lott's comments in 2002. Instead of accusing Ruth Marcus and the rest of the establishment of liberal bias (media is liberal, of course, but not biased), why not come out and say what you really mean?

That is, why does the media defend the Democrats but not Republicans? The answer is plainly "by their deeds you shall know them". Democrats (and Harry Reid) have supported policy after policy that aids the underprivileged, working-class, and poverty-stricken - which the African-American community is more likely to be (or at least sympathize with) - while most Republicans (and Trent Lott) enact barriers and obstacles for those attempting to escape poverty.

The mainstream media is simply supporting Reid, whose remarks when put in context, can plainly be seen as non-racist.

Posted by: scadolph | January 10, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Harry Reid is a Mormon. Even today, the Mormon Church allows no blacks, African-Americans, whatever, to hold the vaunted position of elder. This is not exaggeration or bigotry. It's just a fact, a cold hard fact that the Church would not, and will not talk about. Until the 1950s 0r 60s intermarriage between blacks and whites was specifically forbidden. Today, while not overtly forbidden, it is definitely not the "done" thing.

Posted by: m_richert | January 10, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

I'm really not interested in Ms. Marcus'
analysis of Sen Reid's 2008 subconscious
racism and its implications nor Obama's
rationalization of it.

BUT where are the Revs. Al & Jesse?

They were quick to annihilate Imus for a lot less!

Where are you Reverends?

Posted by: Concerned14 | January 10, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

I agree that we are hypersensitive about race, to the point where we are not making much progress on race, at least publicly, because there are so many gotcha moments, such as this one. But one of the implicit facts underlying this discussion that people tend to pave over is that we don't want people in power to sound uneducated. Maybe we do want pallid, colorless sounding politicians, but we don't want ignorant hillbillies, hiphop dialecticians or anybody else who can't speak properly. It's kind of a shame that Harry Reid saying something that everyone knows is true has to kowtow to the PC police. I wonder who are these mythical PC arbiters anyway? Do they have an office somewhere? They were on the rampage a couple of years ago, when a government official was fired for using the word "niggardly" during a discussion of civic finances. He was eventually reinstated but clearly there are too many taking umbrage as perceived payback.

Posted by: tedross1 | January 10, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

“A fairly racist comment,” declared Liz Cheney on ABC’s “This Week.”
No, a racist comment was when Congressman Dick Cheney supported South African Apartheid, declaring that Mandela should be kept in prison for his own good!

Posted by: wsking | January 10, 2010 12:23 PM

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What an ignorant statement. Cheney did not support apartheid. Mandela was in prison because he was accused of sabatoge and he refused to renounce violence as a means of achieving racial equality. His ANC was considered a terrorist organizations by many nations, including the US. Cheney, along with the majority of Americans, was against formal recognition of the ANC, which was what Mandela wanted.

Posted by: anna_78750 | January 10, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Hasn't the right-wing got the self-awareness needed to see the absurdity in their position in calling for Reid to resign?

By clamoring for Reid's resignation because of a dumb comment made, while crying foul about the pervasiveness of "political correctness" in today's media shows an astute lack of self-awareness.

It reeks of opportunism, which the public hasn't taken too well lately - see the public's reaction to the attempted politicization by the GOP of the failed airline attack.

Posted by: scadolph | January 10, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

scadolph, it is certainly not obvious to me that Democrats have done more for the poor and under priviledged. As I have been poor and under priviledged do consider myself as likely to form my own opinion on this.

Republicans are just as willing to help the poor and under priveledged, but via a different path then Democrats.

While the path the Democrats choose is one that takes takes from the individuals, gives to the government and redistributes, the Republicans prefer a path that leads to less reliance on the government.

Thank you Republicans for the opportunities you created whereby I could improve myself and my life instead of relying upon government for my food, housing, and health care. Thank you for expecting me to be repsonsible and helping to create the chance for me to show that I am important enough to me to support myself. I never realized how much more satisfying and happy I would be with myself as a person when I supported myself rather then relying upon my government to do it.


Posted by: win1 | January 10, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

So, because Reid was commenting on the fact that Obama is relatively light complected and doesn't sound "ghetto" he would make a fine candidate for president.

What if a Republican had said "I think Obama is electable as a black man because he isn't too dark and doesn't have a heavy "black" accent?" What would the reaction to that have been?

We all know what would have happened, so quit spinning.

Harry Reid was saying that Obama would be acceptable to the majority of Americans because Obama wasn't too "black."

And, by the way, I hear more blacks referring to others as being "too black" or "not a real black man" than I hear whites talking about that.

Let's just be honest, shall we? With his lack of experience, Obama would never have made it past Super Tuesday in the primaries if he hadn't been black, and the "educated", "elite" blacks in this country wouldn't have voted for him if he was "too dark" or sounded at all "ghetto."

Obama had the right look and the right education at a time that many in this country desperately wanted to vote for a black man for president to prove how far we've come from our "racist" past. It didn't really matter that he wasn't qualified - he looked and sounded the part and appealed to people's emotions.

Posted by: anna_78750 | January 10, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

"Reid’s blundering comments were made in the context of supporting an African American candidate, not praising a segregationist one."

One wonders then just how the left will spin the nature of B. Clinton's comments to Ted Kennedy, while trying to gain his endorsement for Hillary's run, that just a few years ago (at the time Senator) B. Obama would have been "serving them coffee"?
After more than a half-century of continuing to further enslave minorities in perpetual dependence on government handouts, the controlling left-wing of the Democrats has twisted its core principles into competition with its racial/racist pandering. That leaks from the backrooms of this duplicitous crowd are forgiven in the pursuit of the absolute corruption of absolute power should surprise no close observer.

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

Letsgetreal makes an interesting point, but I would say that he is mistaken about how white people assess each others' speaking styles. When I hear a deep Southern accent, especially from a white male, I have to force myself to listen with an open mind to what is being said. My expectations for any sensible remarks about topics other than cars or football are not high. Incidentally, I was born below the Mason Dixon Line.

I do a certain amount of public speaking, and it is very common for people to tell me that I speak unusually well. My adopted grandson, now 25, tells me that hanging out with me as a baby and a young child gave him a vocabulary that was seriously superior to thqat of his peers. He thanks me for it from time to time.

How people speak is influenced by their family of origin, their education, their willingness to pay attention to speaking well, and their general approach to living in the world. People size each other up with respect to this quality all the time, irrespective of skin color.

Posted by: carolyn4driving1 | January 10, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You don't speak for all white people. Judging people based on their accents is just as bigoted as judging them based on skin color. You may speak well, but you are also arrogant and ignorant.

Posted by: anna_78750 | January 10, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

America...I am so tired of all the Hate...Please get over yourselves. We need to pull closer together rather than turning our weapons (our tongs) on each other.

Posted by: KB1975 | January 10, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

"Marcus, You just said Reid was right. What is the negro dialect? Please explain how Reid was right that Obama has no Negro dialect. I am black and I have never heard of the Negro dialect."

Posted by: honeylamb

Honeylamb, you gotta be kidding!
You likely live it.
Which puts you in the same class as one NY Jewish lung-izlandare talking to another. "Frekin' - A Accent? Wwiii, an accent yah sayh??"

Being white, I can tell a stranger who is talking to me on the phone is black in well under a minute unless they are well-educated blacks or are black foreigners that learned a cleaner English diction and vocabulary abroad. Then they sound like a white person or fluent English Asian born in the USA, and I can't tell the difference..

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | January 10, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure that America is ready to elect a "really black" person with a strong Black-English dialect. Why not? As long as he/she is at least as intelligent as Sarah Palin he/she ought to have a good chance.

Posted by: johnnormansp | January 10, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

What a service Reid has done us! Marcus, Robinson, and the other WaPo Democratic stooges are now exposed as hypocrites. Who cares about their opinion on these matters anymore?

Posted by: grohlik | January 10, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

"But there's a big difference between Reid 2008 and Jackson 1984 -- or, more to the point, Lott 2002. When the then-soon-to-be-former Majority Leader Trent Lott said that the United States could have avoided “all these problems” if Strom Thurmond’s 1948 segregationist campaign for president had succeeded, there was an unmistakable -- if unintended -- whiff of racism. As much as Republican critics would like to use the incident for partisan purposes, Reid’s blundering comments were made in the context of supporting an African American candidate, not praising a segregationist one."

What a joke. Lott was making an offhanded comment praising on old man at his retirement. There was nothing racial about the comment at all.

I agree that the Reid thing is no big deal, but it is far worse than anything Lott did and only mindless partisan hypocrites could think otherwise.

Posted by: bobmoses | January 10, 2010 7:18 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 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Harry Reid is a perfect leader for the Democrats.

Posted by: neilwied | January 10, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse

In the same book, Bill Clinton said a far more "insensitive" (and accurate) remark than either Reid or Lott.

In entreating Teddy Kennedy for an endorsement, he emphasized that Hillary was the far more experienced and adept candidate. To illustrate, he mentioned that only two years back "That guy would have been fetching coffee for either of us."

Teddy was "offended", as a good liberal who loves blacks, provided they are at a proper distance from his Hyannisport or Palm Beach digs, should be loved. By such a liberal observing his own affirmative action Code.
According the Heileman, this was in part an impetus on Kennedy's thinking to "lean" Obama at that point.

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | January 10, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Ruth,
It's more simple than he 'acted' like an idiot.

Reid is a dangerous idiot (ruining our economy).
Pelosi " " " .
Obama " " " .

How about focusing on the big stuff, Ruth.

Posted by: sbourg55 | January 10, 2010 8:11 PM | Report abuse

After 40 years of the "Southern Strategy" and white supremacist cheerleading, the GOP is going to get all huffy and puffy about political correctness? Does it get any more phony than this? Sorry, guys. If you wanted to be the party of Lincoln, you should have kept it when you had it.

Posted by: rbmurals | January 10, 2010 8:17 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 a leader.

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

Posted by: JamesRaider | January 10, 2010 8:30 PM | Report abuse

Ruth Marcus is right. Most everyone knows exactly what Reid was expressing and that it is a basically true observation. I think that all the screaming about Lott was also phony indignation. It was pretty obvious that he was just trying to say something kind to a 100 year old man.

It seems that a good deal of the finger-pointing and cries of racism is feigned outrage. It is one reason that it is so hard to have any kind of serious discussion of race.

Posted by: LouBear | January 10, 2010 8:30 PM | Report abuse

All the ruckus - is just a ruse...to keep your attention from the most important issues facing the United States and every American born and those yet to be born - the "health care reform bill."

Most of us are multi-ethnic...and any reference to anyone's ethnicity or skin color or race - is simply rhetorical vapor...and means nothing.

WHY THE HELL AREN'T YOU SCREAMING ABOUT THE DEMOCRATS HIDING THE HEALTH CARE LEGISLATION AND REFUSING TO ALLOW AMERICANS INPUT AND INFORMATION INTO ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECES OF LEGISLATION...ONE THAT HAS THE ABILITY TO FOREVER CRIPPLE THIS COUNTRY!

Because the media has fed you and me a line...and we are taking it...like sheep...

Posted by: easttxisfreaky | January 10, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Democrats should be carefull not to break their backs bending over backwards to apologize for Harry Reid's comments. I guess it's okay to use racial slurs as long as you are a Democrat praising a minority. Is that the logic here? Everyone knows Trent Lott was not praising segregation but trying to be nice to an old guy. Democrats knew it too but used it as a political wedge to rid themselves of one of their biggest opponents. Do Democrats really expect Republicans to give Harry Reid a pass? The hypocrisy of the whole thing is stunning.

Posted by: LivinginthePromisedLand | January 10, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

I am a person of color, an African American, Black person, a Soul Brother, Afro-American, colored person, Negro and African. At various periods in the social history of this great nation, I and the vast majority of others sharing my hue have "respectfully self-indentified" using each of these misnomers to describe our ethicity, culture,race or place in society.

Having been robbed of our tribal and national heritage we have been unable to self identify as other hypenated Americans i.e.Irish-American, German-American, Italian-American. If so we would have been Yoruba-American, Ibo- American, Hausa-American etc.

My Father was a very proud man who self identified as "negro" if asked. Negro to him was not insulting or demeaning in any way. He loved Negroes and so do I. Yes the term is archaic and politically out of step, It is not demeaning, it reflects the social history of a generation and the community that Mr. Reid and my Father grew up in. Negro was not a social slur then and it is not now. It is out of vogue and it is a very imprecise representation of a people. "Negro dialect" is equally imprecise.

The author of this article is correct, Mr. Reids political analysis was correct. The issue deserving dialouge is why in 2010 is Sentor Reids observations still true?

Posted by: cboga | January 10, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse

@ Ombudsman1 - Thank you for the correction. I will sleep better tonight knowing that the grammar police are out in full force.

"With so many errors in these posts, including in my own, one has to wonder about your intent in singling out this particular poster's mistake."

I can answer that question. This person has too much time on their hands.

Posted by: letsgetreal | January 10, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

Reid is simply a product of his generation and his Mormon religion whose past history regarding Blacks is dubious.

Posted by: coloradodog | January 10, 2010 9:08 PM | Report abuse

It was Ruth's party, the Democrats, that started the race baiting game. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, you just want to wave it away. Much like everything with the hypocritical left, your chickens are coming home to roost. You started this fight - quit acting like girls about it.

Posted by: gorams1 | January 10, 2010 9:30 PM | Report abuse

With all the Reid bashing, let's not forget about the VP who expressed a more nuanced version of Reid's idiocy:

"I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean that's a storybook, man."

Interesting how Obama has to extend forgiveness to those closest to him (fellow democrats). As an "articulate", "bright" and "clean" black male, I've noticed that the left's facination with race and sex to the detriment of my individuality is the most insidious form of racism alive.

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

You see a lot of comments starting with, If it was a Republican....

People who are non-white overwhelmingly vote democratic and know that most Democratic politicians are far more friendly towards people of other races and are more likely to fight for their causes. Remember, Bill Clinton is referred to as America's first black President. So when a Democrat makes a comment like what Reid has done, most people of other races would accept it as 'poor choice of words'

Majority of other races do not view the Republicans the same way and for good reason.

Posted by: pattr1 | January 10, 2010 11:08 PM | Report abuse

This is an example of how little Americans know about the USA. Reid is old and in the pass before the Civil Rights Bill in 1964, many blacks had to pass for other race to get jobs. Wake up people Blacks were denied jobs/seats and everything else. Many of our senior Law Makers refer to the pass when speaking because the US has changed and they don't recognize it. Now Lott didn't know Strom Thurmond had a black daugher and he was supporting her at the time Lott spoke about bringing back the pass. Notice how few if any Republicans speak of Strom now. Yes Strom fell in love with a black lady and had a daughter but the times of racism wouldn't allow them to be together. But love for the woman and her daughter stayed with Strom all his life and he loved his daughter. Now when we stop calling each other white or black Americans and just plain Americans we will see racism gone. I'm an American who happens to be of color thank you.

Posted by: qqbDEyZW | January 10, 2010 11:52 PM | Report abuse

The media and of course the Republicans are making a mountain out of a mole hill on this one. What Reid said was in fact true, and I fail to see where it was so horrible, or even racist. As Marcus pointed out, there is a "negro dialect" in this country, and it certainly would not have sat well with a majority of American voters. Having said that, I've never known any well educated black people who speak in that dialect. I think it's also true to say that having lighter skin and one white parent was also helpful.

Posted by: ggwalt | January 11, 2010 12:45 AM | Report abuse

B. Hussein Obama, a.k.a. The Mohammedan in Chief:

1/2 White
7/16 Arab
1/16 Black

Posted by: JohnMD1022 | January 11, 2010 3:12 AM | Report abuse

I want Harry Lott-er, I mean, RIED, to stay RIGHT where he is. He'll be of great assistance to Republicans come November. I want Pelosi, Boxer, Biden and Obama and the whole stinking, smelly incompetent and corrupt mess to sit and fester and fail for the next year. I want this ridiculous health care nonsense to pass. I want the world to see how unglued DimmoKrats become and how amateurish is their management of crisis.

Then, when everyone is wise to the fact that these people have NO idea what they're doing, Republicans can roll back in and reverse their experiments, policies and set thing back to order, if not perfection.

There IS no perfection. All we can hope for is destruction of our enemies, that the economy produces some jobs and products and that some measure of confidence be restored to our foreign creditors and allies that we aren't going to break the bank with nonsensical notions of endless social entitlement. The DimmoKratz are well and truly out of control.

Experiment OVER.

Posted by: JamesChristian | January 11, 2010 4:07 AM | Report abuse

You leftists can make yourselves dizzy trying to spin this thing, but just like Obamacare, cap and tax, and the global warming hoax, the people see right through you. Reid is a senile old racist fart, who has no more business in his job than KKK Byrd does..

Posted by: wewintheylose | January 11, 2010 5:21 AM | Report abuse

We are living in a "Cotten Club" society once again. Think About it!

The most successful "black" people today are the ones that do not look overly African. They are light-skinned, straight haired people of mixed race that have caucasian facial features. This is especially true of Hollywood and fashion media.

True "African" looking blacks are not desired by American society. Obama cashed in on his looks and the fact that he talks "white".

What Harry Reid said is true but if a Republican had said it, that Republican would be hounded out of office by the vast, liberal establishment. No appologies would be accepted.

Posted by: battleground51 | January 11, 2010 6:27 AM | Report abuse

Light-skinned? Really? I'm no expert on skin shades, but he's not all that light, and his features are recognizably those of his African father, unlike for example, celebrities of an earlier age like Lena Horne. I think the mention Reid made of the non-dialectical manner in which Obama speaks is the valid part of the comment; the rest makes no sense to me.

Posted by: crestthree | January 11, 2010 6:41 AM | Report abuse

To be sure, blacks who are light skinned and articulate are not seen as a threat. Obamas' greatest asset, however, was that he did not grow up in the continintal US during the 60's, was not a product of slavery, and was raised by whites. It's all true. Why are people trippin'.

Posted by: edwinjones | January 11, 2010 6:57 AM | Report abuse

Reid's apology says it all-- guilty. Get rid of him.

Posted by: hz9604 | January 11, 2010 7:18 AM | Report abuse

It is heartening to see that Republicans still read The Washngton Post...or at least its web site.

I'm surprised that more white folks aren't upset for another reason, since Reid's comments were really about white prejudice.

Posted by: seahawkdad | January 11, 2010 7:31 AM | Report abuse

Remember when G. Ferraro (D-NY, Mondale's VP running mate)) said something similar during the campaign and Dems went nuts. Just more business as usual from the Dems. I used to think a Rep majority in the House could never happen again, but the Dem party is the party that keeps on giving.... to the Reps! Thanks.

Posted by: mmourges | January 11, 2010 7:50 AM | Report abuse

Since when is the word "Negro" a bad word? How do you say "black" in Spanish? I guess the word "Caucasian" must be a bad word too. However, I don't hear white people referring to themselves as "European Americans" and why isn't that term on the census? I think the term "African American" is distinctly un-American and segregationalist.

Posted by: TooManyPeople | January 11, 2010 7:59 AM | Report abuse

So Reid makes a gaff, sincerely apologizes, and gets forgiveness. RESIGN! Say the Repubs! Meanwhile, Repubs gaff all the time, do NOT apologize, and complain loudly about being labeled racist, while defending their gaffs as simple honesty, and condemning Dems calls to RESIGN! Such hypocracy!

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

It does race relations no good to have verbal land mines for white people to step on when talking about black people. Nor does it do race relations any good when there is a double standard allowing one group of people to speak freely about another while punishing the other group for doing the same thing.

In this case, Reid was actually saying what everyone knows to be true. A candidate who speaks in a black dialect has zero chance of being elected. How is that racist?

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

"There is this standard where the Democrats feel that they can say these things and they can apologize when it comes from the mouths of their own," Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele, who is black, said Sunday. "But if it comes from anyone else,
it's racism."

Posted by: jahoby | January 11, 2010 8:44 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? So to hell with white mothers because of the color of their skin eh? Sounds like you Leftists are entirely racist which of course we already knew.

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 9:02 AM | Report abuse

I agree, Harry Reid was right, although politically incorrect. And I have to laugh at the Republicans, like Michael Steele and Liz Cheney, who found the remark soooooo distasteful.

Actions speak louder than words. The Republican Party attracts very few people of color. Why is that, Michael Steele and Ms. Cheney?

Posted by: BarbWald | January 11, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

What, another intellectually dishonest leftist? Say it ain't so! The standard set by the leftists is that if another leftist says it, it's ok, but if someone other than a leftist says it, it's racist. Forget Trent Lott, this has been repeated over and over and over again.

Posted by: ArlingtonHokie | January 11, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

It does race relations no good to have verbal land mines for white people to step on when talking about black people. Nor does it do race relations any good when there is a double standard allowing one group of people to speak freely about another while punishing the other group for doing the same thing.

In this case, Reid was actually saying what everyone knows to be true. A candidate who speaks in a black dialect has zero chance of being elected. How is that racist?

Posted by: InTheMiddle | January 11, 2010 8:33 AM
=========================================
I believe you misunderstand how identity politics operate in our country.

A minority such as African Americans wants "verbal land mines" and double standards because it is a method for leveraging wealth and power from the majority to the minority.

Such as the case of Reid. His remarks appear to be an assessment on the probability of Obama winning the election.

Had Obama conducted his campaign speaking only ebonics ("a nonstandard form of American English characteristically spoken by African Americans in the United States") with a rap rhyme would anyone believe he would appeal to the majority of voters?

Yet because Reid's remarks can be interpreted as being tinged with racism he can now be pilloried.

The Freedom of Speech in this country is dying a very quick death in this country.

Voltaire once famously stated "I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it". Such sentiments were the foundation of free speech in the US constitution.

Now the sentiment appears to be "if you continue to say such things you will be shamed until you shut up or we will send you to jail".

Posted by: krankyman | January 11, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

I, personally, would like to know what Marcus is referring to as the African American Voice? I am a Southern raised African American and I am not sure there is any clear definition of the African American voice; certainly not all African Americans speak alike. So perhaps Marcus can shed some light on the meaning or description of the African American voice. I am just curious to hear the feedback. Thank you!

Posted by: nov05scorp | January 11, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Marcus writes:

"Reid’s blundering comments were made in the context of supporting an African American candidate, not praising a segregationist one."

So I take that statement to mean that were Obama darker skinned and spoke with an accent he would not be preferred by Reid as a candidate for the Democrat Party nomination. Sounds pretty racist to me no matter how one tries to explain it away.

Posted by: edxmd | January 11, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Someone asked:

"What if Sarah Palin had made the same statement?"

Sarah Palin made much worse statements, so did Trent Lott... there is no comparison.

Palin did the same old White hate thing whites have been doing against blacks for centuries - making up boogymen to foster hatred against a black man. Lott was musing at the loss of the "Jim Crow" policies toward blacks that Jesse Helms represented...Helms who had a black mistress and a black daughter.

Harry Reid told the truth that few blacks and no republicans want said... when blacks work at it they can make themselves understood.

We all need to admit our foibles... blacks included. If they want a separate society with their own language, fine... they can have it. If they want a unified society with all of us speaking the same language, fine, they can have it.

One of the most frieghtening of all black foibles is pants that require one hand to hold them up - a more
blatant sign of useless negro could not have been manufactured by the most racist
among us.

But Blacks, and whites, can stand the truth, Barack Obama is the prime example of white prejudice, one drop of black means your are black... and he is the prime example of black enterprise, astute, intelligent, articulate...

He is a great President, and a welcome relief from the Bush Administration.

Republicans have shown themselves true to form, trying to politice truths we are all mature enough to know.

Posted by: dutchess2 | January 11, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

I don't have the patience to read all the comments -- my bad. Nevertheless, a brief skim indicates that most people are going with the argument "if someone else had said this, X would have happened." Okay, fine -- it DOES matter who says what, because it dramatically alters the interpretation of the words. If someone in our family's synagogue makes a crack about New York being "Hymietown" it has a dramatically different meaning than when Jesse Jackson said it. Words have a consistent and constant meaning only in the dictionary. In the real world, context and tone can make words mean dramatically different things.

It is painfully obvious that Harry Reid's point was not at all about Obama himself. In fact, what he was saying is that Obama was/is as well-positioned as possible to overcome the racism of the American voters. The fact that Obama's victory fell short of a total landslide, in an election in which the Republicans ran on Bush's track record, with Bush's approval ratings, running the oldest man to assume the Presidency (if he had won) and an absurdly callow neophyte as VP if something had happened to McCain -- well, that pretty much proves Reid's point, that racism remains an issue in the US. Considering all of Obama's advantages in terms of the political moment, his oratorical gifts, his steady demeanor, his obvious intelligence, his capacity for diplomacy, Obama *should* have totally crushed McCain even more decisively than he actually did.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 11, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Marcus, you nailed it and said it better than anyone. To accept that Republicans calling for Harry Reid to resign are being genuine, is to defy decades of history past and current when Republicans fought for segregation and do their best to undermine the civil rights of minorities. We aren't buying it.

Posted by: medogsbstfrnd | January 11, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

In the recent list of trivial subjects of national debate, this one has got to win some sort of prize. Ruth was correct, as far as she went, except that 1) Harry Reid is clumsy, but not an idiot and 2) the real point was that Obama got elected because he managed NOT to be a "black" candidate. The chances of a mainstream, up via the Black Caucus, with all the racial baggage, black politician ever reaching national office remain very, very small. The "secret" of the Obama campaign was that they got the electorate to look at him (or his image, more correctly)and see a candidate, not a black candidate.

Posted by: micolpaneur | January 11, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Ruth for defending the racists in YOUR party, it's typicial of the liberal/progressive staff at the left-wing POST.........

Ruth why is YOUR political paper, cesoring even more damaging RACISTs in YOUR party?

Here you go Americans. Since the liberal fascists at the POST won't then we will:

"Wow the liberal/progressive fascists that own, manage, and report for the POST continue their assualt on Palin and Americans that believe in a God.

Typical for the Godless POST staff who probably believe that their related to Apes, somehow.

Another HUGE stor that the POST has decided to censor from We The People is what Bill Clinton said. Since the POST won't report on it........I will:

Sharpton: Clinton 'Coffee' Remark About Obama 'Disturbing'


The Rev. Al Sharpton on Monday said he was disturbed by condescending remarks reportedly made by former President Bill Clinton about Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign.

Sharpton was referring to a passage in the new book, "Game Change," which recounts the conversation Clinton had with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy when he was trying to convince the liberal lion of the Senate to endorse his wife for president.

"A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee," Clinton told Kennedy, according to the book -- a comment that angered Kennedy, who later endorsed Obama.

"I think that's far more disturbing because this is someone seeking to stop Mr. Obama's campaign and making a direct reference -- I don't know the context in which he said it -- but that is far more disturbing to me than even the comments that were made by Mr. Reid," Sharpton said."

POST, if you are unable or unwilling to report all the "news" even if its really damaging to your Party, the Democrat Party, then close DOWN this liberal/progressive political propaganda outlet for the DNC....

POST = dishonest dirty liberal/progressive propaganda outlet for the Democrat Party..

And no one can dispute that FAC anymore..

Posted by: allenridge | January 11, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

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.
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. Check out the movies. Most of the villains are the darker blacks.
As for Michael Steele to equate this with the Trent Lott statement, now that was stupid and ignorant. Maybe Steele should resign. Comparing this to segregation and how much better the country would be if segregation was still in place? And the statement that Obama 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 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Senator Reid is correct. As a light-skinned black man with excellent speaking skills, I have heard it all before. Clients stating, 'you are not like the rest!' Of course I have not; nor have most people met the rest of the black population; but they insist they have and they have deemed me above the rest.

I have many friends that are quite intelligent, light-skinned, dark-skinned, all well educated and speak well. We mostly went to good colleges and that is what make the difference.

If all children are given an equal educaiton, all people will be intelligent, well spoken, irregardles of their skin color, and than Senator Reid would be wrong.

BTW, Nevada is a conservative state and they believe just what Mr. reid stated,as i have lived there for many years, but no longer.

Most of the western states are conservative.

No child left behind for REAL, not just a buzz workd by the GOP.

Patrick

Posted by: patmatthews | January 11, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Trent Lott's removal from office was an inter-party thing started at the highest levels of his own party. He was a constant distraction and problematic for the Republican party. His statement of electing a known segrationist and racial bigot to power was only the final nail in his coffin and doomed any chances at retaining his post.

I'm not apologizing for Mr. Reids poor choice of words said during private conversation, but there is a distinct difference between their context.

Posted by: pv2bdrco | January 11, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

This is a moot point because no matter what Harry Reid has said...he is Obama's man and so he will overlook it. He goes along with Obama's agenda and he is pushing the health plan to the max...so whatever he has to say will be forgiven. I have a hard time believing that any educated person would use the word Negro except in a historical sense, But Harry Reid's perception of the color of his skin being a positive factor is just the truth. Black skinned people have a harder time battling prejudice than do lighter skinned African Americans. I don't believe if he were extremely dark skinned that he would have had a chance of being elected. The fact that he is half Caucasian also gave some people the idea that he would be fair to both sides and more neutral on the idea of the race issue than he has been. It would have been nice to see color not be such an issue but Obama has played the race card too many times to be overlooking this White man's sleight were it not for the sake of the expediency of his personal agenda. I would really have liked him to be as proud of his Caucasion background as he is his African American...this would, I believe, have gone a long ways toward healing the great divide between the races.

Posted by: sheila36619 | January 11, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Very funny! All you have to do is watch the various bigots hiding as tea-birthers to understand that America is very uncomfortable with a black man as the top guy. Reid was correct, no black man who SOUNDS black would be able to win a national election. Wake you foos, stop axing dumb questions.

Posted by: AIPACiswar | January 11, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the whole thrust of this piece by Marcus. But I think she is awfully hard on Reid for using the word "Negro." The word, of course, is not the preferred word to desribe African Americans today. But it was a proud word used during the civil rights movement and by Martin Luther King, Jr., not so long ago. "Negro," said the great W.E.B. Du Bois, one of the founders of the NAACP, was a perfectly good word meaning "black." After all, the word was used in a good way when Reid and seniors like me were young.

Posted by: DWSouthern | January 11, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Marcus is absolutley correcct in showing the world of difference that exists between the Reid and Lott situations and the lunacy of the right wing in trying to unite them to score a few political points.

Reid's comments may have been inartful and offensive. But as Marcus points out, the key fact is that they were made in SUPPORT of the very target of Reid's supposed slurs.

Lott on the other hand quite clearly gave a shout out to a splinter political party whose only reason for being was to prevent steps from being taken that would have desegregated America and thus put out of business the Jim Crow-system in the South to which the Dixicrat Party had pledged itself to preserve.

A couple of points. First, accusing liberals of engaging in "double standards" is a Golden Oldie in the right wing playbook.

When Lott made his comments, Republicans scoured the record books for any instance where a prominent Democrat had said something nice about someone who harbored racist views. It didn't matter if the compliment referred only to the individual himself and had noting to do with his past racist views (the former KKKer, Senator Byrd, was a favorite target) Republicans gleefully offered these strained examples as proof that Democrats and the "liberal media" that support them were hypocrites.

Republicans also loved to note that it was Southern Democrats, and not Republicans, who filibustered the historic civil rights bills of the 1950s and 1960s, which is technically true. Yet, Republicans never mentioned, of course, that it was precisely the South's unwillingness to extend equal rights to minorities that made Republican architects of their party's famous "Southern Strategy" so confident that the segregationist South was ripe for the picking by the right wing GOP and its carpetbaggers in the region.

And second, the idea of the national chairman of a Republican Party, whose own members are trying to run him out of town on a rail, would be taken seriously calling for the resignation of a leader of the other party is rich in both irony and comedy.


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

Lott's "whiff of racism"? That was no whiff. That comment WAS racist. I'm white and I took strong offense to Lott's comment. Lott got just what he deserved.

Reid was dumb to make his comment, but then M L King used the word negro. Dumb but not racist.

Posted by: tpk1 | January 11, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Look gang - here's the bottomline point being missed by all you ACLU card carrying libs...Lott's statements were truly indefensible ....... But had any republican stated the same as this Senate Leader...you and all the WAPO paper ilks would have been calling for their head.......and you know it...so there is a double standard...stop trying to parse between Lott's and Reid's statement..if it were a repub....does one really think Marcus would only be calling it a stupid statement?......If so - I have a bridge to sell you.....

Posted by: short1 | January 11, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

thanks for this article. its' about time, some one other than blacks admitted that Reid was right, although his word choice was horrible.

Posted by: sdaclarke | January 11, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

republicans hate political correctness until they can use it against someone, like Harry Reid, they wish to destroy.

How can anyone believe what spews from the far-right when it's literally all over the political compass?

Extremist republicans will always lie for the simple, expedient reason that truth frustrates their repulsive goals.

Those they admire and those who speak for them are all liars: rove, cheney, limbaugh, beck, coulter, hannity, all conjure "facts" out of thin air to bolster right-wing fantasy.

Nothing on earth makes the braindead neofascist right-wing more frightened and angry than the truth.

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

The neophyte Obama was hand selected because of his looks and his diction. Democrats knew that Obama was marketable precisely because he wasn't too black and that voting for him could assuage the consciences of those who didn't want to examine product Obama beyond his stage appeal.

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

Mr. Reid made a completely true statement. Sad, but true. I do not believe he meant it to be derogatory. It is more indicative of the impact of race and skin tone here in America. Studies prove him to be right.
For me, it's not about who said it but what was said and was it true.
As a dark-skinned black women, I have numerous experiences where my race and skin tone have been a factor in how I was treated here in this country. Surprise I scored highly on a test or being told I'm "different" or some other patronizing remark, supposedly a compliment. Once while shopping in an upscale store, with my daughter for her prom dress, a white lady grab her purse, with a fearful look, as we walked by her. We were both conservatively well-dressed. We were trying to shop just like she was.
To the young sister who never heard of Negro dialect, check out the library or even the internet. The information is available.

Posted by: scarter73 | January 11, 2010 12:01 PM | 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 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Many liberals are extremely bigoted racists. They just get away with it because by being liberal they are "good" people. They often excuse their bigotry by claiming it is the fault of those they insult -- for example, Reid inadvertently demonstrated his own bigotry when actually trying to make the larger point that America is so damn racist it needs a light skinned, "proper" speaking black guy before it can elect him President. Interestingly, this also parallels Obama's remarks about much of middle America "clinging bitterly" to "guns and religion" -- the classic sort of snarky remarks about "uneducated rednecks" we've long since come to expect from our self-appointed liberal superiors. After all, these are just the sort of hypocrites that talk a big game about racial fairness and integration while paying illegal immigrant Mexicans under the table as housemaids and servants.

Real Americans are out there every day ignoring race in the course of helping each other shovel our front steps, watch each other's kids, or catch a football game together. It's the sort of easy harmony you'll never find in a political party that depends on trumped up racial strife to maintain its voter base. One hopes that Reid's gaffe will be one of the pieces that helps voters finally realize what a bunch of racist, intolerant fools these limo liberals really are.

Posted by: zippyspeed | January 11, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Racist or not Senator Reid is one of the stupidest men in the country.

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

Reid should also have mentioned that Obama has'nt even been to jail yet.

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

we turned a corner in america by electing an african american president. we have now veered off into a dark, smelly alley with all this race nonsense...

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

Ruth -- The only thing that conservatives are emphasizing is how biased the media is. I agree 100% that there should be no consequences for Harry Reid. He said things that are his opinion and demonstrably true, as most people of any race and political leaning would agree. The problem is that the media and politicians like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton will forgive Democrats...after some bribe or concession...and scream like Chicken Little if a conservative is involved.
Let's all agree: there is no harm here and trying to make this issue bigger than it is serves no good purpose. But let's also agree that there won't be a double-standard anymore.

Posted by: dknight12345 | January 11, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

All this rhetoric should stop. It was a stupid thing to say, as Ms. Marcus points out, but not a reason to resign.

Reid simply should be voted out of office in 2010, if he runs, as he is living in another time and we need 21st century thinking on all levels.

If one wants to be a politician he/she needs to decide that at about age two and be careful what he/she says every day of life.

Posted by: Kansas28 | January 11, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

As an alternative to trying to abide by the tenets of political correctness, perhaps it would be more effective if everyone underwent a lobotomy. Then, too, if one offends someone they have a good excuse. Squelch free speech and thought!

Posted by: sero1 | January 11, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

I am just really getting tired of the double standards in American politics. If a Republican said this, there would be complete outrage and democrats across the board would be calling for his/her resignation. However, since Reid is a democrat and essential to passing Obama's health care reform, democrats nation-wide are speaking out in support for him. We saw the same thing when two southern politicians were caught in extra-marital affairs. John Edwards was criticized for having a child with his mistress when his wife was battling cancer; but that was the last we heard of Edwards when Gov. Mark Sanford was caught using state funds to fly to South America to visit his mistress. Democratic commentators were calling for his resignation and even insulting the integrity of the Republican party, saying that Republicans preach a moral creed that even they fail to abide by(Ok, Dems, do we need to bring up Clinton?) I just think it's getting ridiculous. What is wrong is wrong, irrespective of your political affiliation. Forgiveness from Barack Obama does not equate to forgiveness from all black people, how about he apologize to everyone?

Posted by: katieGA | January 11, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Intuitive inteligence would suggest the concept of *race* as a political WASPish term is still relevant - may be even critical in final analysis - when considering who leads America and sits in the Oval Office.

True or false?

Postscript: White American male university educated are surely the lot most deluded by Obama-histeria ...and now find themselves reacting at his nonb-Waspish cult of the person.

Posted by: hariknaidu | January 11, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Reid was right. Obama is light skin and speak no ebonics. I think he is more like too dark to me. Maybe, they applied make-up on him prior to appearing on tv. His lips are too black and have kinky hair.

Posted by: mcaboy84 | January 11, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

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.
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. Check out the movies. Most of the villains are the darker blacks.
As for Michael Steele to equate this with the Trent Lott statement, now that was stupid and ignorant. Maybe Steele should resign. Comparing this to segregation and how much better the country would be if segregation was still in place? And the statement that Obama 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 1:41 PM | Report abuse

So democrats, now that light skinned negro, is a politically correct term.

How about well spoken darkie ?

Posted by: dashriprock | January 11, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

As a 100% black male of sixty-years, I believe Reid's remarks to be 100% correct...period. When Obama came back from vacation in Hawaii during the campaign there were remarks about "how Dark" he had become....by columnists on MSNBC. Don't kid yourself, the response to a very dark skinned person at your front door would be entirely different from one at the door of a lighter hue.

Posted by: october30 | January 11, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

"For anyone in public life to use the word “Negro” in 2008 is beyond stupid. What was once polite has become demeaning."

As someone not in public life, and who has not lived in the DC area in 30 years, I had not heard 'negro' was derogatory until I looked it up after the Reid story broke. It certainly was an acceptable term, and preferable to most of the alternatives, during my youth.

I guess Republicans refuse to contribute to the United Negro College Fund because of their use of that word.

Posted by: ad9inaz | January 11, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

All true Ms. Marcus, but you are ignoring that those who are criticizing Reid are doing so from a near infinite amount of experience in both racism and code words. They are awful credible when it comes to knowing racism.

Posted by: caribis | January 11, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

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-persists/

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

The problem here is that the media over-hypes race as an issue – always looking for a juicy story that will sell. No doubt, a fear of this circumstance drove Senator Reid to apologize.

He should not have done so.

Senator Reid’s critics elevate their own notions of what is racially appropriate over truth itself. Such thinking retards our nation’s growth. The worthy societal goal of promoting discourse in order to ascertain truth is the reason why the Constitution protects freedom of expression. A society that censors, either through official action or through private forms of misguided condemnation in the name of political correctness, will not advance.

It amazes me that America, which takes such pride in its freedoms (you know, “land of the free” and all that), and which has enshrined freedom of expression in the “First” Amendment, as opposed to the fourth, or the eighth, or the twenty-fifth, is so quick to cry “Oh, you can’t say that, naughty Senator!” But we forget wherefrom we come. England censored speech well into colonial times, and America rejected that, first by taking up arms, and next by formally protecting expression.

If someone has a view about society which has a racial component, it is not presumptively unacceptable. Yet some in the media react as if it is. Perhaps the media should be analyzing WHY electoral opinion is as Senator Reid pointed out, instead of condemning him for mentioning certain of the President’s characteristics and how those translate at the ballot box.

Posted by: JOHNSMOST | January 11, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

First of all, Steele and Palin are in the same category to me, both poor choices for elected leaders. Steele is a token and pretends that he does not know it. He was on Meet the Press Sunday bragging about his 2 or 3 wins in 2009. Those pitiful wins are the comeback of the republican party. What a moron.

Harry Reid was right. Even among black Americans we tend to view lighter skin black Americans as more appealing, less threatening. My wife does not realize it but she always checks out light skin black American men on the sly. I am dark. This world, not just this nation, has made light, right. Its Biblical. In the old King James version of the Holy Bible, David is described eyeing Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, and wanting her because her skin was fair and she was pleasing to look upon. Several references in the Bible mention fair skin. Go figure folks. This world, this society is fixated on "lighter" skinned people.

Posted by: ajackson3 | January 11, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Hypocrisy!

Posted by: mftill | January 11, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Any person with common sense realizes Reid is rather old and what he said is true, there is such a thing as black slang, which is what he is referring to. Lots of white wannabe teenagers imitate the lingo. and people do accept lighter skinned blacks more easily. This actually applies to black people themselves, plenty of research shows it is true.

As others noted, this is in no way comparable to Lott's comment that things would be better if Strom had been elected president, he ran on a platform to keep black people segregated for petes sake!

Posted by: datdamwuf2 | January 11, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Same argument Trent Lott used and he was demonized as a racist by Democrats and driven out of his leadership position by politically-correct Republicans. Where is the difference other than party affiliation?

Posted by: JoeTH | January 11, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

This might be a good time to review President Obama's speech on the issue of race back in the primary. One of his points was that it is a generational thing. He said he used to cringe when his own grandmother used to make those types of remarks. He knows the difference between a racist remark and words chosen by someone who just has not had much exrposure with black people. You would think a U.S. Senator would have had more life experience, but let's face it, Harry Reid is a 70-year-old Mormon from Nevada and Barack Obama was the only black person in the Senate.

Posted by: joy2 | January 11, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Well, the difference is, Trent Lott implied that America would be a better place if it never stopped treating black people like second-class citizens, and Harry Reid said that America wasn't ready to accept a "blacker" president. They were both stupid remarks, but there's a different between being racially insensitive and a flat-out bigot.

Posted by: joshlct | January 11, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

I am intrigued by the comments regarding "Black" and "White." Why is it, in many articles, news reports, and textbooks the descriptions of races are white, African American, Asian-American, and Native American? For consistency and to be fair, shouldn't the term European American be used instead of white?

Posted by: Wandering_Colo_Girl | January 11, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Well, the difference is, Trent Lott implied that America would be a better place if it never stopped treating black people like second-class citizens, and Harry Reid said that America wasn't ready to accept a "blacker" president. They were both stupid remarks, but there's a different between being racially insensitive and a flat-out bigot.

Posted by: joshlct

================================

You have no idea what he met by that comment. You just read into what you want. Of course this is coming from the party of KKK Robert Bird.

Posted by: mike83631 | January 11, 2010 3:55 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 4:12 PM | Report abuse

All of this is so pathetic until it almost brings tears to one's eyes.

Does anyone understand the significance of melanin? Look it up. I doubt seriously if Harry Reid ever heard of it. People in his generation would probably reject what is known about the adaptive value of this dark pigment. I am not angry with Harry Reid for his perceptions. Just multiply him by millions.

And I know that the generaton, which included my father, who spoke in the so-called Negro Dialect is dying out. I almost never hear anyone speak like that anymore.

Just travel the country and you will hear other dialects. One of my students once told me her name was "Pa-yat". When I asked her to spell it, she said "P-A-T". Another could not understand my pronounciation of the word "fire". I had to define it for her. She responded in an irritated voice, "You mean, "FI-yah!"

So, if you are an African American, Negro, Black, etc. as am I, just ignore this whole thing and do something worthwhile. PLEASE!

Can you imagine how those who are plotting to kill us even as we make fools of ourselves are laughing at us right now.

Here we are arguing about the activity of one's melanocytes, cells that deposit melanin over nuclei of keratinocytes to protect from harmful UV radiation and, thus, skin cancer. The terrorists must think we are the most ignorant people on the planet and right now I cannot argue against their preception.

Posted by: stroud00 | January 11, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

republicans hate political correctness until and unless they can use it against someone they also hate, like Harry Reid, currently being hoisted on beck and limbaugh's canard-filled petard.

Posted by: tontosage | January 11, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

There is no question that Harry Reid used an unfortunate set of words to state something obvious to anyone not burdened by political correctness. Using "Negro" and "Negro dialect" is just a reflection of his age, it does not mean anything more than that. Everybody in the US is racially sensitive, that does not make everybody a racist. Racism is on its way out, it persists mainly among people who refuse to see that the world is changing and among politicians ready to exploit them (most have found a home in the Republican party but it won't be a good strategy for winning elections much longer).

Posted by: serban1 | January 11, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Biden undoubtedly meant that Obama had no dirt on his career, not his body, when he used the word "clean". Lott could possibly have meant that if the country had followed a conservative direction such as espoused by Thurmond, things would have been better, from Lott's perspective. These are the types of comments which can be heard and forgiven.

But there's little doubt as to exactly what Reid meant. He's not a blogger and he's not Joe-blow average citizen; he's supposed to be the leader of his party in the United States Senate. I think it's time for him to step down from that position. Whether or not he decides to retire should be between him and the people of Nevada, perhaps at the ballot box, to decide, not an Eastern Establishment paper like the Washington Post.

Posted by: ripvanwinkleincollege | January 11, 2010 5:35 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 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Harry Reid was making an observation about what is probably, as Ruth Marcus points out, the unfortunate reality of racism among the electorate in this country. Trent Lott suggested we'd all be better off if we had gone along with Strom Thurmond's racial segregationist agenda years ago. How is it possible that so many people cannot see that there is a fundamental, qualitative difference between the two?

Posted by: markpkessinger | January 11, 2010 6:30 PM | Report abuse

An ignorant and outdated phrase, but not racist. The words he used are ones my grandparents used when I was little. Perhaps he is oblivious to the phase currently used—ebonic accent. In 1995, I used the word Oriental to describe an Asian person, and I was corrected and have used Asian ever since.

What he said is probably true. An African American with darker skin may be perceived as too urban. Perhaps lighter skinned with little or no ebonic accent is symbolic of the mainstream, to be more appealing to rural and suburban Democrats.

Posted by: SuzanneVesely | January 11, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Marcus::
I have a problem with a double standard here. You said in your article: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid acted like an idiot. Also, he was right."

Reid will never resign and Obama wouldn't let him because he needs him too much to get his health care passed, but you state that using the word negro is beyond stupid, yet basically all of Obama's African American supporters are quick to say Reid is a good man, poor wording, apology accepted.
If after the results of the election were announced, and Obama declared the winner, would Senator McCain have been forgiven for being right if he had said that "Obama won the election because he was light skinned, spoke not like a negro would and the American people were so fed up with republicans that he might be elected as the first non white President and that is basically why he was the democratic nominee."?
He would be saying basically the exact same thing that Reid is saying in why he supported Obama in the first place.
Would all you pundits have been out crucifying McCain? You state "Reid’s analysis was correct. Even if it was, as he said in a masterpiece of understatement, “a poor choice of words.” If McCain has said such would he be given a pass with his analysis being correct even if it was a poor choice of words?

Posted by: justmyvoice | January 11, 2010 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Trent Lott was trashed by Democrats for saying something that *may* have been construed as racist if we used our imagination. His career suffered immense harm, all for praising a colleague in 2002 while he didn't think about the ramifications his statement would have in context in 1948. Great job, Democrats.

No matter how much Ruth Marcus equivocates on this point, witch hunts like those perpetrated on Lott -- and on Harry Reid -- are wrong. It's one thing to disagree with a viewpoint, but to attempt to kill someone's career over an opinion is beyond the pale. Although I'm secretly snickering that the Democrats now have to lie in the (race baiting) bed they made, I'm also horrified.

Posted by: diehardlib | January 11, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Everyone is reporting what Harry Reid said, but few are reporting it in the context in which he said it. The word Negro is not obsolete to many Blacks and is used frequently. My father is 86, black, and calls African-Americans negroes. That's the word he feels most comfortable using. What Harry Reid said was not meant to be offensive, but rather saying, based on how Whites think about African-Americans, that whites probably saw him as a safe Negro. Now, if President Obama, was a large, very dark man, Whites would be afraid of him and not vote to put him in office. We all know President Obama could not win on the African-American vote alone. As far as the "Negro Dialect", Harry Reid said what he knew. The problem with this is that we all speak with a dialect. It's only when someone decides that one dialect is inferior or superior to another. Come on America, what Harry Reid said vs. Trent Lott, who would have preferred a segregationist run this country, is not even close. We should stop thinking that one group is inferior or superior to another. That's the real problem. What's wrong with "Negro Dialect"?

Posted by: onamission | January 11, 2010 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Sen. Reid made an accurate assessment of the kind of black candidate that would be appealing to white voters. I don't see why he should apologize for it. The only hypocrisy going on is the temporary bout of racial sensitivity put on by Republican's who, absurdly, want to compare these odd but positive comments to the pro-segregationist comments of Trent Lott. Where was that sensitivity when Rush Limbaugh called Mr. Obama the "magic Negro" and didn't mean it in a nice way?

Posted by: ArmyBrat68 | January 11, 2010 10:21 PM | Report abuse

"With so many errors in these posts, including in my own, one has to wonder about your intent in singling out this particular poster's mistake."

Probably that she was less articulate than she thought she was. She certainly seemed whiny enough.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | January 11, 2010 10:25 PM | Report abuse

Well, thus rings the death toll for a post racial America.

Politically Correct used to be called Polite and Refined in the "American Dialect." Why have we dispensed with manners? So now it is fine to insult someone's heritage, race, etc.

Please.

This matters to no one except a few Republicans grasping at straws so let's move on.

Posted by: hakafos44 | January 11, 2010 10:32 PM | Report abuse

Strom Thurmond had a light-skinned, educated "Negro" daughter and he would have been outraged if someone said this about her.

Trust and believe!

Posted by: hakafos44 | January 11, 2010 10:35 PM | Report abuse

I agree that Sen. Reid was trying to say that Sen. Obama would be attractive to Black Americans, without being threatening to whites.
However, what if Sen. McCain had said, "moderates will give Obama consideration, because he's light-skinned, and doesn't speak Black dialect to white audiences"?

Posted by: sampjack | January 11, 2010 10:53 PM | Report abuse

exactly:

"There is a distinctly recognizable African American voice and some African Americans dial it up or down depending on the setting."

nothing new here. Yes, "Negro", is considered inappropriate now but we don't need to frantically apologize and freak out. Reid is no racist and Obama's prompt, and classy, dismissal of this as an issue showed Obama's intelligence and character. Reid apologized and let's leave it at that.

This is 2010. How about no more accusations of racism at crap like this and "honest Injun" and "Redskins" stuff while we are it.

Posted by: jackson641 | January 11, 2010 11:13 PM | Report abuse

From the standpoint of the ultra racist Southern Baptist/Ku Klux Klan/Republication perspective:

Obama.
Aboma.
Abomination.
Black US President.

The Republicans have a simple litmus test: If there is any Negro blood in you from anywhere in your family tree, you are 100 percent Negro. There is no way that the ultra-racist republicans would allow any person with any Negro blood in their ancestry to become a Republican President.

What the ultra-racist Republicans say about Harry Reid is pure hypocrisy. Publish the rhetoric that these same ultra-racist Southern Baptist/KKK/Republicans say about black folks out of earshot: every other word would be the N word. Compare that to the moderate accidental comments made by Harry Reid using language he learned in the 1950’s.

Posted by: MrZ2 | January 11, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

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