Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Harry Reid: Racist or Political Realist?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Harry Reid: Racist or Political Realist?

Article excerpt

Critics are calling Senate majority leader Harry Reid racist for suggesting in 2008 that Obama was electable because he was 'light- skinned' and had 'no Negro dialect.' Republican National Chairman Michael Steele says he should resign.

Critics of President Obama - Republican National Committee Chairman

Michael Steele foremost among them - see no small amount of

hypocrisy in Mr. Obama's forgiveness of Senate majority leader

Harry Reid.

Senator Reid is quoted in a new book by two journalists about the

2008 campaign, "Game Change," as saying privately that the US

would be "ready to embrace a black presidential candidate,

especially one such as Obama - a 'light-skinned' African American

'with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.' "

When the quotes came to light Saturday, Reid apologized to Obama,

and Obama accepted. Mr. Steele and other say that is political

relativism, with Democrats evading punishment for comments that would

have sunk Republicans.

Reid's importance to healthcare reform speaks to the political

expediency of forgiveness - Obama has had few more earnest or

effective allies on Capitol Hill. Yet some black commentators have a

different take: For them, what Reid said is not all that shocking.

'Too black'Boyce Watkins, a professor of finance and social

commentator at Syracuse University, doesn't see Reid's statement

as a matter of individual racism, but as a calculation of political

fact.

Reid "wasn't necessarily giving his own opinion. Rather, he was

giving his assessment of the preferences of the American public,"

writes Dr. Watkins on the website, theGrio.

Reid is "a bellwether of public opinion and an accurate reflection

of the 'political pulse' of the white American voting

population," he adds.

Watkins's conclusion: It "reminds many African-Americans across

the country that if our speech patterns or appearance are 'too black'

(whatever that means) or too different from what some consider

acceptable, we are going to be deemed inferior. …

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