Thanks to the publication of a new book about the 2008 Presidential election, it is becoming apparent that Senator Harry Reid is not, um, "less ignorant than we used to be" (to coin a phrase from a good man). In reference to then-candidate Obama, Senator Reid commented on the likability of the candidate because of a presumptive, general acceptance of his complexion, and then Reid went on to say that this candidate, Obama, spoke "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
WHAT THE ---- !!!!
Now, for the sake of objectivity, I easily accept the fact that ignorance will never be totally eradicated from this world. After all, we are human. And I also accept that a person of Mr. Reid's age may utter such things from time to time, and yet, he, himself, may not be a full-blown bigot. In his mind, there may have been nothing wrong with these remarks. (And surely, that was the case, because he has only now apologized for them, many months after they were uttered, and only because they are meeting public scrutiny.) But none of that makes this gaffe even remotely excusable.
What's more insulting to me, too, is the cavalier attitude taken by the Congressional Black Caucus. This feckless lot has found no reason to stand legion with the many demanding that Reid voluntarily step down for this verbal misstep. In fact, the Chair of the CBC said this:
"I have had an opportunity to speak with Senator Reid and he apologized for his unfortunate remarks concerning the President and he understands the gravity of such remarks. There are too many issues like the economy, job creation and energy for these regrettable comments to distract us from the work that must be done on behalf of the American people."
That might be fine to you, Rep. Barbara Lee. And maybe I missed the memo--but who died and anointed you the high ambassador for all people of color this year?
Speaking as one of those persons of color who has had to spend a lifetime dealing with the issue of dialect and natural inflections, I am appalled--but not surprised--that so-called black leaders would elect to follow political expedience and party loyalty over the greater pursuit of social dignity and any effort to marginalize old mindsets. That these leaders, who have never been silent on lesser matters, would cower now, when they know something to be wrong, only attests to the fact that they are not leaders, at all. Or that is to say, they are not leaders when it comes to standing up to their so-called friends.(Remember, they forced Trent Lott into obscurity for saying something with less potency than this.)
Perhaps it is also fitting and a bit ironic that, next week, these same so-called leaders will be celebrating the life of Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. As they get ready to do this and lament about "having a dream", they would be well-served to remember another statement from Dr. King: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
My, how easily it seems that we have forgotten.
To understand why this is so personal for me, click here.