The blogosphere is all atwitter about Sen. Harry Reid’s quote about presidential candidate Barack Obama. The then-Illinois senator was described, in private, by the Nevada senator as “light skinned” and “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”
Cries of racism have been seen and heard throughout the far reaches of Cyberspace. And I, for one, wonder why.
Point one: Obama, whose mother was a white Kansan and whose father was a black Kenyan, is a light-skinned African American. The last time I checked, that observation was not filed in the racist category–not even in the racially insensitive one.
Point two: There is such a thing as a Negro–I prefer black–dialect. I hear it when I talk to my family and friends back in Gary, Indiana. I hear it when I go to the West or South sides of Chicago. I hear it come out of my mouth when I’m speaking my native tongue rather than the educated one I learned to affect long ago to assure that I could succeed as a professional journalist.
Our 44th president was raised by his white grandparents and mother. He grew up hearing white dialects not black ones. He enunciates like a Harvard-educated white man–until he wants to emulate those dialects he heard while working as a community organizer and worshiping at Trinity United Church of Christ.
So calling Senate Majority Leader Reid’s off-the-cuff remarks racist is a bit of a stretch. But, no matter. Reid has already said he was sorry.
“I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words. I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African-Americans for my improper comments,” Reid said in a statement released after the excerpts were first reported on the Web site of The Atlantic.
“I was a proud and enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama during the campaign and have worked as hard as I can to advance President Obama’s legislative agenda.”
And, the President has already said, apology accepted.
“Harry Reid called me today and apologized for an unfortunate comment reported today,” President Obama said in a released statement. “I accepted Harry’s apology without question because I’ve known him for years, I’ve seen the passionate leadership he’s shown on issues of social justice and I know what’s in his heart. As far as I am concerned, the book is closed.”
This tempest in a teapot was brewed up by a leaked excerpt from the book, Game Change, which was written by Time Magazine’s Mark Halperin and New York magazine’s John Heilemann, to the Associated Press.
The book is set to be published today and this leak and others serve enticing publicity to pump up sales.
There is another leak that should hit the Internet big time in minute now.
Under the heading, “Teddy’s Anger,” Blogger Ben Smith posted this less than an hour ago:
One of the enduring mysteries of the 2008 campaign was what got Ted Kennedy so mad at Bill Clinton. The former president’s entreaties, at some point, backfired, and the explanation has never quite emerged.
I’ve finally gotten my hands on a copy of Game Change (order here), in which Heliemann and Halperin report:
[A]s Hillary bungled Caroline, Bill’s handling of Ted was even worse. The day after Iowa, he phoned Kennedy and pressed for an endorsement, making the case for his wife. But Bill then went on, belittling Obama in a manner that deeply offended Kennedy. Recounting the conversation later to a friend, Teddy fumed that Clinton had said, A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.
It will be a teachable moment as we see our nation’s first black president apologize to our nation’s other first black president.
Republished with the permission of Monroe Anderson.