Harry Reid: racism or stupidity? It’s stupidity

Having grown up in Alabama under Jim Crow, I’ve got some experience distinguishing among genuine racism, racial insensitivity and comments/behavior that are merely stupid. There’s not always a fine line separating the categories, but my ability to navigate my world has long depended on distinguishing a malevolent racist from an insensitive boob.

I’ve never believed that a white person’s use of the “n” word is de facto proof of his racism. (It is, rather, de facto proof of boorishness.) And I’ve met my share of white good ‘ol boys who drove pickup trucks with rebel flag decals but who were, nevertheless, unfailingly polite and helpful to me. They are not racists. I’ve also met well-educated Northern whites who were quite polite to me but whose behavior betrayed their belief that blacks were somewhat inferior. They are racists.

Harry Reid, with his truly stupid comments about the president, falls into the insensitive boob category. Trent Lott may as well. But the remarks that Lott made were much more damaging — as anyone willing to be sincere about race relations would admit.

(Blogs, admittedly, are not the best format for discussing race relations. The ability of commenters to post anonymously tends to bring out the most sophomoric and moronic behavior. Nevertheless, I sally forth, hoping that a few of my readers, white, black and brown, want to think about race deeply.)

Reid, as you no doubt know, said Obama would probably be elected because he’s “light-skinned” and has no “Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” Reid’s first observation is one that he shouldn’t have uttered out loud but is nonetheless inarguable. But his second about the “Negro dialect” is infuriating. What the heck is that? Was Obama the first black person Reid has ever been around who is middle-class, well-educated and speaks standard English well?

Needless to say, Reid has apologized profusely, as he should have.

Reid has moved quickly to show contrition after a new book, “Game Change” by journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin revealed that he made comments in 2008 suggesting that Barack Obama could be elected president because he is “light skinned” and lacks “Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

Embarrassed by the remarks and already facing a tough climb to reelection in the fall, Reid has reached out to the African American community, apologizing for his comments and highlighting his legislative record of backing civil rights issues important to the black community. He immediately won a showing of support from prominent Democratic black leaders, including the president, who accepted his apology and said he’s seen the “passionate leadership he’s shown on issues of social justice and I know what’s in his heart. As far as I’m concerned, the book is closed.”

Republicans, however, don’t want the book closed. Looking for any opportunity to damage Democrats, they are comparing Reid’s remarks to those Lott made several years ago which led to his resignation as Senate Majority Leader. (Really, the GOP shouldn’t get into this. They are in no position to suggest any other person or group is guilty of racial insensitivity.)

At a public celebration of Strom Thurmond’s birthday, Lott said:

“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 the years, either.”

That sent a shiver down my spine. Thurmond ran for president in 1948 as a Dixiecrat determined that black people would never enjoy full citizenship in these United States. He was a full-throated segregationist who wanted black people denied the right to vote, to be educated in good schools, to eat at decent restaurants or to stay in the Holiday Inn. He wanted to preserve a system were black people didn’t serve on juries and were lynched over trumped-up charges. He wanted to preserve a system where men like him could take advantage of a teen-aged black maid and impregnate her — as Thurmond did. He wanted to keep a system wherein black teachers were paid less than their white counterparts.

Anybody who bothers to think can see the difference between the remarks made by Lott and those made by Reid.

One more thing: Lott apologized almost immediately, and had I been serving in the Senate with him, I probably would have accepted his apology. I would have considered him a creature of his time and place — a privileged white guy with little understanding of what it meant to be black in the Deep South during Thurmond’s heyday.

But Lott was run off by Republicans, who pressured him to resign. Enough with the hypocrisy, already.

313 comments Add your comment

Randall

January 11th, 2010
12:52 pm

It amazes me, how, in your feeble little mind, Cynthia, that you, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Jeremiah Wright, along with any member of the Democratic Party, CANNOT be, or even think racists thoughts. ONLY white Southerners or members of the Republican Party, are capable of being anything racists.
It is YOU, and the other “Race Pimps” like you that thrive on the whole issue of race…..Cynthia, your hypocrisy and stupidity have NOTHING to do with race!! If you were white, you would still be a hypocrite, and stupid.

Sunshine

January 11th, 2010
12:55 pm

Frankly, Reid’s remark was very much so a racist remark. Trent Lott did NOT say anything racist. Why not be fair and quit defending a racist remark by a democrat?

Double Standard

January 11th, 2010
12:55 pm

Tucker would be all over this if the statement was made by a white man, calling for resignations!!! But when stated by a money friendly liberal, it’s OK!!!! The hypocrisy is amazing when it’s one “of your own” making racist statements. Jesse and Al are “on board” with it, so no protests will be forthcoming. Harry can relax and keep giving out the bailout money to his “friends” in the community.

Fox sucks

January 11th, 2010
12:55 pm

You know, I read the comments here about hating dumb liberals, calling Ms. Tucker a Village idiot, racist and hating her guts etc..

I will say this.. You who do this and people like myself have a day of reconciliation coming..

I do believe that we are headed to a bloody political resolution.

I’m loaded for bear and ready to rock and roll, are you?

vracer

January 11th, 2010
12:56 pm

CT is the kind of black that gives other blacks a bad name.

Jess

January 11th, 2010
12:56 pm

Still can’t get over the fact that Cynthia is fine with the fact that the Senate Majority Leader is stupid.

vracer

January 11th, 2010
12:58 pm

And, “Fox sucks” makes humanity look stupid.

Reality

January 11th, 2010
12:59 pm

Fox sucks

Sounds like YOU have some real mental issues.

mom3

January 11th, 2010
1:03 pm

One things for certain – Cynthia would be an expert in both stupidity and racism.

carl s

January 11th, 2010
1:03 pm

Dear Jesus, when oh when will the Left side of the world pay for their hypocrisy? The left side of humanity truly feels and thinks that they are morally superior to everyone else. They don’t see the obvious hypocrisy because then they would have to admit they are not morally superior. Modern liberalism isn’t a poltical philosophy, it’s a religion.

carl s

January 11th, 2010
1:05 pm

Fox sucks – I am absolutley ready for a” physical” confrontation. But just remember – we have all the guns.

Really?

January 11th, 2010
1:08 pm

Always an excuse for the leftie’s racism. The hypocrisy is how we know it’s really you.

Mr. Tuna

January 11th, 2010
1:09 pm

Hey Fox sucks, You should seek help, you are a border line sociopath. Look it up. Your picture is next to the definition.

Matt

January 11th, 2010
1:10 pm

Cynthia, if a Republican had said what Harry Reid said, you would be calling for his/her head in your column…fact.

Obamayourmama

January 11th, 2010
1:14 pm

Fox sucks, it starts in 2010 and ends in 2012 with a Republican victory in both elections. Show us what you got.

Gretchen McDonald

January 11th, 2010
1:15 pm

So, making these remarks warrants Reid to step down when a Republican, we all know who he is, called the President of the U.S. a liar in front of the whole nation. So why was he not forced to step down. The only reason they are jumping on this is because its a Senate Democrat and the Republicans will do anything to take a seat away from the Dems. I am an African American and I feel that if Reid has to step down so should the lying-calling Republican!

Robert

January 11th, 2010
1:16 pm

The Democratic Black population have become so entrenched in there in their need to keep the average black man and women tied to the democratic party that they are willing to over look the fact that Democrats have done Nothing to help them they need they poor and relying on the government to keep the votes. Do not look to the Government to help you look to God and yourself. The Truth that Republicans believe in people not government is the TRUTH they need to Hide and they do that by calling Republicans Racist and force the idea down the media throat.

Ms. Tucker you are Wrong Harry Reid is a a fool and he does not like you anymore than the Sen Byrd did. I was born North of the Mason Dixon Line but have lived south of it most of my life and there is NOTHING stopping Black Americans (And yes I refuse to say African-American, as you are no more African than I am Irish or German you are an American that has dark skin tones and more melanin than I do and have contributed to America as much as those of lighter skin).

Chris Rock said this same thing about Colin Powell that white people were saying he spoke so well and he was right that is racist. PERIOD

JF McNamara

January 11th, 2010
1:16 pm

He needs to go. If not, you blur the line between right and wrong. the next time someone says something like this it’ll just be stupid. Then the next time, it’ll just be stupid. Then, one day, no one cares that you say or believe these things.

Make him step down.

View from a far

January 11th, 2010
1:17 pm

Ms, Tucker, I did not read your editorial, just the title and I could tell where this was going. You are hypocrite.

Allen

January 11th, 2010
1:19 pm

Great, so now we have a “knucklehead” and “insensitive boob”, among many other names seen on here, as our Senate Majority Leader. Wow….and these are coming from the Dem defenders themselves.

Robert

January 11th, 2010
1:20 pm

Ms. Grethcin How is calling a man a Liar(which is a first amendment privilege) the same as being racist oh yes it is when you are a Democrat.

Barack is a public figure and therefore lose all Slander and Libel protections and so Any citizen can call him anything they want. They can do that to any Politican and I will stand up for your rights to do that regardless. Did he deserve a slap on the wrist for being rude? YES he did but not the say say ” he speaks so well not like a Negro” which is what Reid did. That was Racist!

kjdgf

January 11th, 2010
1:21 pm

so is ciny declaring the speaker to be their stupid leader

Harry Reid

January 11th, 2010
1:29 pm

I did not mean to start such a mess. I think the world of the President. He is a good speaker and a credit to his race. Also, the cat can dance! And he got mad skilz on the hardwood. My boy can take it to the hoop. Word!!

stranger in a strange land

January 11th, 2010
1:29 pm

Putting aside the hair splitting, word parsing, linguistic torturing, etc – there is simply no way a rational, logical, thoughtful person can reconcile giving a pass to H Reid and yet excoriate Lott (and others) for their ‘hate’ speech. Can you? Really.

Over the Hill

January 11th, 2010
1:35 pm

Hey Cyn, Let me get this straight you say the movie Avatar is racist but Howdy Doodys remarks aren’t?
And you actually get paid for this??? You are a joke and should just go away!

Joke man

January 11th, 2010
1:35 pm

Want to hear some Harry reid jokes? What is black and tan and looks good on Harry Reid? A doberman!! Man I kill me.

Cutty

January 11th, 2010
1:36 pm

When did those who never experienced a lick of racism become the Deciders on who constitutes a racist act? Reid was attempting to give a compliment to Obama, although it sounded like he was stuck in the 50s. Lott was saying if Thurmond were elected President and segregation would continue to rule the day; implied or not. I don’t have a problem with Reid’s statement, but I do have a problem with Bill Clinton’s. Which was much closer to the statement that Trent Lott made.

Eddie

January 11th, 2010
1:42 pm

Reid made two statements that were both true. People are allowed to do that.

Lott made a statement that was not true. We would not have been better off if Strome had been president, because Strome was a racist.

There is a difference in the statements.

Harry Reid

January 11th, 2010
1:42 pm

I am going to make everything right with Black America by solving the Black unemployment problem. I propose that the NBA be expanded to 5000 teams.

Hairy Banana Reid

January 11th, 2010
1:55 pm

Folks, we have an imposter in our midst.

Hairy Banana Reid

January 11th, 2010
1:58 pm

Presbo is ma homeboy… he ma peep diddy.

Hary Reid

January 11th, 2010
2:02 pm

I didn’t say all those things people say I said.

(quote stolen from Yoggi Berra)

Hairy Banana Reid

January 11th, 2010
2:05 pm

Here’s another Harry Reid joke. Harry went to church this past weekend and sat in his own pew.

ba da bum *cymbal crash*

HoJo

January 11th, 2010
2:05 pm

Satan and Obama must just love this. To quote the Emporer in Reurn of the Jedi during the lightsaber duel, “I can feel the ANNNGGGEEERR floooowwwwwwing through you!!!
You are all just being distracted from the REAL problems and part of it is the divisiveness being sewn by the Left AND the Right. The puppeteers who write the script for the bozos in office pit us against ourselves to fight, over race, money and status, while they garner more power for themselves. Don’t you ever wonder why super billonaires like George Soros, Bill Gates and Warren Buffer are liberals? They certaingly aren’t giving their money away for the greater good, but they are using their power and influence to shape policy, behavior and consumption to keep us shackled and the profits flowing to them. Please for Gods sake, open your eyes people!! We shouldn’t be fighting each other but the corporate and governmental monoliths that seek to enslave us. We all are so passive in regards to giving away our incremental freedoms but flame full of passion when someone dare says something disagreeable. We should all be more accepting of all opinions and dialogs and less accepting of the freedom choking litigous fear mongering and burearacratic corruption. Its here and we are being slowly swallowed alive by it. Join with your fellow brothers and sister and fight them!!

no name

January 11th, 2010
2:07 pm

Reid is one of the highest ranking democrats in congress. Do you think his comments weren’t shared by fellow members of his party or discussed in the vetting process? This election was all about race and using that to win the election. Obama was raised by his white mother and grandmother. He was half white, but the press touted this as a historic election for blacks. How is this so considering that his mother and grandmother educated him and gave him the resources to get where he is. (I personally think it a tribute to single mothers) This election was about skin color and Obama was used by the democrats to make the country feel good. The truth is, this election was all about race. Reid just told us that. America was played and for the democrats to accept responsibility would mean admiting this and jeopardizing future elections. It’s hypocritical but that is the nature of politics. Yes it’s racist and he should be removed, but again that won’t happen.

Wake up people, do your homework and know the candidates before you vote.

Bill Clinton

January 11th, 2010
2:10 pm

I do not have anything against Obama, in fact, I admire the work of many Black people. For instance, Halle Berry’s foreign policy is to be admired. And how about Beyonce’s remarks on the economy, and don’t get me started on Rhiana or Vivian Fox.

George

January 11th, 2010
2:14 pm

“Why don’t you slavery “experts” forget the Civil War, and spend your time on actual slavery?”

Excellent idea when southern whites stop waving the red flag in front of the blacks…ie., when southern whites stop waving the stupid confederate flag in front of black people reminding them of slavery and civil war! Will white southerners first assimilate into the United States of America and forget the civil war? That would be a start and black people should oblige!

Obama

January 11th, 2010
2:16 pm

Check out this White joke. Why did God invent White people? A. Someone has to pay retail!

Obama

January 11th, 2010
2:19 pm

Let me make it clear. Here is another White joke. What does a White person do when their car breaks down? A. They get it fixed!

kimmerq

January 11th, 2010
2:23 pm

It is amazing to me how liberals are given the privilege to unilaterally interpret the underlying intent of any and all verbal gaffes.

If Reid’s statement had been uttered by a conservative, the Rev. Al and all of the other liberal leaders would be all over it demanding his head on a platter and anyone with any intellectual honesty knows it. It is not unlike Bill Clinton given a pass by the libs, including the feminists, while being a total sexist pig bordering on sexual predator, in the white house.

As many has pointed out here, Reid’s remarks are much more inflammatory than Lott’s. Harry Reid spoke about Obama personally in an insensitive manner, directly about his race in an upcoming election. Trent Lott was trying to pump up a 100 year old man at his birthday party! He spoke of him in a general sense and never hinted at anything racial. He only said, ‘we wouldn’t have had all of these problems’. Well we’ve had thousands of problems this could apply to and one must make a big assumption that he was referring to race. We don’t have to guess with Harry’s comments!

I mean just put Harry’s words in Trent Lott’s mouth. Can you imagine the furor if a conservative uttered the words ‘Negro dialect’ in any context?

Obammi

January 11th, 2010
2:26 pm

I’m just wild about HARRY!

Joke man

January 11th, 2010
2:34 pm

What were the hardest 3 years of Harry Reid’s life? A. Seventh grade!

CPB

January 11th, 2010
2:35 pm

Corrected:
Thank you, Ms Tucker for an insightful look into this Reid discussion. I will not disrespect your opinion with INAPPROPRIATE, unobjective statements like some of our other LESS TACTFUL AJC readers. Whether I agree or disagree that Reid should step down (and I do believe to get this thing over with, he may need to), I appreciate your thoughts. Unfortunately, this Reid-Game Change debate is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Thanks again, Ms. Tucker. Some of your readers DO APPRECIATE YOU!

[...] don’t like the “R” word, so I’ll agree with my colleague Cynthia Tucker: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was mostly being stupid in saying last year that Barack Obama [...]

Joke man

January 11th, 2010
2:36 pm

What is the difference between Harry Reid and a dead possum in the road? A. There are skid marks in front of the possum!

Harry Reid

January 11th, 2010
2:41 pm

I love Obama. I think he is the best Black President we have ever had.

itamazesme

January 11th, 2010
2:55 pm

I normally sit back and just observe, but today I wanted to state something here. I kind of agree with cutty in that you have to be black to truly understand why some view Reid’s or Lott’s statements as racist and others don’t.

I personally don’t think either one of them made racist statements. I think both of them did not think before they spoke.

I as a black american, can see why Mr. Reid’s statement was made, because there is some truth to what he stated. Mr. Lott I am sure didn’t know the repercussions of his statement.

I have had my own personal experiences when it comes to statements concerning race. Back in 2004, I was on a conference trip in the mountains of a certain state.. I was traveling with my company and I along with one other co-worker were the only 2 blacks out of 20 people in our group. Our first incident-we stopped to buy freshly picked apples. The gentlman was kind and sincere in speaking with us, however, he was unaware of the impact one of his statements made. He asked my co-worker who is black and 6′9″ was he there to visit the college to play basketball, and he asked me was (a black woman) I there to run track. Yes, the statement was stereotyping us because of our race, but we didn’t find it racist. The gentleman never gave me any inkling that he was racist, it was something he assumed.

That night we went to a restaurant with our group and we were the only two blacks there. People kept looking over at our table, but an elderly couple more so than anyone. After the couple finished their meals, they walked up to me at our table and told me I was the prettiest colored gal they had ever seen. You could have heard a pin drop. What did I do? I got up and hugged each of them and THANKED them for the compliment. The word colored was acceptable to them because of the era they grew up in. Although I was shocked by the term used, I knew that they meant no harm and were truly giving me what they thought was a true form of flattery.

Does racism still exist? YES – it is so evident in the posts that I read to some of these blogs. However, in this instance, I don’t think it has ANYTHING to do with the statement made but more so for potlical reasons.

Rev Al Sharptongue

January 11th, 2010
2:56 pm

Its so funny watching the wingnut bloggers get so upset and distort fascts when they are losing. Bob Barr got them last week and now they are ranting as usual @ the Black Queen Cynthia tucker.

Why are ypu people so bitter, angry and devisive?

chuck allison

January 11th, 2010
3:00 pm

The most important thing is that Lott and Reid were both speaking the TRUTH! And the truth is more important that the anyones “preference of the day.” BTW, I am light skinned, but I do speak with a dialect, because I like my dialect. Intelligent folks don’t avoid the truth.

ctucker

January 11th, 2010
3:02 pm

itamazesme, Thanks for sharing your stories. I have had very similar experiences with whites — particularly older ones — who said things that were awkward and insensitive, but they meant no harm, and I took no offense.