Although there are hundreds of news and blog articles out there this morning discussing “Harry Reid’s racist comments,” I don’t think his words actually reveal a closet racist at all. They certainly don’t at all prove that Senator Reid thinks any less of black people.
In their new book Game Change about the 2008 presidential election, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann say that during the campaign Harry Reid explained in a private conversation that he liked Barack Obama’s chances partly because he was a relatively “light-skinned” African-American, with “no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”
I think, honestly, that these comments show Harry Reid to be, more than anything, brutally honest about his perception of the American electorate’s feelings about race. Reid wasn’t saying that Barack Obama is a better person or would make a better President because of his lighter skin. He was admitting that realistically, all other factors aside, Americans (read: middle-class white Americans) would be somewhat more receptive to a black person with lighter skin and who speaks more like Brian Williams than Flavor Flav.
The word “Negro” is seen by some (but not all) blacks as an antiquated and mildly offensive term. It’s surprising that someone who’s risen to the level of Senate Majority Leader (especially in the Democratic Party) would opt for that word, but it’s not the sort of word that conclusively indicates racism on the part of a white person uttering it. It does, however, show that Reid really isn’t up-to-date on his PC terminology.
Which brings me to Republicans, those guardians of political correctness, those passionate defenders of the feelings of black people everywhere, calling for Harry Reid to resign as Majority Leader. There are apparently few people better at producing crocodile tears than the likes of Michael Steele and John Cornyn, who don’t accept Reid’s apology, and don’t accept Barack Obama’s acceptance of Reid’s apology. Make no mistake – Republican leaders could give a damn about the sort of remarks Reid made. They care because it’s Reid – they smell blood in the water, and they’re circling like sharks in the name of Reid’s personal destruction and their party’s political gain.