Who Are These Black People and Who Are Their Leaders?

The release of the book Game Change by Washington reporters John Heilemann and Mark Halperin has set tongues wagging on a number of topics but the topic that has captured much of today’s dialog is a quote attributed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Apparently, in assessing then Senator Barack Obama’s chances at a successful presidential run, Reid said it was advantageous that Obama was “light-skinned” with “no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one”. While a truck load of folks are unhappy with Reid’s choice of words, the overwhelming majority of Democrats have come to his defense and Barack Obama himself has given Harry a pass on this. This in turn, has conservatives fuming about a double standard saying that had a Republican uttered these phrases, he would have been forced to resign. Former Republican Senator Trent Lott is used as the example. My fellow blogger Blackiswhite, Imperial Consigliere argues this point much to my dismay. But he asks another question in his post that deserves further examination.

Let’s dispense first with the ridiculous Reid-Lott equivalency argument. I’ve gone back and read Lott’s explanation of the faux pas that got him in hot water back in 2002. In celebrating the 100 year birthday of then South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, Lott delivered a toast in which he reminded the audience of Mississippi’s support of Thurmond’s presidential candidacy back in 1948. The cornerstone of Thurmond’s platform was segregation. Lott said, “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 all these years either.” Now it isn’t a stretch to surmise that Lott was endorsing Thurmond’s segregationist ways.  The best spin we can give this (and Lott’s own spin for that matter) is that essentially Lott was patronizing the old man at his birthday celebration with a general slap on the back that was not meant to be analyzed as a serious political statement.

The reason the Lott-Reid equivalency is intellectually bankrupt has nothing to do with the intent of the individuals making their respective comments. Lott may indeed have not even considered that his statement could be interpreted as longing for the good old days of white and black water fountains. The issue is not about intent, it is about the reaction triggered by the statement. Regardless of what Lott meant to say, the interpretation was ugly. Interestingly, Reid apologized for his choice of words but has not apologized for the meaning of his words. And he need not apologize for the meaning of his words since there is no way that anyone speaking the English language can interpret Reid’s comment as a dislike for black people.

In fact, Harry Reid told the truth. We might not like it but he told the truth. Both within the “black community” and outside it, there is discrimination based on skin color. Yes, even some blacks are stupid enough to attach value to skin color. And when MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough asks with full outrage “what is a black dialect”, every honest person knows he is full of crap. A black dialect is like pornography. I cannot describe it to you but I know it when I hear it, and so does every other honest person. You want a good “test” of a black dialect? Listen to someone on the phone and try to guess if they are black or white. For some people (not all) the test is quite easy. Granted some of what we associate as black dialect is really southern. A large component of Jesse Jackson’s speech pattern is southern. But I’m sorry folks, when you hear Jesse on the radio you know with 95% certainty he is black. And again, some in our society (both white and black) associate ignorance (and at worst, menace) with a black dialect. The same goes for dark skin. Have we forgotten the brouhaha inspired by the Time Magazine cover of OJ Simpson that many said had been darkened to make him look more menacing?

Harry Reid spoke the truth that the best way to get a black man into the White House was to pick one who “sounded white” and who had some white background. These two traits could make Obama palatable to soft-core bigots. So on the face of it, Trent Lott spoke (possibly malicious) conjecture and Reid spoke truth with no malicious intent. End of story.

But with all that said, there is a bigger question to address that my friend Blackiswhite, Imperial Consigliere broaches in his article:

Who are these “black leaders” that people not of color keep having to make amends to when they have been declared of some sort of racial transgression?   Who elected them?  Do we all get to choose?  And if not, how is that equality?  How did Harry know who to call?  Do they publish a directory?  I realize that this may sound somewhat ridiculous, and I might be making too much light of what should be serious questions, but I think it is long past time to have an honest conversation about race on this particular subject.  Who are these individuals to accept an apology for racist remarks about one person?  And if it were about more than one person, the question remains the same.  I don’t remember taking part in any decision to elect white leaders to accept apologies from members of other ethnic and racial groups who make racist remarks about white people.

To my Imperial friend, I say one thing: you are absolutely right.

On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Joe Scarborough asked black  Washington Post writer Jonathan Capehart his opinion on the Reid fiasco. Capehart responded, and I paraphrase here, “Well, as the lone ambassador of the black race …” and he chuckled. You see, while Capehart didn’t want to really nail Joe, he was hinting that Joe’s directing the question at him was in itself racist. Why on Earth should Jonathan Capehart be expected to speak for black people? Why should I as a black man be expected to do the same? Why should anyone? And on the flip side, how arrogant it is of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to think they speak for black people. While I agree with some of what each has had to say over the years, neither speaks for me. This leads me to the ultimate revelation of absurdity:

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS BLACK PEOPLE! Sorry all you proud sista’s and brotha’s but I’ve said it and I don’t take it back. The laptop I am typing on right now is black. I have never met anyone whose skin matches that color. I have met native Africans and no, even the darkest of them are lighter in tone than my laptop. Similarly, I have never met a man whose skin was white like a piece of paper or a cloud. Albinos come close perhaps. This distinction that 99% of our society buys into is totally absurd. Let’s look at some of the other phrases:

Negro — Spanish for black and coming from a latin root meaning black. Again, categorizing people by color, which is preposterous.
Colored — I’ve got news for you, we’re ALL colored.
African-American — This one at least shares the same preoccupation with regional origin that Italian-American or Polish-American does.

The bottom line is that our society has created a truly meaningless classification system that says nothing about its members. Heck, as Obama, Harold Ford Jr. and I prove, it doesn’t even say anything about the skin color of its members. The black/white distinction is totally preposterous yet it is embraced by both so-called blacks and so-called whites.

Harry Reid’s comments remind us that we have a society preoccupied with stupidity. Skin color is meaningless. We all know it yet we cling to it. So-called black speech rhythms which owe themselves more to southern heritage than anything else are equally meaningless. What is important is what is said, not the meter of speech. (By the way, this is not a defense of ebonics which I will leave for another article … ebonics is the most intellectually perverse degradation of the so-called black community to come down the pike.)

How do we talk about race? The more I think about it, the more I think the actor Morgan Freeman got it right in an interview with Mike Wallace on “60 Minutes” many years ago. He said the way to handle race is to STOP talking about it. It is sheer foolishness that says nothing about the individuals being labeled. I’ll leave you with that nugget of wisdom and prepare to take my shots in the comments section.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

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39 thoughts on “Who Are These Black People and Who Are Their Leaders?

  1. You may find the Lott comparison rediculous, but it is not. Reid’s comment is not an isolated event.

    Let us go back to when Chris Dodd celebrated one Sen. Robert Byrd (D)-WV as an icon of the senate. The same Sen. Byrd who is arguable the founder of the Klu Klux Klan in W. Virginia and held multiple leadership positions within the organization.

    Now, we can bemoan the platform of the segragationist Dixiecrats all day long, but as far as I know, the Dixiecrats never lynched anyone, not did they run around the country side in white hoods inflicting racial terror.

    The GOP cried foul, and the Dems dutifly ignored and moved on.

    It has consistently been the Dems, not the GOP, to bring race into politics, using it as a convienent nightstick to beat their opponents when the facts and substance won’t work (which is rather regularly). The 2008 presidential campaign is a great example of this.

    Considering the long history of racism with the Dems- and I mean over a century’s worth- and considering how pretty much nothing the Dems have ever done has actually help minority folks, I find it ludicrous to get a lecture on racial sensitivity from the left. Furthermore, contrary to the Dems, the GOP actually has a legitimate gripe on this.

    Finally, what is even worse about this revelation is that these guys knew about this during the campaign, yet nothing was said then. Why? All the more, another example of the media providing cover to the Dems…

  2. I agree now as I did before with Mr.Freeman. I also agree with your general point regards race and your hint at dual fairness in your post.
    I confess a virtual sadness though towards what appears to be your underlying liberal side though. Your inner liberal comes shining through in your offering of apologies to the Left.
    Reids comments have a point of truth to them,as do Bill Clintons now revisited comments. That should not give the speakers a pass. Let’s add Hillary’s stupid ebonics poetry on the campaign trail about being “Nowhere nears tired” or some other nonsense and you see the utter hypocrisy of the Democrats and liberals regards comments and race.
    It is truly sad that you (Rutherford) somehow have a foot in both camps.

  3. I’d be extremely happy to stop talking about race and to have it no longer used as a weapon with which to bludgeon political opponents.

    You first, Democrats.

  4. Welcome to the blog Wiserbud. Don’t you have to admit that the whining has been coming from the GOP on this one? Fine, the Dems gave Harry a free pass and that’s not fair. The GOP could have kept mum about it, let it die, and moved on to their bigger better mission of stalling any government progress on any issue. Instead, they complained. OK, that’s fine too. But then they overplay their hand with the Trent Lott thing.

    As I said over at BiW’s blog, the Chris Dodd thing was news to me. The GOP might have been better off to keep Lott out of the debate and simply throw more DEM’s on the fire … Dodd and more notoriously Mr. Clinton. Establish a pattern of liberal tolerance of liberal racism and leave it at that. Where they went wrong was using a man whose voting record made him look like a bigot as their “victim”.

  5. I confess a virtual sadness though towards what appears to be your underlying liberal side though.

    LOL, I think I’ve figured out why you guys keep coming back to the blog, Alfie. You’re patiently awaiting my conversion. 😉

  6. Yesterday, I was sitting watching Morning Joe when I heard about the Clinton “coffee” comment. At first blush, I didn’t take it racially and felt it could easily be a reference to Obama’s inexperience … that he could have been a Senate staffer fetching coffee for his boss. I was about to Tweet my opinion on that when they added a detail to the story that Clinton later told Kennedy that he was only supporting Obama ‘cos he was black.

    I canceled my tweet. I’m not quite sure what’s up with old Bill. At least we now know one thing for sure. He learned nothing from the Lewinsky affair.

  7. Reid’s comment is not an isolated event.

    Wow G, your debating skills are deteriorating. After reading this I was already for you to document Reid’s history of racially insensitive comments and then you pull the Chris Dodd switcheroo. Talk about an evasion.

  8. “R”,

    Remember when the light bulb comes on, it was old Tex that told you people like our first black President Bill Clinton are racist as hell, and yet you still won’t permit yourself to flip the switch.

    Off the subject, here’s the new proposal (and wise proposal) for airport security. If everybody copped this attitude, we wouldn’t be worrying about airplanes blowing up.

    http://www.animatronics.org/strangers/strangers.htm 😆

  9. The issue is not about intent, it is about the reaction triggered by the statement. Regardless of what Lott meant to say, the interpretation was ugly.

    That’s like saying the shove was caused by the fall, R. Intent always matters, because it is the reason the words are uttered to begin with. Perception is the lens through which the intent is determined, and it is learned. Given the current victim mentality that afflicts the “black community”, I think it is fair to assume that anything remotely favorable said about someone associated with segregation will automatically be given the worst possible connotation by the perpetually offended, but to say that the reaction determined the meaning of the words gets it tragically wrong.

    Interestingly, Reid apologized for his choice of words but has not apologized for the meaning of his words.

    Nothing interesting about it. Like you, he still has no clue what he did wrong, and that is consistent with the ongoing trainwreck that is The Harry Reid Show.

    And he need not apologize for the meaning of his words since there is no way that anyone speaking the English language can interpret Reid’s comment as a dislike for black people.

    No. He needs to apologize because he clearly believes that :

    a) the rest of America shares his own personal prejudices and those of the Democratic elite; and

    b) this leads him to believe that not all black men have the potential to become President, only the light-skinned ones who speak like debate club members.

    That’s an awful lot of underestimation of Americans based on race for one man to carry around, and your branding it as “truth” and therefore ok is shameful. If you sanction the veiwpoint, then it will linger, and race will continue to be a weapon in the aresenal of the Democratic Party…a tool to divide for personal and party gain, and not the American success that Dr. King and others set out to achieve all those years ago.

    Oh, and can you sign my note stating that I have been having an ongoing honest conversation about race, please? I want Eric Holder to get out of my face so he can concentrate on his job and stop making boneheaded decisons like giving legal rights in Article III courts to foreign nationals who want to kill us. Thankyoueversomuch.

  10. “R”,

    Tell me something honestly. As an educated “black” man, and unlike Morgan Freeman who happens to be one of my favorite actors, I’ll continue to use it as a description of separation for description sake, are you really going to excuse the insinuation that Reid professed?

    Don’t you realize that the term “negro dialect” is an admission of inferiority and ignorance? I could make a case that Reid’s comment was far worse than Lott’s comment, simply based on the fact of me realizing what is in Reid’s heart. To Reid, you are inferior based on your heritage, but Barack was “white” enough to garner enough votes to win to further Harry’s agenda. In other words, we will pick Obama because he is electable and use him as fodder to meet our needs. I don’t know how you can deny this in all honesty and I can’t believe you discount it. That’s the most hideous form of racism – as bad as separate bathrooms.

    Now, I know you know this. Are you going to continue to excuse racism because of party affiliation? Come on, we all know what Reid meant. Obama was thought to be ‘acceptable’ to whites and you said as much.

    Look, Trent Lott was worthless in my book, a self-serving pol as so many of them are. I’m glad he is gone because I thought he was bad for America. Like Reid’s comment, his ignorance is generational and the commentary tasteless. But I don’t know how you can go on denying that a huge double standard exists in judgment in the black community. And like the feminist organizations that gave Bill Clinton a pass during Lewinsky, it really ruins what you seek demonstrates the utter hypocrisy, which does nothing but perpetuates the racism.

  11. I personally feel Lott and Reid both are a generation of ignorance. The world left them both behind at least 30 years ago, and though I don’t necessarily agree with the author of the link in his entirety, I do agree both a sleazy.

    What I seek is fairness in judgment and an admission that these so called civil rights advocates from the left are a bunch of phonies. On that point, I agree completely with the author.

    http://pajamasmedia.com/rogerlsimon/2010/01/11/harry-reids-not-a-racist-hes-a-hack/

  12. Surprise, surprise: “The Treasury admits it’s losing more money from TARP than it’s gaining. The White House considers a bank tax to make up those losses.”

    No need to disdain Obama because he is black, white, red, or yellow. His miserable policies are more than enough to insure disdain no matter the color.

    Tacit suggestion to raising taxes and making it more acceptable. You watch…

  13. Oh, and can you sign my note stating that I have been having an ongoing honest conversation about race, please?

    Well, BiW consider the entire second half of my article your signature.

    When I read your article, I was struck by your argument concerning racial spokesmen and I was surprised that you would think I would dodge it.

    Regarding Reid’s perception and whether it accurately represents the country at large, I’d love to believe that it does not. But I think despite the election of Obama our country still has some work to do.

  14. Don’t you have to admit that the whining has been coming from the GOP on this one?

    You call it whining. I call it the long-overdue exposing of the hypocrisy and disgusting double-standards of the media, the left and the so-called “leaders of the black community.”

    The Perpetually Outraged and Morally Pure Left has used the race card for years to destroy anyone who dares to disagree with their positions. Suddenly, the left’s facade of moral purity is exposed for the whole country to see and you want to compalin about the so-called “whining?”

    As usual. If you can’t win on the facts, attack the witness. How ….expected.

    Fine, the Dems gave Harry a free pass and that’s not fair.

    So let’s all just move on then, shall we? Nothing to see here, really. (Of course, the next time a Republican says anything that can be taken completely out of context…..Team Force Liberal….ATTACK!!!!!)

    I notice that you are still defending Harry’s remarks. So which is it? Is it not fair that he is getting a free pass on this or did he say nothing wrong to begin with? You really need to pick a side here, Rutherford.

    The GOP could have kept mum about it, let it die, and moved on to their bigger better mission of stalling any government progress on any issue.

    I absolutely agree. Let Harry sit and worry about how he is going to get voted out of office this year for all of his other obnoxious, idiotic and insulting behavior. I am more than happy to have the Republicans focus on stalling any and all supposed “progress” that the Democrats want to force on the American people. Anything they can do to keep the Dems from destroying this country, I am completely in favor of.

  15. Ahhhhhhh, but I’m not done yet.

    Here we are, with the most ethical congress evah!!!

    Defend this R, please…

  16. Hey G … the first video definitely deserves an Oscar nod.

    On the second, I love Jack Cafferty … for us NY metro folks Jack goes back a long way.

    On the third, at least Murtha was unethical on C-SPAN! 🙂 (Probably how Tex acts on a bad day. 😉 )

  17. LOL.

    Rutherford, he used the word “Negro”.

    I could have taught a course called the “Contributions of African Americans” for a decade, donated both of my kidneys to a Kenyan hospital and be married to a black woman with a big round ass. If I refer to one of my students just once as a “Negro”, I’m fired.

    So, quit acting like your “keepin’ it real” (excuse my Negro dialect) by so courageously stating blacks have a distinct vernacular.

    Quit blabbering on about the validity of what Reid said.

    Quit secretly fixating on the fact that Obama and Reid are boys. (excuse my Negro dialect again)

    Quit rehashing the Trent Lott fiasco.

    None of that matters and you know it, you mindless follower.

    He used the N-word light.

    If he said Niger instead of Negro would it have been ok?

    No?

    Ahhh. I see.

    So, this does come down to semantics.

    Is using the word Negro offensive? As in “you’re fired” offensive?

    I don’t know.

    Do we have any white volunteers that want to give it a shot at the work place?

    Hey Mr. Harvard. Figure this one out:

    Cunt is to Bitch as Niger is to __________.

    Negro please.

    Go call your wife a bitch and tell me where you sleep tonight.

    I expect my paper boy to know the ramifications of using the N-light word.

    Any Republican says the word Negro and he is done. As is any white male in today’s work force.

    I swear you form every thought in your high-jacked brain to help a politician. Reality be damned.

    ps. If you had guts, you wouldn’t have waited to see how your puppet masters responded and would have simply defended Harry.

    Some where in an alternative universe is an outraged Obama being backed up by a very angry Rutherford demanding that Harry packs his bags.

  18. If you had guts, you wouldn’t have waited to see how your puppet masters responded and would have simply defended Harry.

    You kinda lost me on that one Rabbit. I didn’t post the article fast enough for you? The minute I heard Reid’s comment I felt he was telling the truth and I didn’t need Obama’s forgiveness to mold my opinion.

    Look, you’re talking to someone whose mother-in-law still says “colored people” or “coloreds” on a bad day. But I know she has no malice. She hasn’t emerged from the 1960’s yet.. And as others have pointed out if Negro was N word lite, then we’d all be up in arms over the United Negro College Fund. Reid’s use of the word simply means he’s had his head up his ass for a while.

  19. And as others have pointed out if Negro was N word lite, then we’d all be up in arms over the United Negro College Fund. Reid’s use of the word simply means he’s had his head up his ass for a while.

    Quick hits:

    1. Google it and explain the controversy of the use of the word on census forms then; and

    2. Reid’s use of the word simply means he’s had his head up his ass for a while, yes, we’ve been saying that for awhile, and yet, there he sits in the Senate, looking like he has indistrial strength constipation and waging his fingers over what he perceived as everyone else’s offenses.

    *Bonus question*
    If he didn’t say anything offensive, then why did he apologize, and why was Captain Awesome so quick to respond?

  20. “Look, you’re talking to someone whose mother-in-law still says “colored people” or “coloreds” on a bad day. But I know she has no malice. She hasn’t emerged from the 1960’s yet.”-R

    R, you are still misunderstanding me. I’m guessing your mother-in-law isn’t a Republican Senator or for that matter currently very career minded.

    Plain and simple, Reid got a pass becuase he is, at the moment, a very important Democrat. What he said would ruin 99% of normal people’s careers. What he said would have ruined the career of any one on the other side of the isle.

    If you can’t see that then you’re crazy.

  21. “And as others have pointed out if Negro was N word lite, then we’d all be up in arms over the United Negro College Fund”-R

    We still use “bitch” at dog shows.

    What’s your point? I’m telling you, if I refer to a colleague as a “Negro” and said black person is remotely offended my life is fucking ruined.

  22. “The minute I heard Reid’s comment I felt he was telling the truth and I didn’t need Obama’s forgiveness to mold my opinion.”

    I forgot, Reid IS one of your puppet masters.

  23. “WASHINGTON – The White House has abandoned its controversial method of counting jobs under President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus, making it impossible to track the number of jobs saved or created with the $787 billion in recovery money.

    Despite mounting a vigorous defense of its earlier count of more than 640,000 jobs credited to the stimulus, even after numerous errors were identified, the Obama administration now is making it easier to give the stimulus credit for hiring. It’s no longer about counting a job as saved or created; now it’s a matter of counting jobs funded by the stimulus.

    That means that any stimulus money used to cover payroll will be included in the jobs credited to the program, including pay raises for existing employees and pay for people who never were in jeopardy of losing their positions.”

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34830451/ns/business-stocks_and_economy

    Hmmmmmm, most transparent ever. Yup, at this I’d agree. Their excuses and explanations are pretty transparent…

  24. BiW and Rabbit, Negro is offensive to the extent that it is archaic and harkens back to pre-civil rights days. The term was always as far as I can tell a legit term for the race, never a pejorative. Again, it causes rancor now because it reminds blacks of a time when they were less empowered and more oppressed. Just as the motivation for African-American is to highlight the regional origin of many blacks, and discourage shame of that origin.

    I’ve listened to the back and forth dialog the past few days and some older blacks still use the term Negro. If I’m not mistaken, the census form gives a host of alternatives to please everyone.

    And I’m sorry guys but Reid using the word Negro in his assessment of where America is at right now was less offensive than Clinton’s statement which didn’t mention race at all but was loaded as hell with suggested meaning.

    Here is the bigger question. I conclude in this article that we stop talking about race. What I am now wrestling with is where does that leave folks who really are bigots? How do we deal with them without mentioning race?

    If you enlightened readers have any ideas, please share.

    P.S. Rabbit I don’t know the climate in your school district but I find it hard to believe that if you made a reference to “my Negro friend” while talking to a black colleague that you’d be fired. Now, if you said “that lazy Negro”, that’s a horse of a different color.

  25. If we are to quit mentioning race to describe, can we also quit mentioning eye color, hair color and height?

    When I say “that black guy over there”, it really is not much different then when I say that tall, blond over there.

    If you and Morgan Freeman are serious about making race an issue, you can start by canning all the black associations and simply refer to yourselves as black if you must refer to ethnicity – instead of the idiotic African-American.

    I think race would be far less important if blacks didn’t make race an issue at the drop of a hat. So the ball is in the “people of color’s” court to make it happen.

  26. What I am now wrestling with is where does that leave folks who really are bigots? How do we deal with them without mentioning race?

    Success based on merit rather than a set aside or quota based on skin color would be a great place to start.

    Telling everyone that we’re all equal and then using the government to mandate that equality with means that are not equal 40 and 50 years after the government first became involved kind of undermines the point that the intervention was supposed to originally punctuate. When you are still lowering the scores on various civil service exams and tests for some applicants based on the applicant’s race or ethnicity this long after the “remediation” measures desegregation, quotas, affirmative action, and now the latest incarnation of “diversity”, it gets a little tougher for some people to take it in stride and continue to believe in the underlying concept.

    But then some of the self-segregation that takes place by blacks within the larger community doesn’t really help either. Believe me, I saw a few people who didn’t care so much about race because they were the children of the 70s and 80s (i.e. a generation or more removed from Brown vs. Board of Education) who suddenly found divisions in their schools with “Black Proms, etc.” who suddenly found themselves saying “Dude. WTF?”

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