Tough week. As for Simon Cowell's impending departure from "American
Idol," NBC/Jay Leno's failure at 10 p.m. and Democratic Sen. Harry
Reid's "Negro dialect" comment, which incited more angst?
According to a new book about the '08 presidential campaign, Reid, the
Senate majority leader, said that then-Sen. Barack Obama appealed to
voters as a "light-skinned" black man with "no Negro dialect" that
is, "unless he wanted to have one." Egad!
Faster than you could say "Tawana Brawley," "civil rights leader" Al
Sharpton popped up on Fox News Channel to pronounce himself "offended"
but willing to accept Reid's apology. The host exercised commendable
restraint in not bringing up the time Sharpton, the moral arbiter of all
things offensive to blacks, called a black former mayor of New York a
n- whore. But let us stay focused.
Don't tase me, bro! said Reid. He quickly apologized. No "my remarks
were taken out of context" or "what I meant was" or charges of "tabloid
journalism." He just apologized to President Obama, to members of the
Congressional Black Caucus to everyone, it seems, except the
light-skinned Tiger Woods, who is apparently taking no one's calls.
Luckily, Reid found Obama in a more magnanimous mood than the President
was when during the Great Harvard Professor Racial Profiling Case
he accused the Cambridge police of acting "stupidly." Timing (and party
affiliation) is everything.
Reid went to school on the way former Senate Republican leader Trent
Lott handled his "racially insensitive" remarks. Lott, on the 100th
birthday of Sen. Strom Thurmond in 2002, praised the elderly former
segregationist and said America would have been a better country had
Thurmond won the presidency in 1948. Republican racism yet again
Critics rejected the explanation that Lott was simply trying to flatter
an old man. Even Republicans, squirming like global warming alarmists
trying to explain away record cold temps, dumped him. Lott's remarks
symbolized nothing short of a Klan revival meeting. Lott apologized,
apologized and apologized. He even did a perp walk on Black
Entertainment Television, where the host asked the chastened Lott, "Will
you take a closer look at the people you align yourself with?" Lott
practically agreed to raise his hand before using the restroom. Goodbye
To avoid the same fate, Reid followed the path of former Air Force
Academy football coach Fisher DeBerry: Apologize early and often
and let others decide what, exactly, you are apologizing for. After a
lopsided loss during the 2005 season, DeBerry said, "(Our opponent) had
a lot more Afro-American players than we did, and they ran a lot faster
than we did." Unleash the hounds!
DeBerry's athletic director criticized him for making a "seriously,
seriously inappropriate comment. … This was not Fisher DeBerry, not
the man I've known for 25 years." Why, the Air Force "has a
zero-tolerance policy for any racial or ethnic discrimination or
discrimination of any kind." Oh, sure, a black Air Force player said,
"We, as a team, didn't think he meant anything by it. … I personally
wasn't offended." And a white teammate said, "There are 250 guys on the
team, and there is not one player that was offended." But still …
DeBerry held a news conference. "I realize the things I said might have
been hurtful to many people," he said, "and I want everyone to
understand that I never intended to offend anyone." So far, so good. "I
have made a mistake, and I ask for everyone's forgiveness," he
OK. But what exactly, asked the reporters, was he apologizing for? Is it
wrong to say blacks run fast? "I don't think there is anything wrong
with that," DeBerry replied. Oops. "We have some Caucasian players that
run very, very well, also." Uh-oh. Sensing danger, the athletic director
stepped in. "What we're talking about is speed," offered the AD.
"There's speed that cuts across black, white, gray, blue, whatever."
Huh? "It was just an inappropriate comment, and you all know it was an
inappropriate comment." Racial insensitivity, understand, is like what a
Supreme Court justice once said about smut. You know it when you see it.
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"Light-skinned"? Didn't black director Spike Lee do a film, "School
Daze," about how light-skinned fraternity students considered themselves
more appealing than their dark-skinned counterparts?
"Negro"? The term is on this year's census. What about the United Negro College Fund?
"No Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one"? Last January, National
Public Radio interviewed black Obama supporter and linguistics professor
John McWhorter. He said: "(Obama) is a very bidialectal person. … He
can talk in a way where you would not know that he was black over the
phone. … But then, especially when he talks to a black audience, he
can sound quite a bit like (Martin Luther King colleague) Rev. Lowry
sounded at the inauguration."
Now, if Sen. Reid wishes to apologize for something real such as the
budget-breaking abomination of ObamaCare or his shady self-enriching
Nevada real estate deals I'll take the call.