Wednesday, January 13, 2010
My Two Harry Reid Moments: Racist, Insensitive, or Realistic?
About a dozen years ago, I delivered a paper on the impact of skin color at a Critical Race Theory conference at Yale. Drawing upon social scientific studies, I surveyed a variety of contexts around the world in which people with darker skin color apparently suffered certain disadvantages compared to people with lighter skin. My point was that the standard legal framework for dealing with racial discrimination fails to capture this phenomenon.
As I understand it, Harry Reid's statement was privately made. Perhaps there was a "political dialect" involved with his choice of language. All political parties seek "attractive" candidates. Like beauty, the eye of the political beholder may determine who may be an "attractive" candidate, and why. Sometimes that attraction is with gender, sometimes with age, sometimes with physical or familial attributes, sometimes with education, sometimes with size (I have height in mind), sometimes with ethnicity, sometimes with religion and, yes, sometimes with race. Perhaps Reid could have essayed his private comment into great length to address why he thought Obama would be an "attractive" candidate with the preceding in mind. But in private conversation we often talk in shorthand, such that there may be context outside of a brief statement that is not considered.
Now let's apply this to Mitt Romney back here in MA when he decided to run for Governor (and won). Surely he was an "attractive" candidate for several of the reasons suggested above. (Even men would say he was a good looking dude.)
Brian, love your stuff, but if you let people intimidate you from addressing important issues for fear of being tagged "racist" you are effectively collaborating with them! Many people have addressed this issue--Spike Lee did an entire movie ("School Daze") about it--and lived to tell the tale. As long as we're on the subject, who is the darkest-skinned African-American to be nationally prominent right now, and how do you think it affected him? (Hint: he's in the judicial branch).
Harry Reid's statement wasn't normative, but a statement of fact. I don't see why it should be so controversial to point out a plain fact that we all know to be true. Or does anyone really imagine that if Obama spoke with a "negro dialect" that he would be even close to electable?
Brian, I see nothing racist in either of your moments.
The first is a prompt to research that happens to highlight some likely convenient truths. That ain't racist. In fact it's nearly the opposite: shining the light on a form of racism that's generally overlooked, covered up, or ignored.
The second is an attempt to be helpful that certainly touches on a sensitive issue but by your account I see the issue treated with sensitivity and sense, and the person treated with courtesy and respect.
What Reid did, I see differently. Context matters. Harry, no make ass!
If what Reid meant was that the Dem elites would not reject Obama because he looks and speaks like them, he was being realistic. Cf. the elites constant ridicule of Palin's speech, dress and non-Ivy League education.
This report is more useful for its illustration of Dem race card double standard.
You may recall that on March 19, 2007, LA Times movie and culture critic, David Ehrenstein wrote an op-ed calling Barack Obama a magic negro because he was non-threatening and acted white - basically the Reid argument.
Joe Biden chimed in with the comment: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African- American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."
Meanwhile, race hustler Al Sharpton was whining that Obama was not authentically black.
The Dem left said nary a word of objection about this intra party conversation.
Then comic Paul Shanklin produced a song called "Barack the Magic Negro" in the voice of Al Sharpton brutally satirizing all of the above and Rush Limbaugh played it repeatedly on his show. Of course, the Dems went completely bananas and accused Limbaugh and Shanklin of being racists.
Now we are back to a Democrat making the same comments at the same time and the Dems are downplaying it again.
BTW, if anyone slanders you as a racist, you need to treat that person as the ignorant bully he or she is and immediately and forcefully expose and discredit the lie. If you slink off, the bully has won.
Conservatives have to put up with this crap from the left all the time. It is their favorite slander after calling you a Nazi. My Con Law professor was wise enough to know that abortion and race were two nuclear issues and he reserved a day for debate on each then forbade any argument on the subject in the rest of the classes. During our discussion of affirmative action/racial preferences, I made the usual case that the EPC required a color blind government and some idiot called me a closet racist. I methodically destroyed her slander and did my best to embarrass her in front of her peers. No one at the school ever made that slander to my face again.
It is sad that professors in today's academia not only tolerate this kind of bullying but actually cheerfully take part.
I did my best to embarrass her in front of her peers
I just don't know where that stereotype comes from of lawyers being aggressive bullying assholes. Just plain bigotry, I guess. The enlightened view is they were assholes before they became lawyers.
Well, of course, the remark in question wasn't racist. Rather, it represents a recognition of racism on the part of the electorate, not the least on the part of the black portion of it.
On the other hand, there's little reason to doubt that a Republican who uttered the same words would be viciously attacked as a racist. But that's only to say that any Republican who touches on the subject of race at all is subject to accusations of racism, unless he restricts himself to echoing Democratic talking points.
Really, the word "racism" has been stripped of almost all objective meaning in our political discourse, it's nothing but a swear word anymore, what with the way it's so indiscriminately applied to conservatives, and so automatically withheld from liberals.
Could we all just agree that Reid is a poopy head, and drop it?
"[Hawaian pidgin]...is a beautiful sing-song language unto itself, which routinely violates standard rules of grammar."
Oh dear. It's either a pidgin or a language; if the latter, it's a creole. "Hawaiian Creole English" (or HCE - see Wikipedia) may be called Pidgin by its speakers, but it's not really. To be a language, and not a pidgin, is to have comprehensive rules of grammar. The rules of English grammar are no more a universal reference than the rules of Sorb. Bookmark the blog Language Log, run by professionals for curious amateurs, and learn.
Could we all just agree that Reid is a poopy head, and drop it?
Works for me. If there's a defining moment here, I missed it.
Someone who does not understand the difference between talking about race and racism wrote
Now we are back to a Democrat making the same comments at the same time and the Dems are downplaying it again.
I'm a white guy in my mid 40's and have lived in Georgia for several periods that amount to about half that time. Anecdotal though it may be, I know plenty of white people who have told me they would never vote for anyone other than a white person. These folks are otherwise mostly OK, but have made a decision that race counts more than anything else in a person who has some authority. That's racism.
Harry Reid said that Barack Obama would do better in an election because he looked less black. Harry Reid made an absolutely true statement about some citizens of our country.
Racists will not vote for a person not of their accepted race for the sole reason that in their mind race and race alone is the critical measure of a person's ability to hold office. Harry Reid said that some people will not vote for a person because of his race. Can you still not see the difference?
" ... and some idiot called me a closet racist."
Yes, only an idiot could imagine that our former backpacker's views on just about any subject would be closeted. Soon we'll have his screeds on Obama in book form, in living color-blindness of course, but surely including the "magic negro" that he made sure to twice reference in his comment above.
"Racists will not vote for a person not of their accepted race for the sole reason that in their mind race and race alone is the critical measure of a person's ability to hold office."
Racists will also vote for somebody, on the basis of their race. Obama arguably benefited more from that sort of racism, than the other sort cost him. Sappy headed people who wanted to feel good by voting for a black man, and so didn't look past his skin. There's been a lot of buyer's remorse on their part, since.
Brett's take on a certain type of racist ("Sappy headed people") who voted for Obama:
"There's been a lot of buyer's remorse on their part, since."
Query whether there was a lot of buyer's remorse on the part of those (including SCOTUS 5-4) who elected Bush/Cheney? Or are they pleased with the 8 years they gave us?
And how does Brett back this up:
"Obama arguably benefited more from that sort of racism, than the other sort cost him. "
as the reverse might arguably be the case?
Racists will also vote for somebody, on the basis of their race. Obama arguably benefited more from that sort of racism, than the other sort cost him.
I am white and voted for Obama not because of his race, but because I thought that he'd make a better president than McCain. Yet his race was a positive factor for me, and, if all things had otherwise been equal between Obama and McCain, Obama's race would have made the difference for me. This is because I thought that it would improve race relations, and diminish the level of anti-black bigotry, if a competent black person were president. I do not believe that these views are racist.
Sappy headed people who wanted to feel good by voting for a black man, and so didn't look past his skin. There's been a lot of buyer's remorse on their part, since.
# posted by Brett : 6:38 AM
Brett, do you think there were a lot of people who voted for Bush because they felt good about helping a retard? They certainly had reason to regret it.
"I do not believe that these views are racist."
Riiight. You cast a vote on the basis of race, but that doesn't make you a racist.
That's the Democratic/liberal rationalization. If I take $5 from Peter, and give it to Paul, because Peter is black, I'm a racist. If I take $5 from Peter, and give it to Paul, because Paul is black, that's NOT racist.
Making decisions on the basis of race isn't "racist", as far as Democrats are concerned, so long as they're Democratic decisions. In fact, it's refusing to take race into account in the way Democrats think it should be, that's racist. A completely race blind individual would be racist, by this way of thinking.
It's not a definition of racism that's very persuasive to people who aren't Democrats, but what ever makes you happy while you vote for and against people on the basis of their race...
Brett, do we disagree about right and wrong, or about semantics? If you will agree that voting on the basis of race for a good motivation, such as to reduce racism in the United States, is a good thing, then I will happily call it "racism." Well, not so happily, because then, every time we use the word "racism," we'd have to specify whether we meant good racism or bad racism, and that would be inconvenient. But I'll make that concession if the semantic issue is important to you.
Webster's New World Dictionary, Third Edition:
racism: 1. a doctrine or teaching, without scientific support, that claims to find racial differences in character, intelligence, etc, that asserts the superiority of one race over another or others, and that seeks to maintain the supposed purity of a race or the races 2. any program or practice of racial discrimination, segregation, etc, based on such beliefs.
Maybe Brett's dictionary differs with this. With respect to color blindness, a worthwhile ideal, the history of America on race cannot be ignored, as is demonstrated by the right wing reactions to Sen. Reid's private comment in 2008. Perhaps if Strom Thurmond had been elected President years back (yes, I'm thinking of former Sen. Trent Lott's comment that did him in), we wouldn't have all this brouhaha.
Henry said...Brett, do we disagree about right and wrong, or about semantics? If you will agree that voting on the basis of race for a good motivation, such as to reduce racism in the United States, is a good thing, then I will happily call it "racism."
Pray tell, how does practicing racism by voting on the basis of race possibly reduce racism in the United States?
Bart, I will overlook your begging the question of whether to call voting on the basis of race "racism" even when it has a good motivation, and I'll just answer your question. As I stated seven comments above this one, I believe "that it would improve race relations, and diminish the level of anti-black bigotry, if a competent black person were president." Specifically, if anti-black bigots become used to having the nation run by an African-American, who is treated with respect by members of Congress (Joe Wilson aside) and the media, then they might begin to lose their sense that African-American people are inferior to them.
You don't end a feud by equalizing the body count, you end it by stopping shooting. You don't end racism by discriminating the other direction for a while, you do it by ceasing to discriminate on the basis of race.
That's my position. You don't want to tell "anti-black bigots" that racial discrimination is ok, as long as it's against them. You want to send an unmixed message: It's not ok.
See, the problem here is thinking that you can discriminate in favor of one group, without discriminating against another. You can't, it's a zero sum game. And if that other group is innocent of any wrong, why the hell should they agree to victim status?
Henry said...Bart, I will overlook your begging the question of whether to call voting on the basis of race "racism" even when it has a good motivation...
Racism is racism regardless of motivation.
...and I'll just answer your question. As I stated seven comments above this one, I believe "that it would improve race relations, and diminish the level of anti-black bigotry, if a competent black person were president."
Leaving aside the ample reason to doubt Obama's competency to serve as President, the entire premise that merely electing an African American president will improve race relations had no more basis than believing that electing Jack Kennedy would improve relations between protestants and catholics. This is simply a piss poor excuse for racism.
I'm always rather amused (as well as outraged) when so very many in the black community along with a goodly number white leftists hint--hell outright shout it--that conservative black academics/professionals like Thomas Sowell and Clarence Thomas (to name just two) are less than "authentically" black because of both their political/ideological views and the fact that they are married to white women--even going so far as to use the odious term "oreo" to describe them. OTOH black, tho light-skinned, conservative Democrat politicians like Harold Ford Jr. who is also married to a white woman get total passes from having such charges levied--both from within the lefty community and the black one as well--not to mention the MSM.
Lots of "Hyppo's" on the left..
But as to Harry Reid? Although I believe him to be a thoroughly odious partisan political hack, I'm willing to give him a pass for the very reasons that Larry D'Anna, Shag from Brockline, et al outline. My problem is NOT with the alacrity with which the left in general sprang to his defense--this is to be expected in any event no matter what the essential realities--but with his generally unswavering immediate defense by the MSM, who would have instantly savaged a Republican and/or conservative who made similar remarks.
No, Joe, I was not aware of the supposed "luv deficit" Harold Ford Jr is experiencing now. Which only proves my point. I am a retired academic with nothing but time on my hands to scour the web. I'd wager that by dint of both my academic training, personal interest and time available to me to bring these factors into play, my political and current events "antennae" are more finely tuned than most.Yet unless local Tenn or NY papers are reflecting this trend, it seems to be below the national news media radar screen afaik. Harold is on "Morning Joe" on MSNBC, for example, quite frequently, yet no hint of his troubles with the left is ever evinced by the other commentators. I can't read/view everything and maybe I need to fine-tune my feed-readers, but that's just my point. If it's news to me it's fairly well hidden (although such unease by the far left with Harold's views would be/is intuitively obvious). By contrast one can be sure that the casual news reader--the average citizen--let alone a news junkie, have had ABSOLUTELY no trouble in finding reports of conservative discomfort with, say, a black Republican Michael Steele (tho admittedly he is in a high profile position and Harold Ford Jr. is currently out of active public political life) "above the fold" of almost all major national and regional newspapers in the nation and on all the cable political talk shows.
V. why do you think "Morning Joe," headlined by a former conservative member of Congress, is a good leading indicator of how he is understood on the left?
Since you have time on your hands, perhaps you can "scour" obscure blogs like Atrios to get a better sense of the utter distaste people on the left have for the guy. If I can deign to suggest research skills to an academic. Since Ford is actively thinking of running for Senate (so is not quite "currently out of active public political life," though as a former academic keeping up with things, I'm sure you know this) in NY, yes, NY sources might be another place to look.
But, details does hurt your stereotyping (e.g., loads of people don't like Thomas, and I have seen loads of putdowns, but rarely do I see his wife being mentioned; meanwhile, Ford's hanging out with white girls was ... though "the left" was not the ones behind that infamous attack ad when he was running for Senate).
Virgil as a retired academic probably was around in 1954 when the Supreme Court unanimously decided Brown v. Board of Education that separate is not equal and its call for all due deliberate speed. Virgil no doubt had been aware of the Court's Plessey decision in the late 19th Century (1896) upholding separate but equal that Brown addressed and in effect overturned with respect to education. Virgil had no doubt been aware of the Civil War Amendments to the Constitution following the Civil War that addressed slavery that the Founding Fathers supported with the Constitution and Bill of Rights going back to the late 18th Century. Virgil has lived through the Civil Rights battles of the 1960s. Virgil should be aware that issues of race in America have yet to be fully resolved. I wonder if Virgil supports the Brown decision and the Civil Rights statutes enacted under LBJ in the 1960s. I would guess that Virgin supports the Civil War Amendments, but I can't be sure. The Civil War Amendments did not prevent Plessy, which served with separate but equal until Brown some 58 years later. And the all deliberate speed of Brown has yet to reach the finish line to colorblindness, despite the election of President Obama.
I don't know Virgil's academic field that he has retired from. But perhaps his antennae might keep tuned in to America's history on race especially on this Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. Rome wasn't built in a day and America's "race" for colorblindness continues unresolved fully. While progress has been made, much remains to be done. Unfortunately, some critics of this progress are ready to pour gasoline on the embers.
Morning "Joe" may be a Republican, but most conservatives would not consider his present incarnation to be on the strictly conservative end of the spectrum. Besides which, I was referring mainly to the guest commentators like Gene Robinson, et al from the Wash Post, etc., who mainly tend to be on the distinctly left side of the political spectrum. And while you are correct that most commentary about Ford's wife came from the right during his Tenn. campaign, I was mainly aiming my remarks towards the black community pointing out that while many have vociferously criticized black conservatives for both their views and their wives, their voices have been, in the main, conspicously silent concerning Ford and HIS conservative views and white wife.
One thing they teach attorneys is to never ask a question of a witness nor make an assumption out loud to which they already do not know the answer. As an undergraduate at an all-white southern univ 62-66 I arrived began my collegiate career in a solidly Jim Crow South and witnessed all formal/legal outward manifestations of it disappear before my eyes by the time I graduated in "66. And as my wife is a Louisiana Creole from Opeloussas, La. (home of Jim Bowie) I am more intimately involved with race "relations" than most whites. If, as the poet Virgil (or Vergil, if you prefer) once said: " 'History' is what Alcibiades lived and suffered," then it can truly be said that the history of modern-day race relations is something that *I* have truly lived and suffered on a direct, personal basis. As such I hardly need lectures from those who deign to think they are my social and intellectual bettors concerning race relations, i.e., those here who think they have been blessed somehow with what Thomas Sowell has coined "The Vision of the Anointed."
And while we are talking about "pouring gasoline on the embers", I don't suppose that when NY Attny Gen Andrew Cuomo said that, when Obama lost the New Hampshire primary, it proved that in a small state of retail politics one just can't "shuck and jive" one's way to victory, his statement means he qualifies as a fire-bug, does it?
V., again, if you want to get a sense of what "the left" thinks, he would not be the best choice. I say this in part because your analysis of him, including his current role in public affairs, is a tad off.
You also previously cited the "both from within the lefty community and the black one as well--not to mention the MSM" to show the hypocrisy respecting Ford.
Now, you want to limit your fire. Well, to limit mine, I have seen black commentators criticized Thomas, but focus on his opinions and actions, his wife not being mentioned. He after all was conservative before he married his second wife. [He married her in 1987, but joined the Reagan Administration in 1981.]
Criticism of Thomas Sowell also is pretty "inside baseball." Meanwhile, many Republicans think Steele leaves a lot to be desired.
Here's Virgil;s first sentence in response to my comment:
"One thing they teach attorneys is to never ask a question of a witness nor make an assumption out loud to which they already do not know the answer."
Assuming I asked a question, did he answer it? Here's the closest thing to a question from me:
"I wonder if Virgil supports the Brown decision and the Civil Rights statutes enacted under LBJ in the 1960s."
Virgil does not say.
Perhaps I assumed Virgil as being older with respect to Brown v. Board of Education. He started college in 1962, so he was around but quite young when Brown came down. I give no lecture to Virgil. And I understand his variation on his "some of my best friends are ...." And I shall not assume that he believes in the "one drop" rule of the Jim Crow South he grew up in. Nor shall I blindly accept that Virgil has "truly lived and suffered on a direct personal basis" with respect to race relations as he seems to have walked in his own shoes and not those of the victims for centuries of his Jim Crow South.
And what Virgil says they teach attorneys is just a general rule to which there have been many successful exceptions.
A I grew up as the son of college professors on campus in the State of Illinois--in a town that was the site of one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, no less. Once again, your assumptions have gotten you in trouble. B. I suggest you look up the definition of "Creole." Obviously you don't have a clue....
The following is from Wikipedia's "Louisiana Creole people:"
"Louisiana Creole refers to people of various racial backgrounds who are descended from the colonial French settlers, African-Americans, and Native Americans from the time before the Louisiana territory became a possession of the United States through the Louisiana Purchase (1803)."
This is consistent with dictionary definitions.
Now, I don't know Virgil's answer and of course he is under no obligation to respond to my earlier inquiry whether he believes in the Jim Crow South's "one drop rule." Nor do I know if Virgil agrees with Brown v. Board of Education and/or the Civil Rights statutes under LBJ.
As for the Lincoln-Douglas debates, they did have some differences on the issue of slavery, didn't they? Lincoln's Republican Party was virtually outlawed in the Jim Crow South in the 1850s early 1860s but not Douglas' party. Should I dare ask Virgil whether he sides with Lincoln or Douglas concerning their debates?
By the way, creole dishes are quite tasty. The French forcibly transplanted by the Brits from its northern American colonies, including the Maine area, presumably brought their culinary skills with Maine lobster to the Louisiana Territory for the latter's crawfish.
The "one-drop" rule has quite an interesting history. Originally fought against by "free people of color" and light-skinned "negroes" everywhere as well as the NAACP as recently as the late 50s, but mainly in Louisiana where for all intents and purposes Creoles maintained a totally separate race and culture from both whites AND blacks in terms of origin, language, culture, religion, cuisine, geography, etc. (which is why Xavier Univ. in New Orleans is known nationally as being simultaneously the only all "black" Catholic U. in the nation and the only "black" university that is Catholic. This is because Xavier was NOT founded as a "black" univ, but as a strictly Creole one--hence the Catholic connection, as most "American," i.e., non-French Louisianan, blacks were/are Protestants) but blacks are currently attempting to "re-claim" Creoles and, in an about-face, also by the NAACP thru the courts and Congress--to legally force the Creole and other light-skinned multi-racials to be subsumed under the "black" category for fear of losing political clout via census findings, etc., even as the number of mix-race people expands rapidly thru intermarriage. Thus it is mainly blacks today who seek by pressures both political (attempts to keep mix-race categories off census forms, etc.) and cultural to champion the "one drop" rule, bringing mixed-race people within the ambit of the "black" category, NOT whites or the multiracial groups. Most Louisiana Creoles, for example, do not consider themselves to be either white OR black--considering themselves to be a race apart. Being simply a product of a mixed-race marriage does NOT make one Creole--it is all the other cultural attributes of the Creole background as well as the fact that Creoles constitute a largely separate gene-pool which has intermarried within itself for generations. (Although obviously there are many racist whites who informally adhere to the one-drop rule culturally, just as many blacks use the one-drop rule to bask in the glow of the fairer skinned multiracials for social advantage.)
(The cultural/legal contrasts between Brazil and the US are interesting. In Brazil the rule is that if one is not strictly black, one is considered white; in the US it is generally just the reverse.)
But since I plainly indicated at the outset that I am married to a Creole I find it strange that you would even ask me that question--or are you truly that obtuse?
Does Virgil understand what it means to directly answer a question? He could have answered my question regarding the "one drop" rule with a plain "yes" or "no" and perhaps added an explanation of why he might answer "yes" or "no."
Nor has Virgil responded to whether he agrees with Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights statutes under LBJ or favors Lincoln or Douglas in their debates.
Of course, Virgil has no obligation to answer. But sometimes failing to answer in the context of his comments - and mine - tells a lot about a person.
I would have thought the mere fact of my marriage would give all but the most totally lacking in analytical powers all they want to know (sigh) But I guess that is beyond the capabilities of some...
HOWEVER, to WIT:
2) Based on totally bogus social science--as Coleman himself later admitted. (Or as one civil rights attny who worked on the case opined: "It was a pile of C**p to begin with")
3) Yes to the words within the 4 corners of the printed page of the Civil Rights Act of '64 itself, No to the fact of its color-blind wording and spirit being stood on it's head by the EEOC and various Supreme Court decisions in an obscene complete inversion of the act.
4) Which Debate? They were all over the place over the course of the series. The Lincoln that spoke at Charleston, for example, was much different than the Lincoln that spoke earlier at, say, Ottawa.
Virgil's "2)" response (I assume regarding Brown v. Board of Education) is not "yes" or "no" with or without an explanation; nor is it a "maybe." Before I comment further, perhaps Virgil might clarify this. I don't know how long Virgil has followed Balkinization but there do not seem to be but a few commenters who disagree with the Brown decision.
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