Harry Reid: Don't Kill The Messenger, Debate the Message

Senator Harry Reid has put himself in quite a political bind by stating that the electorate would vote for Obama because he is "light-skinned" and "has no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one."

I will begin by saying that there needs to be a clarification between what is true or false and what is right or wrong. While what Senator Reid may have been wrong morally, he is telling the complete truth. And that is the sad part.

Many people may want to make a big deal out of the use of the word "Negro." And there are valid reasons why people should. Nowadays the word is out of date. But in segments of society, especially among an older generation, the word still is used. In fact so many people self-identified themselves as Negro on the 2000 census that it is now a choice on the 2010 census. I agree that the term does have offensive connotations and am not a fan of its use. But I also agree that harping on that one word dillutes the larger point that Reid made in his statement.

The next argument is what is Negro dialect. While there is no set definition on what that is, there is a clear pattern of speech, cadence to the voice and use of urban slang that is stereotypically more ascribed to people of color. One may argue about the merits of said ascription to people of color as opposed to whites, but the fact still remains that even within communities of color the term "speaking white" and "not speaking white" is used. So let's not get upset that someone would argue about the benefits or not of speaking with a stereotypical racial dialect, when that has been a debate that has raged for decades.

As for the debate about light skinned versus dark skinned people, that too has been very charged for a long time. There are even studies that say that the amygdala, the segment of the brain that controls emotions, especially fear, becomes more active when dark images, including people are viewed. So one would assume that lighter images, including people would be seen as more safe, at the very least from a scientific standpoint. Needless to say light skinned blacks have been viewed as closer to whites because of their skintone. Again I am not arguing whether this is right or wrong, but it is true.

If we are to look at the context of what Harry Reid said, one would be hardpressed to disagree. If Barack Obama spoke more like brothers on the corner not only would whites not vote for him but neither would people of color. Now as long as there is imprircal as well as anecdotal data to suggest that lightskinned blacks are more palatable than darkskinned blacks, to not only whites but to segments of the black community itself, one would assume that his skintone was maybe not a benefit but definitely did not hurt his chances of winning the Presidency.

Now people want to make the argument that Reid's comments are similair what Trent Lott said back in 2002. This is ridiculous. To compare Lott saying that the country would not have the problems that it has if we would have elected a segregationalist president to what Reid says smacks in the face of all that makes sense. I do not even see the comparison frankly.

The debate needs to be had about wbat Reid said. But I do not believe the focus should be on his words, but on the uncomfortable truth about them and what that means for larger society. We have made great strides in race relations, but there still is work that needs to be done and discussions and thought practices that need to be addressed. I am not in the least bit upset at Reid. In fact his honesty and candor should be appreciated. Too often when it comes to issues of race and diversity we say what is appropriate as opposed to what is honest. We say beautiful falsehoods as opposed to ugly truths. And we say what is politically correct as opposed to what are societal blatancies. Maybe we should not just look at the packaging, but open up and actually look at what is inside the box. Because whether or not you choose to agree with the message, truth of the matter is the messenger was right.

Comments

Mara said…
once again Akim you hit the nail on the head good job!
thanks a lot. It is for people like you who take the time to read and appreciate what I write that make me continue to do what I do. Keep reading and spreading the word, but more importantly keep supporting!

Popular posts from this blog

Boston College Black Family Weekend Speech: Blackness Without Boundaries

My experience on Inauguration Tuesday

The importance of reconnecting with friends