The ruckus over Harry Reid


The controversy about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is all about a statement he made in 2008 where he was emphasizing the point that Barack Obama had a good chance of becoming president because of his oratory skills, the fact that he was light skinned and did not speak in a "Negro dialect."

Reid showed backward thinking tinged with racism because the statement implied that was why he was comfortable supporting Obama.

Frankly I wish it wasn't true but a lot of President Obama's white voters, I imagine, felt the same way. It shows you how pervasive, entrenched and confusing race is in our nation, a nation still evolving from over 400 years of slavery, Jim Crow and systemic racism. Reid did the right thing when he apologized and Obama was right to accept his apology and call for moving on.

Reid, after all, worked for Obama's election and continues to support his agenda in U.S. Senate. In fact as Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton of D.C., pointed out in her press statement, "While Sen. Reid has been producing for African Americans, many of his critics were opposing him on these same issues. Majority Leader Reid has a record. They do not."

The Republicans are pushing for Reid to resign for his racist remark. Of course the Republicans are playing their usual hypocritical role. They're saying that there is a "double standard" because the Democrats called for Republican Trent Lott from Mississippi to resign when he was Senate Majority Leader because of his racist statement of support of staunch segregationist Strom Thurmond. 

Lott said at Thurmond's 100th birthday party said, "I want to say this about my state. When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. 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." Lott gave support to Jim Crow racism when praising Thurmond.

For most of his political life, Lott defended racial oppression including segregation, Klan violence and murders that were an everyday part of southern Jim Crow. In 1978, after his election to the U.S. House, Lott led a successful campaign to have the U.S. citizenship of Confederate leader Jefferson Davis restored.

In 1981, when he fought to preserve the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University, a college that among other things prohibited interracial dating at the time, Lott insisted, "Racial discrimination does not always violate public policy." Lott keynoted a 1992 national meeting of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a successor organization to the segregationist-era White Citizens Councils, and has a long association with them. The list goes on and on.

There is no way you can compare the insensitive statements of Reid to Lott's public defense of Thurmond and his own long record of racism.

Comparing the two, frankly, is racist. It is a way of playing down the horrible crimes that happened under Jim Crow.

Michael Steele, the African American chair of the Republican National Committee, is leading the charge against Reid. The GOP is out to defeat Reid, who is in a tough reelection fight. The GOP's goal is to weaken the slim two-thirds majority the Democrats have in the Senate in this year's midterm elections. And, no doubt, to punish Reid for the GOP defeat in the health care fight. 

But Steele, who is under big criticism from the racists in his own party, needs to clean his own house. 

Where was he when his party stole the elections by violating the civil rights of black voters in Florida in 2000? Where was he when they did the same thing in Ohio 2004?  Recent polls show that two-thirds of his party does not believe our country's black president is legitimate.

What is Steele saying about the racist attacks prominent elected Republicans are lobbing every day against immigrants?

They talk about Reid's statement, but they have started the Tea Party movement, which makes wild racist insults, false charges and threats against the nation's first African American president, and not a word of protest from Michael Steele or his Republican colleagues. 

He heads the National Committee of what is supposed to be a major national party but in 2008 their presidential ticket pulled less than 10% of the black vote and about 25% of the Latino vote. For any decent party claiming to represent the American people that would be a reason to make big changes. But not the Republicans. 

Among black, Latino and most white voters it is widely understood that the Republican Party is the party of big business and of racism.  

Words do matter and Sen. Reid made a big mistake. But for most people what matters more is action for racial and gender equality. On that score, as the major parties go the Republicans are the worst offenders.

Rep. Barbara Lee of California, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, called on Reid to not step down. She said, "There are too many issues like the economy, job creation and energy for these regrettable comments to distract us."

And that's what the GOP is creating: a distraction from the fight for jobs, peace, and economic and social justice.

Photo: President Obama talks alone with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the Oval Office Jan. 23, 2009, a few days after the inauguration. White House photo.


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  • While all this controversy swirls around Harry Reid who has been one of the most virulent racists in the history of American politics when it comes to Native Americans; Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Peolsi and the Democrats are getting away without enforcing Affirmative Action on the projects they are spending trillions of our tax dollars on in the name of stimulus funding.

    Mikhail. To you who is smiling I might be "knee jerky." I am also Native American without a job living on an Indian Reservation with 74% unemployment and over 80% poverty. Just keep smiling because your answer makes you a racist just like Harry Reid.

    Posted by kickitupanotch, 01/15/2010 1:32pm (6 years ago)

  • The games go on. The contrived uproar about Reid has the intention of hiding from the U.S. public the fact that the current Republican leadership has adopted a racist strategy every bit as virulent as that espoused by people like Strom Thurmond in days of yore. The only worry that should cause us is due to the fact that sections of the media, such as Fox cable news, are 100% part of the conspiracy and put out such vast amounts of misinformation.

    We need to work extra hard to counter this tsunami of lies and distortions.

    Posted by Emile Schepers, 01/15/2010 12:53am (6 years ago)

  • Is Barack Obama part of "the fight for jobs, peace, and economic and social justice" or is he fighting against these things?

    What about Harry Reid?

    I don't think Obama is legitimate either because he said one thing to get elected and does the opposite now that he is in office.

    Does this make me a racist for thinking this?


    Posted by kickitupanotch, 01/13/2010 10:00pm (6 years ago)

  • Ouestions?

    Is Barak Obama "light skinned" ?

    Does Barak Obama use the English language correctly?

    If the answer is YES to these two questions; then, Senator Reid is correct.

    have a good day

    Posted by j. h, 01/13/2010 3:52pm (6 years ago)

  • Anything to excuse a democrat.

    Posted by Ruth, 01/13/2010 12:05pm (6 years ago)

  • Thank you Jarvis for an excellent analysis of the Senator Reid distraction. Your comments are consistent with the sentiments of the African American community, which is rarely deceived by the political chjcanery of Republicans, the Latino community, progressives, most members of Congress (including a few Republicans) and the White House.
    The Republicans who are calling for Senator Reid's resignation are not friends of the African American people. They are just engaging in their usual gutter politics of distraction from "...the fight for jobs, peace, economic and social justice."

    Posted by Frank Chapman, 01/13/2010 8:33am (6 years ago)

  • I like the point that comparing Lott and Reid is in itself racist because it minimizes the crimes committed upholding segregation and the systemic nature of racism.

    I think the American people, as a whole, reject racism and want a country where everyone has an equal opportunity for life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. I also think for the most part the American people reject racist attacks on the president, as pushed by some forces behind the Tea Party movement. Especially those that profit, politically or economically (like insurance companies) from such racist attacks on the first black President of the United States.

    Posted by Terrie Albano, 01/12/2010 9:49pm (6 years ago)

  • I am astounded at the weak argument this article has provided, Harry Reid is racist, so was Trent Lott, goodbye to both of them and good riddance to Harry Reid, you naive people are pushing this country into the shitter and Obama and his goons are gonna flush real soon. I wish some of you people would realize that the goverment should leave us all alone and let us succeed based on our own efforts, not on what we can ciphen off of the rich. If you want communism, please move somewhere else and try to make it work, you will meet major resistance from the American people, I am certain of this. I never thought I would see the day we had to fight for our basic rights as American citizens and if any of you consider yourself a communist and an American, you should be ashamed of yourself. I have no idea what you could be thinking to want to live that way...........

    Posted by Teabagger, 01/12/2010 6:49pm (6 years ago)

  • Sarah Palin should consider switching political parties we could cut her a little slack.

    Posted by Nancy, 01/12/2010 4:49pm (6 years ago)

  • There aren't too many bright bulbs in the U.S. Senate. Harry Reid is among the brightest. I would peg him at 25 watts. He can't help he is a racist. It would take at least a 60 watter to understand the racism in his remarks. Let's give Harry a break as long as he is helping Obama.

    Posted by Pearl, 01/12/2010 4:30pm (6 years ago)

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