The racial “third rail”

Poor Harry Reid! Now he knows how Trent Lott felt.

And George Allen.

And Don Imus.

And Earl Butz.

And a bunch of other white politicians or celebrities who were incautious enough to say something that the mainstream media and the American Left could gin up to be portrayed as, at best, “racially insensitive,” or at worst, “white racism.”

Sen. Reid, the Senate majority leader, is quoted in a new tittle-tattle book about the 2008 campaign, “Game Change”, as having said (in a private conversation, yet) that Barack Obama could be an effective Democratic presidential candidate because he was “a light-skinned African American with no Negro dialect except when he wants to have it.”

Howls of outrage have come from Republicans far and wide over his comments, and demands for his resignation as majority leader. His fellow Democrats, obviously embarrassed by his too-too frank speaking of embarrassing truths, have nevertheless circled the wagons as Democrats tend to do around one of their own who has dropped a turd into the political punchbowl (on the other hand, Republicans throw their offenders overboard).  Besides, the Democrats say, he apologized profusely to President Obama, who condescended to forgive him because Reid’s heart is presumably in the Left place.

Of course, Reid spoke the truth — unwisely and in front of the wrong unnamed source. Barack Obama IS a light-skinned African American, because his late mother was white. In interviews he tends to speak what might be called Standard American. But put him on the stump, especially in front of a predominantly young or black audience, and the accents and cadences of a South Side Chicago preacher come unmistakably to the fore. He didn’t learn that in Hawaii or Indonesia, his childhood homes. He consciously acquired it after moving to Chicago as an adult — “street cred,” you know.

Reid is only the latest in a long line of mis-speakers. Trent Lott declared at Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party that the country would have been better off if it had elected Thurmond president as a Dixiecrat, instead of Harry Truman, in 1948. Of course at a patriarch’s centennial celebration, the proper thing to do would have been to denounce the birthday boy as an unreconstructed white racist, I suppose. Lott, who was Senate majority leader at the time, was turfed out unceremoniously by his fellow Republicans.

George Allen lost his Senate race a few years back after he was videotaped using the word “Macaca” to refer to a darker-skinned reporter — presumably some kind of vicious racial slur, although it sounds more like a tropical bird to me.

And to go w-a-a-ay back (to the days of Old Corporal’s youth) secretary of agriculture Earl Butz got the yo-heave-ho from President Gerald Ford after he told a joke (in a private conversation which was revealed later in a magazine article) referring to blacks’ alleged sexual, footwear and bathroom preferences.

Well, I’m going to have to go with my fellow Democrats on this one. Harry Reid wasn’t speaking in a public forum. He was talking in private and saying things that politicians say. Would any of us like everything we’ve ever said publicized in a tell-all book, or on cable news? I don’t think so. Why isn’t anyone criticizing the two reporters who wrote this book for possibly violating “private confidences” in Reid’s case and several others that have already been mentioned as they race from talk show to talk show, publicizing the book?

But Reid and other white politicians need to remember this: Truth is no defense when you’re speaking of African Americans. Anything like criticism or disrespect for them, voiced publicly, is the “third rail” of American politics: Touch it, and you die.

So Harry Reid shouldn’t step down. But he should wise up.

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4 comments for “The racial “third rail”

  1. Alida Antonia Cornelius
    January 13, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Racism is racism…private or public…you seem to focus on article relating to race in some way.
    I keep wondering why….if you email me, and answer some questions, I will give you something to write about regarding LOCAL problems you can write about.

  2. Sgt Z
    January 16, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Happy Birthday, Old Corporal! Finally getting round to reading your column again. I’ve missed your frank outlook on life. Thanks for “telling it like it is”! Your wit and wisdom must be sorely missed at the Ol’ Courier!

    • January 16, 2010 at 6:24 pm

      Thanks, “Sarge”. I appreciate your kind words, as always. Don’t know if the Courier misses me, but I don’t miss them!

  3. February 24, 2010 at 10:16 am

    We all need to understand and remember the underlying principles involved here. . . that ONLY WHITE PEOPLE can utter racially offensive comments. That no matter what Blacks say (or do), it’s acceptable!

    Now let’s all repeat after me: ‘ONLY WHITES CAN BE GUILTY OF RACISM!’

    Now for a touch of REALITY: Some of you have heard of the MSNBC website, NEWVINE.COM

    I would urge all THINKING people to register and log on this strongly liberal website on a daily basis. The liberals need to be reminded that liberal thinking is not always correct; that daily living teaches us “conservatives” the TRUTH. . . that racial problems are seldom, if ever, caused by Whites. That too many claimed racist insults and incidents are outright fabrications (those innumerable noose incidents which investigation revealed were hung by the complainers).

    The main reason to post your comments on NewsVine under news stories of interest. . . to force liberals to accept the idea that we, too, have rights. A right to be heard, a right to speak our minds. A right to believe in the same sacred principals and ideals our founding fathers believed in. Not a nation mongralized by an out-of-control and broken immigration system. A system that welcomes third-worlders with open arms. . . while ignoring the reality most of these new immigrants will become life-long burdens on the American taxpayers. Or worse, that in the case of those 25 to 30 MILLION illegals from Mexico, their children and their children’s children and grandchildren will be competing against our own future generations for ever-scarcer American job opportunities.

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