Sunday, January 10, 2010
National Republicans demonstrate hypocrisy over Reid comments
By Ray Hanania
During the heat of the president campaign in 2008. Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic party leader, said he thought Barack Obama would do well because he is “light skinned” and did not use a “negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”
That was disclosed in a new book, “Game Change,” about the 2008 presidential campaign authored by journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin.
It’s kind of a stunning statement. It can be taken several ways, as a comment about the reality of life in America, or as the comments of a racist. I doubt Reid is a racist, but not surprisingly the National Republicans have jumped all over this controversy, portraying it as racism and calling for Reid to resign.
I might heed the comments of Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who is himself African American, except that Steele, if we apply the same standard that Steele applies to Reid, is an even bigger racist.
Where has Steele and other Republican leaders been when members of the Republican Party and GOP scions like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and the coterie of racist haters have slammed Obama’s race and made the most egregious racial comments?
Steele was silent in the face of his party’s racism. But when an opponent says something that is debatable as to whether it is racist or just a comment about today’s America, Steele is all over it.
Many Americans would like to believe that racism doesn’t exist in America, but the truth is it is worse today than it was in the early 1900s. It’s just that racists and bigots struggle to be more subtle, clever and crafty in their racism.
That racism mainly comes from conservatives and Republicans, whose party has chased away most African American minorities mainly because of their history of racist rhetoric.
For example, Beck, an icon of the Conservative Republican Party, recently said on his radio/FOX Cable TV show called Obama a “racist” and said the president has deep-seated hatred of White people.
Reid apologized for the comments and President Obama accepted the apology, taking the comments obviously in the context of the rightwing environment of racism created by former President George W. Bush and former Vice President and lingering loudmouth Dick Cheney.
Reid isn’t the one who should resign. Steele should resign.
What doesn’t help bring down the racist attitudes in America are the ways in which people exploit race to achieve their political goals. Reid made an observation about Obama’s chances of becoming president. And the truth is his skin color and his dialect did appeal to many American voters who do judge issues based on race. And there are many Americans among whom race and ethnicity are primary factors in elections.
Steele, on the other hand, is quick to jump on controversial Democratic rhetoric, but is silent and complicit in his silence on incitement rhetoric by his party comrades.
In fact, Steele has come under the harshest attack not from “anti-Black” Democrats but from hardcore racists in the Republican rightwing, which is in fact not so much a wing but nearly the entire GOP household.
Steele may have jumped on the Reid comments in order to turn the racists in his party towards a new target.
Racism is a problem in America. But the bigger problem is the hypocrisy that racism generates among enablers and coddlers who tolerate racism except when it can be exploited for their own political opportunism.