Why Can’t Politicians Say “Light-Skinned Negro”?

Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada)

Why Can’t Harry Reid Say, ” Light Skinned Negro”?

Yesterday, a story hit the blogosphere that is now gaining traction, most likely because it centers on a “controversial” statement about race made by a mainstream political leader–Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev).

Like most political junkies, I’ve observed that politicians avoid discussing race at all cost–at least in public. This appears to be the case irrespective of the politician’s own race. Unless they’re compelled to address it, as was Barack Obama during the explosion of negativity around Rev. Jeremiah Wright, you can pretty much count on race not being discussed on the campaign trail. Judging from their stump speeches, one would think that America does not have nor has it ever had any race problems.

Even during the early days of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy, then-candidate Obama appeared to be reluctant to come out on that issue. It wasn’t until it became apparent that the hoopla was damaging his campaign that Obama delivered his now famous “Race Speech

So what did Reid say that is causing people to talk? According to Game Change, written by political journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, as reported by The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder:

“[Reid] was wowed by Obama’s oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama — a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,’ as he said privately. Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama’s race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination.”

Obviously, this statement was made before the president was elected, during a time of uncertainty as to whether this country would elect a black man. When asked about his remarks today, Sen. Reid has said that he regrets making them.

Sharon KyleIn a written statement, Reid said, “I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words. I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African Americans for my improper comments. I was a proud and enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama during the campaign and have worked as hard as I can to advance President Obama’s legislative agenda. Moreover, throughout my career, from efforts to integrate the Las Vegas strip and the gaming industry to opposing radical judges and promoting diversity in the Senate, I have worked hard to advance issues important to the African American community.”

No doubt, there will be a lot more discussion around Reid’s statement. But will there, in fact, be a lot more understanding? I wonder.

So here’s your chance to give us your opinion. You’ve got two ways to do it. Fill in the poll below or send us your comments. We’ll report the outcome in the next LA Progressive Newsletter.

[poll id="19"]

Sharon Kyle
Publisher, LA Progressive

Published by the LA Progressive on January 10, 2010
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About Sharon Kyle

Sharon Kyle, J.D. is the Publisher of the LA Progressive which she co-founded with her husband Dick Price. Ms. Kyle is an adjunct professor of law at Peoples College in Los Angeles. She sits on the board of the ACLU Pasadena/Foothills Chapter and is on the editorial board of the BlackCommentator.com. Photo courtesy Wadeva Images. www.wadevaimages.com