by Warner Todd Huston | January 11, 2010 12:50 pm
A new book about the 2008 presidential election has made quite a stir with its revelation that Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) chose some, shall we say, unfortunate wording when referring to then candidate Barack Obama in some “private” discussions with reporters during the late presidential campaign.
In the book Game Change penned by John Heilemann and Mark Halprin, Harry Reid is quoted as saying that people supported Obama because he was “light skinned,” and because he exhibited no “Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” This implies that Reid thinks dark skinned Negroes cannot win election.
Before the quote was widely known, though, on Saturday Harry Reid rushed an apology to the press, one quickly accepted and downplayed by now President Obama. Both prepared to move forward as if nothing happened. Republicans have pointed to this as a fine example of a double standard. They recalled that Senator Trent Lott was hounded out of leadership in 2002 for making some complimentary remarks about Senator Strom Thurmond at his retirement party. Republicans have now gone on to call for Reid’s removal as Senate Majority Leader in a similar vein to Lott’s situation. Naturally Democrats have demurred from demanding that Reid step down and Republicans are calling this a classic example of the left’s double standard. It is clear that incidents such as this are used to destroy Republicans but similar incidents when involving Democrats are swept under the rug.
Of this double standard GOP Chairman Michael Steele told reporters, “There is this standard where the Democrats feel that they can say these things and they can apologize when it comes from the mouths of their own. But if it comes from anyone else, it’s racism. It’s either racist or it’s not. And it’s inappropriate, absolutely.”
We can look to no better authority on purported racism than The Root Magazine, an Internet publication founded in 2008 by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (he of Beer Summit fame) and published by the Washington Post. Gates’ online magazine pretty much proves that the double standard is alive and well by its treatment of two situations of obvious racist sentiment from the left and summarily rejecting the accusations of racism by these lefties.
First up we can look at a post by Root writer Omar Wasow who proclaimed Harry Reid in the rights for his comments as reported by Game Change. Wasow wonders what the big deal is with Reid’s comments? He says it is true that white people will vote for a light skinned black over a dark skinned one and that it was true that Obama only utilized a black vernacular “when he wanted to.” Wasow said that just made Obama a good politician.
Interestingly, Wasow saw nothing wrong with Obama shifting from proper English to black vernacular at will. He obviously doesn’t see this as a cynical political ploy at all. Me, I find it insulting. I find it just as insulting when Obama does it — or any other black politicians do it — as I do when whites try it — as Al Gore did in 2000, for instance. I don’t see how anyone could avoid being disgusted by such a ploy.
Wasow also decried the dismissal of “ebonics” as particularly racist against blacks but completely ignores the fact that a deep southern accent in whites is treated in the same dismissive way as “ebonics” is treated in blacks. Rightly or wrongly, both are looked on as evidence of ignorance in the speaker, both considered evidence of a lowborn status. Why it is racist only to dismiss ebonics but not racist to assume a deep southern accent is evidence of a “lesser than” person Wasow does not say.
But, let’s be clear here. Wasow and The Root Magazine are not looking for consistency, they are looking for ways to excuse racism by people they support in order to facilitate their success.
A second example concerns the “wise Latina” remark made by Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor. This piece was penned by Sherrilynn Ifill, cousin to PBS News correspondent Gwen Ifill. Sherrilynn is the same woman that in October of 2008 attacked Sarah Palin as “offensive to black women” merely because Palin portrayed herself as a mother as well as a politician.
In her analysis of the “wise Latina” remark, Ifill declared that Sotomayor was not being racist when she said that wise Latina women make better judges than old, white men. The controversial statements were made in a speech the judge delivered at the University of California at Berkeley in 2001. Ifill summarily dismisses the criticism that Sotomayor’s comments were racist and says that anyone that thinks so has a “distorted interpretation of her speech.”
The truth is, however, that there is no other possible way to understand the context of Sotomayor’s speech than as a racial supremacist’s claim. Sotomayor is no less saying that Latina women are inherently better as judges and by dint of their race surpass white men’s inherent capabilities. That is as racist as it gets. You need but to swap the racial designations there to see the stark truth.
Yet, Ifill completely ignored the obvious context of Sotomayor’s racist comment in order to smooth her way to becoming the first Latina Supreme Court Justice. It was all a matter of politics, not “racism.”
These are prime examples of the double standard that GOP Chair Steele is pointing out. Racism is excused if it comes from the left. Reverend Jesse Jackson can call Jews “Hymies” with little fear of consequences. Al Sharpton has a long history of race baiting and suffers no recriminations. Any number of Hollywood entertainers, songsters, and journalists that come from the left end of the political spectrum can say any sort of comment that would be considered wholly racist were they to come from a conservative yet none of them are ever required to suffer any consequences as a result. But let a conservative say anything remotely construed as racist and calls for their head on a pike are heard all up and down the line.
Finally, the White House canceled the Press Pool on Sunday, December 10th leading some to offer conjecture that the White House is trying to “catch its breath” before responding to the revelation of Reid’s comments in the forthcoming book. This respite seems to contradict the speed with which Obama scolded others for what he considered racist comments in the past as Jake Tapper reveals. More of that double standard, no doubt.
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