Many Republicans are calling for Democrats to ditch Harry Reid as Senate majority leader. RNC chairman Michael Steele and Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) equate Reid’s recent use of the word “Negro” with former Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott’s saying that America would have been better off had arch-segregationist Strom Thurmond been elected President on his racist ticket in 1948.
The hypocrisy is breathtaking. Even chutzpah doesn’t begin to cover equating the behavior of Senator Reid, with his solid record of advancing the cause of civil rights, and who encouraged Obama to run for President, with that of ex-Senator Lott, who longed for the good old days of segregation.
I was brought up to say “Negro.” Or colored person. Somewhere in the last 40 years those terms went out of polite usage, to be replaced, usually, by African-American (although the NAACP is still working for the advancement of colored people).
Harry Reid didn’t get the memo. In 2008 he decided early to support Barack Obama’s Presidential run. He was quoted in “Game Change,” the new tell-all book about the campaign, as advocating Obama’s running, and explaining that America was ready to elect “a light-skinned” African American “with no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one.”
Reid is guilty—for the gazillionth time—of speaking awkwardly, and he apologized to Obama and everyone else he could think of. But to equate his awkward language expressing inter-racial fairness with Lott’s nostalgia for a racist America is deeply unethical.