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Sparking

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The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars... *************************************** -Jack Kerouac ***************************************

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JANUARY 13, 2010 10:32AM

Race Still Matters

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Senator Harry Reid

                                                        (Photo:  Google Images)

After hearing the private words Senator Harry Reid spoke regarding Barack Obama's chances of becoming President as an African American candidate, my stomach turned inside out.  What has made it worse is the seemingly blasé reaction many Democratic insiders are having to this.

According to the just released, gossip mongering book "Game Change" (which I have not read nor do I plan to), Harry Reid is reported to have said the following in a private conversation about Obama's chances for the presidential candidacy:

He 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.

 

I would like to know how discussing the hue of one's skin as a consideration for a job is not considered racism?

Look, I completely understand every conceivable aspect of a candidate's life is vetted to ensure no surprises going into an election.  It has also become apparent to mainstream America through Sarah Palin's candidacy and her follow-up publicity campaign, that a candidate's demographics are considered to the minutest details, from what they wear to what they eat.  I accept this is what happens.  I don't have to accept that it is "right".

Here is a clear definition of racism from dictionary.com:

rac⋅ism

-noun

1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others. 2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination. 3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

*

If we are finally going to have the race conversation in this country, let's not dumb it down for the sake of what fits into our neat world view, especially if it saves the face of what we politically believe in.  If Harry Reid had something to apologize for, which indeed he did do, then in my mind this is a subject worth fully considering, despite what side of the aisle he resides on – Democrat or Republican.  

If an African American has a better chance of becoming President in this country because he is "lighter skinned", why is that?  What is it about dark skin which Harry Reid, or others who think like him, find more unelectable?  Why?  And, more importantly, is that truly moving race relations forward?

I cannot speak for Harry Reid.  I have only had this conversation once in my lifetime and I mostly listened.  I get that queazy feeling, once again, to share it with you now.  When I was in my first career position, trying to climb the corporate latter, I had become quite chummy with my boss whose name was Judy.  She and I were out after work during happy hour enjoying some sun and good conversation.  Judy was (and probably still is) a Republican with liberal leaning social views.  Somehow, we happened upon race. 

She shared with me that it was more acceptable for the more "Caucasian looking" or "light skinned" African Americans to be accepted in mainstream media.  I clearly remember her citing Bryant Gumble, but I digress.  I don't think I heard much else in the conversation as it struck me as so sad, and ultimately, racist, that this would be a factor in determining someone’s job.  She wasn't agreeing with it per se, she was just pointing out the facts to a young woman who hadn't seen the word through this lens before.  This was over fifteen years ago.  Although I could see the accuracy in what she was pointing out, I still didn't like it.

Going back to the definition of racism, it states in the first point (condensed), "a belief that inherent differences among races determine individual achievement, involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others."  In essence, what Harry sees as a more “light looking” Barack Obama, speaks to how well he can lead the country because it will put more white folks at ease when someone who looks more like them is ruling them.

Promoting the idea of evaluating the hue of one's race as a determinant of whether he can or cannot win an election, which is what I believe was the intent behind Harry Reid's comment based upon his apology, which President Obama accepted, is still racism masked as something a lot tidier.  While Harry may not personally believe these things determine whether Barack Obama was qualified, he was in a powerful position to help or hurt his candidacy. It was a major mistake, one in which I  believe his position as Senate Majority Leader should be surrendered, regardless of how the president feels about it.  It speaks poorly to the state of race relations in this country when one of our senior leaders gets a pass on behavior as damaging as this because a policy issue hangs in the balance.

It begs the other question, "what if Barack Obama had been dark skinned?"

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Sometimes I dispair that we will ever reach a point in this country when the color of our skin does not identify who or what we are in life.
It begs the other question, "what if Barack Obama had been dark skinned?"

He would never have been chosen as a candidate if he did not meet "current acceptable" standards. Do you really think the Democratic party chose him just because he was smart and a good speaker? If he had been dark skinned and spoke with anything other than an educated accent, he would have faded into oblivion like so many other men of color who could have/would have been excellent statesmen.

Don't think for a minute that we have evolved into higher beings because President Obama was elected. We still have a loooooooong way to go!
R
Torman - I am with you.

Donna - I purposely did not speak to the "dialect" issue in this piece. I know there are many nuances to dialect, including a southern one, etc., as this gets discussed in debate circles on a regular basis. I believe most of that speaks to being able to be clearly understood and I can understand that to some degree, although I wouldn't attribute it to someone's race.

I would hope the Democratic party chose him because he is smart and a good speaker among many other qualifications, yes. I think it is the responsibility of good leadership to promote what is important, good leadership, not a false determinant of what makes someone able to hold office or not. Do I think we have a looooong way to go? Yes I do. Do I think it is our leadership's responsibility to take the bull by the horns and start making that conversation happen? Yes I do, and then some.
This is so sad and so true. There are so many levels and layers to racism and the effort needed to eliminate it, that it can make me want to stay in bed for days if I think about it for long. Another blogger...Jeanine T. Abrahams (I think that is right...you can find her on my "favorites" wrote a stunning piece on this a few days ago)
I think it was important for Obama to be light-skinned because his father is African. Obama had to convince voters that he is unequivocably American.

A darker-skinned man with no recent foreign ancestry might have fared as well, with the same ability to convince the big money donors that he's one of them. Obama is a member of the eastern upper middle class educated elite, a group that is more open to diversity and has lots of money to donate. Obama had to look like a winner.

One issue that a dark-skinned man might face is that it is harder to see the features of a very dark-skinned person from a distance or under less than quite bright lighting. Put him on a podium with standard lighting and it might not be bright enough for half the audience to see him well. No one feels as comfortable "knowing" someone they can't really see.
Race certainly matters.

I've only seen the quote out of context, as you have printed it, so I can only comment on it as it is. I wonder, was Reid speaking objectively about Americans and their racial issues, as in Americans will find Obama acceptable because he is light skinned and has no dialect, or was he saying that he was like most Americans and he found Obama compelling for these reasons? The first comments on racism in America, the second says he's racist too. If I give him the benefit of the doubt and pretend that the interviewer said something like, do you like Obama and do you think a black president is possible, then the answer isn't necessarily racist. The answer says that Reid personally found Obama eloquent and that he thinks Americans can accept Obama because he is light skinned and speaks with a standard American accent. That seems like an objective evaluation of a politico's chances with a racist audience. But I'm a cynic. I think he was saying that he personally found Obama acceptable because he looks and sounds more like a white person than a black person.
mimetalker - it is indeed the layers and levels of racism which I am trying to discover here. I believe our leaders need to be diligent in their consideration of the someone for the job. This would not be acceptable as an HR hiring practice, why is it acceptable here? I will look up your friend's piece. Thanks for pointing me to it.

Malusinka - Interesting point. I had not thought of it in terms of where his father was born, and in terms of everything Harry Reid has been saying since this has come to light, I don't believe that was his motive either.
Racism is still alive and well in this country, there is no question. The fact that we're even having this conversation, one prompted by the remarks of one of the leaders of our supposedly more liberal party, tells us all we need to know. As other commenters here have said, we still have a long, long way to go.
The only way for people to stop arguing about the arugula salad, daily grinds of foraging for beets, turnips, chop-chop, egg-toss-lobbing-fighting,
grenades-friendly?
all fake giggling,
burping, gases,
over indulging,
hick-cup-contest,
lousy smooches,
huh
is to
cease
desist
grunt
sound
Ba Ba!
Ya fun!
Poppy!
Beauty!
Pop eye!
Popcorn!
no pokes!
pop belly!
wolfhound?
no halitosis?
no. peonies!
Yes peaches!
pear shaped!
~
apology, huh!

You no baboon!
Philanthropist?
a gracious one.

Who ain't pissed?
Pisser ants` CEO!
Ugh `um scat stink!
I hope this is nasty!
ttfn - I believe Harry was speaking to what America's mainstream views are on race. I can't claim to know what his personal views are, as he doesn't share them with us in these comments nor has he in his apology. My issue is bending to this dynamic as one of the senior leaders of this country does nothing to further race relations and certainly doesn't get to the bottom of talking about what still holds certain minorities back as well as what can we do to improve diversity versus subvert it.

nana - Exactly.
The night Barack Obama won the election I was sitting in a roomful of people, many of whom were African American. I joined with them in celebrating our first black president but soon moved away so they wouldn't see me crying. In my heart I knew there were many miles to go in the battle against racism before another "Barack Obama" could be elected with NO mention of the color of his skin, whether light or dark, or a woman with no mention of her sex.
This makes my stomach hurt too but I'm afraid there are many more "Harry Reid's" in this country than we would like to admit.
Unfortunately, there is in this country, and around the world, prejudices against race, sex, and religion. I happen to think that he isn't a racist. Some people say and do things and haven't a clue they are being idiots. I really don't think he should lose his job, but he's going to have a hell of a time just winning the next election. I hope they don't get a republican to fill his shoes.
Candidates are products. This is sad truth. What kind of product out-sells a white male? When I lived in New Orleans I learned about the way skin color determined acceptability. It wasn't just black and white, it was all the shades in between that determined one's standing. Good work here, Sparking. It just makes me so sad.
Harry Reid is an embarrassment to all of us in Nevada and should be so to all in the U.S.

Unfortunately, racism does and will continue to exist, but we should hold our leaders to standards that defy the loathsome remarks made by him and others in office, including preferential remarks regarding religion, sexual preferences, etc.

In fact, the nation’s leaders need to abandon the prejudicial game of dogma entirely and do what the Constitution requires them to do.
Art! - Look everyone, I got an ART JAMES! :)

"all fake giggling,
burping, gases,
over indulging,"

Exactly.

Sharon - I completely relate. 100%. We watched the inauguration with tissues in hand as we were crying and sick, all three of us in a hotel huddled around the TV. I knew we had come some distance, but when Palin was added to the ticket for nothing more than political edge, I knew the political sanity of this country had hit a new low.

Scanner - yes, Harry is in trouble in his home state for sure. I don't think he deserves to lose his seat, more his position as majority leader. I don't think you can reprimand one side of the aisle (Trent Lott) for engaging in racist tactics and not the other. I think this was a lesser degree, and should be handed a smaller punishment. It's about accountability - but it won't happen in politics. Actually, I think him stepping down as Majority Leader would be a great think. It makes room for Schumer (NY), who I prefer. But, that's another conversation. Thank you for your thoughts!

C.K. Dexter - "Candidates are products" indeed. I know of the shade distinctions and I never understood it, while I still knew it was happening. I still don't. I expect more of my leaders - it makes me sad, too.
Getting and Art james just makes the day seem far more cheery, doesn't it?
Sparking,
Thank you very much for this post. I'm afraid that for some the idea of an African American holding any position owned by whites for so long is only palatable as long as it is someone who appears to conform positively to their own prejudices and bias in regard to race.

Yes. We still have a long ways to go. On many fronts.
Rated and appreciated.
Well written. You have a great writing ability to really get to the heart of the matter. This is another example of the sadness of humanity. I do hope that one day we will all be able to "see" each others divine spirit and look beyond the human shell.
So well put, my friend and so eloquently, as usual.
Good points here my dear. We really do need leaders who will face the hard truths head on. I don't like all the smoke and mirrors.
Yes, having Barack Obama elected president is moving race relations forward, even if he's light skinned, because he was African American. His being prez eliminates a national mental block. It makes it easier for the next candidate, just as Jackie Robinson did in baseball and Sidney Poitier did in Hollywood. Sometimes steps are incremental. That doesn't mean they aren't steps. What does it say about race in America? It says we're not all the way there yet. But the fact that he was elected says that we aren't where we used to be either. That's progress. You can argue about whether it's enough or not, and we can all look forward to the day it's no longer an issue, but let's not ignore that it's better than before.
What if Hillary Clinton had not been a woman? I'm still upset that we couldn't elect a woman who was more than qualified for the job...xox
Thank you for providing me with a "teachable moment." You can, if you wish, delete me. I know I'm writing an Art James.

I was going to rip you a new one on this post, until I remembered that you were, well, you, so I've toned my speech down a bit in view of your sensitive nature. That was a joke, in case you didn't notice.

This is a tempest looking for a teapot.

Harry's a politician, and was a very good one for a long time. Many of his own constituents, however, seem to think that he's had his day and that it's time to put him out to pasture. Well and good.

Harry's also 70 years old, a Mormon, from Nevada. He's a walking cliche.

From the text, and the context of the statement in question, it seems clear to me that a professional politician, asked about Obama's chances of becoming president, analyzed the question like a professional politician, reflecting what he knows about the mores of the American people.

We're not color blind. In fact, we're all racists. Those of us who prefer our own kind are racists because we eschew others on the basis of a distinction without a difference. Those who prefer people of other races are also racist, because they are making decisions about their likes and dislikes on the basis of racial stereotypes.

What we're really talking about here isn't the ever-present and inescapable spectre of racial awareness, but the very different concept of prejudice.

Gordon Allport, in his massive and exhaustive study "The Nature of Prejudice" makes an important distinction between prejudice and discrimination.

It's discrimination when you approve or disapprove of a person, or anything else for that matter, on the basis of its perceived characteristics. It's prejudice when you base your decision upon the previously perceived characteristics or behavior of OTHER members of the same group, basing your decision on the incorrect assumption that two members of the same group will behave in the same manner.

At its root, the phenomenon we incorrectly term racial discrimination and is really racial prejudice stems from behaving as though we know the character of the individual on the basis of our preconceptions about that person's group.

Anyone who tries not to see the differences between people is an idiot. Anyone who limits his associations on the basis of his beliefs about other groups of people is a fool.

Had the Germans our racial prejudices, the world's greatest composer, Beethoven, demonstrably a black man, would not be known as he is today. This quirk of American nature, judging people by the group rather than by the individual isn't unique to us, but we seem to have an excess of it in our character.

Given the fact that Harry Reid is 7o years old, he must have lived through the turmoil of the Civil Rights movement as a fully grown adult, and his language, his syntax, dates back to that era, when it was polite to call someone with African roots a Negro, and impolite to call that person black. People who have chosen to be offended by Reid's use of the word Negro don't know this. (In a previous era, of course, the word Negro was used as an epithet, which is why the NAACP is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People,although "Colored" is a term that, although mostly accurate, is anathema today.)

I remember one occasion, in the middle of a meeting of political activists organizing a demonstration, I used the term "blackmail", only to be corrected by Don Halfkenny, who said, "No, I'm a black male. What you mean is extortion."

It was a pregnant moment because, well, as a matter of fact I was the only white person in the room at the time, and my leadership there was by default rather than acclimation: I was the only one who hadn't been busted recently.

I looked him straight in the eye and said, "Well, ain't that the nigger in the woodpile" and everyone fell down laughing. I like to think that we achieved our objective not because we were right, which we were, but because I was able to step into that fast ball and hit it out. I later was the nuptial photographer at Don's wedding.

As a Mormon, however, Reid has some heavy baggage to carry in terms of the Mormon church's longstanding antipathy toward black people but assuming that Reid shares his co-religionists' views on race is, well, prejudicial to Reid. Nevertheless, I think that much of this brouhaha stems from that source. The fact that he's from Nevada...well, did you ever hear Sammy Davis talk about what it was like to be black and in Nevada? No, well, I haven't either but I can imagine it.

I'm casting fun at this notion that Harry Reid has anything to apologize for because, in holding him up for disapprobation, we're falling for a Republican gimmick.

Equating Harry Reid's considered political statement with Trent Lott's heinous comments at the Strom Thurmond dinner is a distinction WITH a difference.

What Reid said was a political opinion, and an astute one. The fact that it is unpalatable to us doesn't make it any less true. Lott's statement that, if Thurmond had won the election in 1948, the world would be a different and better place was an outright endorsement of Jim Crow segregation, because that was the issue that Thurmond ran on, the distinction that made him different from the other candidates as the representative of the States Rights Democratic Party.

We are doing ourselves a disservice by taking up the Republican cudgels on this matter and failing to recognize that this is a bald faced attempt to derail whatever health care initiative the current Congress has left by distracting everyone from the business at hand.
What's ironic is that Harry Reid basically said that for all the talk of progressivism and openess the Democrats are selective racists. I think the reason the Democrats aren't up in arms is because they know it's the truth.
Thank you for this very insightful post. It is very disappointing to me. One step forward, two steps back...
I would further like to remind people that Barack Obama is only HALF black -- a distinction unfortunately lost on most Americans! I'd like to take the opportunity to refer people to my blog on this matter if I may take the indulgence: http://open.salon.com/blog/ameriviking1/2009/12/27/my_issue_with_president_obama_and_yes_its_the_b_word
Wow! Thank you all for your insightful comments.

Boomer Bob - "he nation’s leaders need to abandon the prejudicial game of dogma entirely and do what the Constitution requires them to do." Beautifully put. Thanks for your insight.

Dennis - Indeed. I am thankful to so many here who do not hold those biases, like yourself, and I am looking forward to a day when we have leadership which represents that.

Dave - wow.

Trilogy - thank you my friend.

Joe - Darling, I agree. When will this day come?

AtHomePilgrim - I won't argue it's not progress, I'll just argue if it's real progress. The flip side of this coin is did we elect someone because we wanted an African American president so badly we may have overlooked some of his qualifications? As Joan Walsh said in her 'Why Democrats Must Pass Reform' piece, "Obama mostly campaigned as a centrist Democrat; it was exciting (and a valid reason to prefer him) to have our first African-American nominee, but it wasn't the coming of social democracy in the U.S."

Why is race a valid reason to prefer someone, too?

Robin - which segways great into your point. Why couldn't or didn't we? That would have been the information I would have liked to come out of the 'Game Change' rather than the gossipy, misogynistic crap which is spewing from those two journalists uncensored and unsourced mouths (as Joan also pointed to in her piece).

More to come...
Racism is so ingrained in every society that we are too often unaware of our own hidden prejudices. If we face them, even those of us who claim no such bent, we might figure out how to change this ancient held, destructive, societal construct. Until we all admit there is prejudice within each of us toward one group or another, we will never realize a world where Acceptance of differences is the norm. Using the concept of Tolerance is an excuse to never do anything about the injustice and inhumanity of our prejudices.
sagemerlin - well, it took me awhile to wade through your comment. Great stories. First, I understand the difference between the nuance of discrimination and prejudice of which I don't claim Harry was doing either. Yes, he was making a calculated, political assessment, agreed. I'm saying that assessment was outed and obviously struck someone as off-putting at best to want to share it with two journalists. Now, it's in the national media's attention and is no longer a private conversation but the musings of a liberal national leader on what is important to consider when dealing with the realities of supporting a candidate - a liberal candidate. This now falls under the umbrella of racism. I understand what his background is, but that is just more of an excuse to me. And, yes, Trent Lott was clearly more wrong by degree. Yet, wrong is wrong. To call for one man's chastisement over a critical issue while waiving it for another because you support his politics is not even handed in my view. What other arena do we do this in? I don't believe the punishment should be equal to what Trent received. Additionally, using the idea of healthcare reform as a reason to "pass this one over" is simply passing the buck because we are afraid of the big bad Republicans when Harry's likely to lose his seat anyway (my suggestion was to have him step down as Majority Leader and make way for Schumer). This is a time for doing the right thing at the wrong time, to show that race relations and the human condition are more important than the politics which belie it more often than not.

ocularnervosa - so true.

Zyskander - it is interesting that Hillary took Harlem.

Joan H. - Yes, it's a very clumsy dance.

ameriviking - I don't think anyone has forgotten that President Obama is half white and half black? He refers to himself as an African American due to his father's heritage. What this post is about is why Harry Reid is evaluating his "shade" to make a determination of his acceptability as a candidate. Next time, you may want to leave a credible comment before you blogwhore your post, k?

rainee174 - BEAUTIFUL. EVERYONE, PLEASE READ RAINEE'S COMMENT. THANK YOU.
Well, Sparking, he was elected by a majority of voters for myriad reasons. For some people, it might have been only race--but I doubt that. That for some people it was partly race is, I believe, nothing to wring hands over, as long as they believed he could do the job.
Athomepilgrim - I see your point. I just don't think we see eye to eye on this one. I simply can not argue having our first African American president isn't progress because I believe it is - pure and simple. I wanted to raise another point in the matter, that's all. The main point of this post is to address how Senator Harry Reid's comments, which are now mainstream, were harmful and I think sweeping them under the carpet does not help anyone, least of all African Americans.

Zyskander - Okay, now I got'cha. Sorry, I missed that the first time around. Thank you.
This post and these comments merely illustrate the institutional nature of racism, and the brand peculiar to Mainland USA.

So involved with the institutions you can't step back from them; take yourselves too seriously.

Racism is and remains everywhere in this country's DNA, this despite the scientific fact there is no race, simply melatonin and heredity.

Our fearless leader is: a black man- do to the one-drop rule, he can't escape this; hapa- he is a beautiful example of hapa-popolo, another of the magnificent earthly mixes; he is haole- a white man, half his blood is Kansas blue eyes, like it or not, and he is a white man; he is Hawaiian, and so understands this all backwards, forwards, inside out- check out the recent network interview with Punahou students and teacher as they take the "ethnic" reporter to school repeatedly on basic racial and social context- instructive.

What our brilliant and fearless Hawaiian leader is not, he is not African-American, his "Knee-Grow" side having nothing to do with the genocidal African-American experience. But, he is, you see Hawaiians are mostly all chameleons, geckos everywhere, think not? Where again does everyone in the World visit all the time- who do we meet every day? The President is quite literally light-years ahead of all of you on what is commonly referred to as race, he won't be having any problems with it; see his dismissals of all inferences.

Aloha Kakou
Thanks for bringing up this discussion. Reid should step down, not only for his remarks but his horrible actions in the last year. And while we're at it, how about Bill Clinton telling Ted Kennedy that Barak Obama would have just been getting them coffee a couple of years ago? And you can't discuss the race issue without the sexism issue: Hilary was far more qualified.
I have a harder time with his use of the word, "Negro."

During the primary season in 2007-8, I remember wishing vocally in the letters section of Salon.com that people would suggest whether their comments were addressing the substance of an issue or its political implications. Because those are two different conversations with two different lenses.

For example, I imagine the campaign advisers to Obama had some frank discussions about race, including (at the beginning) whether his skin color--light versus dark--might matter re his electability. I assume everything was on the table.

It's in that frame that I see Reid's remark, although for the life of me I can't understand his willingness to share something so impolitic with a journalist. But that is a sin of a different stripe.

Needless to say, like you I don't think race is a valid reason to prefer a candidate, one way or the other.
If a politician says "skin hue plays a role in a president's electability" does that make people believe that? If he says it doesn't play a role, will that encourage people to think that way? I think we can all agree that skin hue SHOULDN'T be considered. I also think we can all agree that skin hue DOES get considered, for better or worse. Is the concern here that Harry Reid, in stating that Obama's skin color played a factor in his getting elected, creating the environment where skin color does make the difference? Or is the concern that Harry's comments belie a racist mindset that he has tried to keep hidden from the public? Or both?
What could Harry do, using his position, to further a dialogue on race that will:
a) not get him labeled as a racist
b) not get him ostracized by racists and
c) allow him to maintain a position where he can actually do something about it.

Thanks be to you, Oahusurfer, for reminding us that race doesn't actually exist. Perhaps that is where the dialogue should begin.
sparking, I came back here to say that I found myself commenting on another, related post, and my comment included this:

I hate the way the Republicans have jumped on this, but I would like to ask (and I'm asking myself this as well): Would it have played differently had it come out that McCain said this? I would like to think that I would have understood the remark as one meant through a political lens whether it came from a Republican or a Democrat. But I suspect that many of us would have taken umbrage, and in that matter, Republicans might well be onto something when they claim a double standard.

I bring this up because I think it vaguely supports your idea here that we should be critical (as in critical thinking) about what we say, do, and think whether it supports our political tribe or not.

So, while you thought Reid's words were indicative of censure even though he's a Democrat, I think realpolitik references should not be censured, even when they come from Republicans.

We sort of agree. I think. Either that or I've confused the hell out of myself. :)
Oahusurfer - Yes, this post does call out the institutional brand of racism, and whether Obama is light years beyond it or not, many in this country are not. He took a police chief to task yet when it is a member of his political party he let it slide. So, he may or may not be light years ahead. I cannot speak to the Hawaiian experience you mention, so I will appreciate it on its merits alone. I would love to live in a world like that and I believe the way to get there is to fundamentally challenge each and every one of those beliefs as they arise rather than pretend they do not exist. I appreciate the Hawaiian way - to not appreciate it isn't the standard would be to live in denial.

Deborah - Yes, I too believe Harry should step down. I know, I think the sexism does get twisted in there as it came down to what is the viability of a candidate. The progressives through in their lot behind a less experienced statesmen and many of us, as a citizenry bought it hook, line and sinker. I know more than a few who are regretting that. This has been the plight of the Democratic Party for the last two decades - they don't know how to sell a candidate for the right reasons - they only know how to neatly package one. I gave Barack Obama an equal chance, I was still supporting him even after the public option was out. But when he came out and said he did not campaign on the public option, he lost me completely. That spoke to his character and I can't support a liar.

Lainey - I think we mostly agree. I think everyone believes Harry was saying this in a private conversation, which someone now leaked to a journalist who has made it public, what he viewed would make Obama a good presidential candidate. One of those ideas was that he was a "light skinned" African American (or negro, was the word he used, which is of his day, think UNCF). He was weighing in on what hue of his skin would be acceptable to the general voter. My point is, what other job is this acceptable in? When do we start challenging these acceptable exceptions and really get to the roots of the institution of racism? And, when a senior leader of our country gets busted for such behavior, does he not have an obligation to show an example by being humble and accepting some act of contrition (like stepping down as majority leader) as a symbol to this country that such behavior is unacceptable? I just wonder, given all the talents Barack Obama had, if his skin had been darker, would he had received the support? I would rather challenge the belief systems than run that risk in the future. Thank you for coming back with your comments! :)

DannyOS - great questions, thank you for bringing them to the table. I believe the concern is both, although we can not get into Harry's head to know for sure his motives/intentions. So, I can only truly speak to whether he had influence on an environment where skin color was a consideration for the candidacy of president of the united states. How many times has this been considered before? Are liberal leaders willing to go to back for darker skinned Americans if they are the right person for the job? Or, are they going to acquiesce to mainstream demographics, and if so, do I want that in my leadership? I would like Harry to answer those questions. Additionally, he got caught. When you get caught, you don't just say you are "sorry"; you show accountability. If he is truly concerned about his seat, it would be in his best interest to take a stand and be honest with Americans rather than try the typical clever tactics of political thinking. Smooth it over, put it in the past, what's in front of us is important. It is a moment to show real character. I am more impressed by that. If a Republican had done this, we would be calling for heads. Period.

Kyle - agreed. See? There are quite a few people who understand that around here. There is hope. :)

Bonnie - here here. I can complain because I did vote!
Sparking,
Thanks for this post...it's important. It is racism that is still an issue here and people need to talk about it and call it out when it happens. The thing is that people, including our President, want to sweep this under the rug and pretend that we are beyond all that. But when black men continue to be gunned down in the streets by the police or a high proportion thrown into prison for years while a young man is convicted for the same crimes but does less time...well, that indicates that racism still exists. I was perplexed with how the the whole Henry Louis Gates incident was handled...there was a rush to absolve the cop of any wrong doing...and now Gates is the villain. Gates received death threats after the whole affair...even after the beer at the White House and was told by Harvard that he should move...there is something very wrong with this. Or how about when the President and his administration want to play down the racist venom that is spewed by the right-wing pundits whipping up their base as just being populist...well that isn't addressing the issue of racism...it's just sweeping it under the rug and that is so dangerous. Racism as an issue needs to be part of the national dialogue...it can't be swept under the rug or wished away. I know I've gone for awhile, but this is important to me. Rated.
Jill,

Thank you for going on! I think it is incredibly important as well, that's why I did this post. I feared people would not be able to separate the politics from the issue of racism. As much as I would like it to be a world of brotherly and sisterly love, that ideal is not in affect, and what gets swept under the rug, or is told to be "in the past so lets just move on" never really gets handled.

I truly believe these inward beliefs, in all their nuances, need to be brought out into the light so we can all learn and grow. If we can't have open and forgiving hearts, how will we ever heal? If our leadership can't show the way, why would anyone else ever follow suit? It baffles me.

I know we have made strides - yet we need to make more. A lot more. And, when someone errors at this level, it needs to be dealt with swiftly and judiciously, no matter what side of the aisle it lands on, for all our sakes. In my opinion, this has been handled poorly.

Thanks for your input - especially for going on. :)
Robin --
What would have happened if Hillary wasn't a woman? For one, her last name would be Rodham and not Clinton. She'd have had to start by establishing name recognition. She wouldn't have visited the world's hot spots on Air Force 1. She wouldn't have been credible when she talked about the three am call. Big money donors and party bigwigs wouldn't have taken her calls, been in her Blackberry.

She sublimated her career to her husband's and if she hadn't, she'd probably have been achieving impressive things and building a resume in her own name. BUT, I don't think she'd have sped to the top of the presidential race. Unlike her husband, she's not a natural politician and charisma isn't a strength. Those are very important in politics.
I agree with all who say that we are a racist country, and I dare anyone one to prove that Reid's statement is false. To think that what Reid said is not shared by millions of Americans is not a delusion; it is detachment. The most maliciously racist attitude is to act surprised at racism and go around vomiting sunshine--a most despicable PC characteristic.

Personally, I don't give a hoot about about skin color, but I proudly admit that I prefer a highly educated President who speaks proper fucking English.

Grand piece, my eloquent and proper friend.
Rated.
I agree with those who propose-- and sagemerlin most eloquently --that Ried's statement may say more about the dominant culture than it does about his own views. And who can be surprised that the Republicans ran away with it?
Thoth - I love how you use the 'F' word. :)

I do concur, and it is the state of this country. I saw a wonderful post today which calls it the "pink elephant" of our nation. I couldn't agree more. It really frustrates me that a leader of ours even appreared that he would give way to the prejudice of light skin being more acceptable.

sophieh - I concur. I said a couple times I can't guess as to what Harry's personal motives were, as I can't get inside his head, but the appearance of impropriety deserves more than a simple apology in my view. And, I am not surprised in the least the Repubs ran with this one (although they run with so many things its a bit like crying wolf), and for once, I agree with them. The Dems would have done the same - and rightly so.
I was thinking of the same thing you are, and will post on it. We have come a long way since I was a child, but racism, like antisemitism, is the worst side of us, and can flare up at any time.
I came back to say that I'm about to listen to this program on RADIO TIMES with Mary Moss-Coane. It sounds really interesting. I thought it might be just the ticket for anyone still interested in this topic, especially you, Sparking.

Being Racist Versus Talking About Race
Lea - thank you for your gentle comment. I think we have come along way, which both you and AtHomePilgrim point out so well, but it is also important to keep guard, especially within ourselves.

I think SageMerlin was correct in saying we all are racists, except I am not that bold to usually say that. I think I saw Obama say it best when he visited the prison camp at Auschwitz and said, "we all must guard against the evil within." He knows we are made up of a mixed bag of light and dark energies, and his wisdom in saying that shows us that while he is human, he is aware of this. I think we all must challenge our own beliefs and feelings to ensure equality and freedom for humanity can be found.

Lainey - thank you. I am checking it out NOW. :)
Great writing Sparkles...


Malusinka- I'm sorry... was your comment about lighting a joke? Lighting is not a problem... believe me.
Lainey - listened to the talk, thank you!

Jeanine - I love what you wrote so much. I am grateful, but as a white girl, not in much of a position to share direct experience. I am glad this resonated, as I know many think because he may not personally hold this view, or the context in which it was said makes it okay, I think because he was saying it shows a lack of character in the leaders we need at our helm.
Perfect timing for this story, MLK weekend holds a special place in our history. The man sacrificed his life for the change our President speaks of today... Listening to Coltrane's Alabama(MLK inspired after the Birmingham church bombing), while reading this brings a little pause... A little continuum magic, I guess...RRR