The Subtexts of Reid’s ‘Negro’ Moment

by Victor Davis Hanson

NRO’s The Corner

What was often left unmentioned in Reid’s now much-publicized racial gaffe was not just his editorializing on skin color and dialect, but his allegation of cynicism on the part of Obama, highlighted by the qualifier in “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,” which suggests that Reid thought the Hawaiian-raised Obama inauthentically switched dialects to fit his audience.

Even more revealing was the reaction of the president — who, recall, as a state legislator called for Trent Lott’s resignation — to Reid’s racialism, absolving him of any more penance: “I’ve seen the passionate leadership he’s shown on issues of social justice.” In other words, Obama brazenly articulates what others have discerned from the tepid responses to Reid’s past racialism, as well as to Biden’s “clean” remark and Clinton’s quip that Obama not long ago would have been serving him coffee: Those who appear committed to liberal notions of “social justice” are absolved of guilt for insensitive speech.

You see, good liberals occasionally slip in their parlance due to stress or by accident, and to no real worry; bad conservatives like a Lott or George Allen give valuable windows on their foul souls when they similarly lapse into insensitive speech.

When these things happen, the guilty party rushes to self-proclaimed leaders of the minority communities, who in thumbs-up/thumbs-down fashion either accept (e.g., Biden, Reid) or reject (e.g., Allen, Lott, Imus) the mea culpas.

One final take. Most Americans don’t really care about skin color or dialect, and may often have found someone like a Harry Belafonte, Stokey Carmichael, or Malcolm X far more polarizing than a Clarence Thomas or George Foreman.

©2010 Victor Davis Hanson

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