I was deeply disappointed to read about Harry Reid’s racist comments. If the shoe were on a Republican foot, folks would be tearing him apart on our side. I understand why Barack Obama had to accept Reid’s apology for these reasons:

1) Barack Obama can’t play the angry black man nor can he drop the race card. Not during the campaign and not as president. Remember what happened when he got all into the Skip Gates thing and gave his real opinion on the matter like a normal black man? Yeah that was fun. Won’t happen, can’t happen. It’s just not a viable political strategy in the current climate. (Doesn’t mean we can’t, though)

2) Obama still needs Reid to help reconcile the House & Senate healthcare bills. After that, Reid better watch himself. He’s always been a weak Senate Majority Leader who spent the Bush years always looking for a reason to cave on important issues and it’s more a testament to the leadership of Barack Obama than Reid’s that healthcare passed the Senate in December.

It’s true: Obama’s got a soft spot for white liberal senior citizens who struggle to hold their inner racist bias in check. See his embrace of Joe Biden & Hilary Clinton despite repeated racist statements in the past. (You thought we’d forgotten about the 2008 primaries, didn’t ya? Yeah, not just yet, even though kudos for both Biden & Clinton getting through a whole year in office without saying anything that deeply offends me and for occasionally making me proud of their service)

I don’t know what serenity prayer Obama says each day or what zen meditation allows him to breathe deeply with confronted with this kind of thing but he’s going to need to share it with the rest of us African-Americans if he expects us to go along to get along like he does. I mean, does Deepak Chopra personally call or skype him weekly to guide him through breathing exercises like:

Breathing in: Compassion for myself having to deal with well-meaning white people who say racist things to my face or behind my back

Breathing out: Patience with elderly ignorant Caucasians who work my last nerve but whose hearts are in the right place

Frankly, it’s not clear to me that Harry Reid even fully understands why he needs to apologize. Only that he probably should cuz people are all mad at him and whatnot. I found myself with strange bedfellows over this. I agree with Michael Steele and Liz Cheney of all people in harshly criticizing Reid for his statements. They join some angry black bloggers as well such as Roland MartinAfrican-American Political Pundit, who even came out of retirement just to unleash the beast on this. Let Whoopi Goldberg and Al Sharpton defend Reid — I can’t be counted in that camp. Let’s deconstruct what really happened here because it points to some important generational tension in America and within the Democratic Party.

What happened was that Reid said all this mess to someone who smiled indulgently at the time but rankled at the racism & tucked away the gaffe to use later. Reid talked about the potential of Obama running successfully since he’s “light-skinned” and “has no Negro dialect, unless he wants it.” And he said these things I’m guessing to someone who was younger than him, white, another influential Dem who nodded. DC is full of yes men & women but I’m also guessing that this person, forced to nod & smile at the time, was appalled at Reid’s racism, remembered it and relished to opportunity to expose him. Since I’m also guessing that this isn’t the first racist thing Reid’s said in private. It’s just the one we know about. And breaking news at the end of the day confirmed my suspicions that this was no hearsay but that Reid may have said this to younger white men (the authors of “Game Change”) he thought would “get” what he was trying to say. Which was that Obama was safe for white people unlike most black politicians and spokespeople in his opinion. Under Reid’s assessment, a national hero like Martin Luther King Jr couldn’t become president in today’s America due to their sad unfortunate affliction of dusky negritude. Nor could Oprah. Reid seemed to imply that Obama was like Elvis back in the day…sang & danced like a “negro” but safe enough for TV. Obama = Elvis 2.0. What really gets me is “unless he wanted it” like Obama can just turn on a little blackness if/when needed to rope in those handy black votes. Ugh.

Personally I find Reid’s apology weak. There’s no link to it on his Senate website as I’m writing this. There’s nothing on his record on civil rights. There’s nothing on that site about his current stance on civil rights and equal opportunity/access in America, save for Immigration. To his credit, he has been a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act which was designed to help young illegal immigrants brought and raised in the U.S. on a path to legal immigration status & the ability to go to college or serve in the military.

Reid is no bleeding heart liberal and in fact, according to his Wikipedia page, he tends to lean a bit, ahem — surprise, surprise, conservative on certain issues of keen interest to the GOP such as abortion, guns, big oil and gay rights.

Regarding specific issues, Reid believes that Roe vs. Wade should be overturned and in 1999, he voted against an amendment that explicitly expressed support for Roe v. Wade.[16] He has stated that he believes in a restricted right to abortion, stating that “abortions should be legal only when the pregnancy resulted fromincest, rape, or when the life of the woman is endangered.”[17] He has also voted several times to ban the “intact dilation and evacuation” or “partial-birth abortion” procedure.[18] Reid has voted against the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment in the Senate which proposed to ban federal funding of health care plans that cover abortion.[19] Regarding same-sex marriage, Reid has stated he believes “…marriage should be between a man and a woman.” He voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act but against the Federal Marriage Amendment.[20] He is historically in favor of the death penalty,[21] stem cell research[22] and gun control.[23]He also supports legislation for $15 billion in tax breaks for large oil companies, aiming to put the money toward renewable energy sources.[citation needed]

Do I think Reid should resign? In a city who doesn’t seem to comprehend why their football team should not be called “Redskins” — like the 48 different levels on which that is deeply racist and inappropriate — it may be a tough sell. And I’m with Skeptical Brotha who correctly tags Steele as a concern troll — Reid’s comments don’t quite raise to the Lott/Thurmond standard of advocating for segregation. Still, what the Dems can’t afford in 2010 midterm elections is a repeat of the Virginia and NJ 2009 gubernatorial elections in which low black enthusiasm and turnout doomed those races for the Democratic contenders. This is the kind of thing that is a huge turnoff and disincentive to minority voters. And frankly younger white voters who are, if not post-racial, then maybe post-racist.

Reid needs to do more that shrug with shifty eyes on camera and mumble that he marched in the sixties or whatever. He needs to tell us his full history on racial equality & social justice in America. He needs to talk about his vision for an America where it’s the content of your character and not your light skin that matters. He needs to re-assure African-Americans that he understands how important we are to the future of the Democratic party if he wants us to defend his right to be a top Democratic leader. And that’s not what I’m hearing so far. So until then Mr. Reid, talk to the hand… Maybe it’s time for more enlightened leaders at the top and for an outdated old guard to step aside.

And for all you older white folks — ok, let this be a teachable moment for you. The world is changing so you need to change the thoughts in your head before they exit your mouth. Because a younger generation comprised of many colors does not find it cute. Not one bit. George Will — can you hear me out there? None of us wants to hear the hot mess inside your head. Breathe deeply, lie back and think of Dr. King and we might just be able to get through an Obama presidency just fine.

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