January 13, 2010 - 12:05 AM
Regardless of the number of years that pass by, or the historical depth and breadth of accomplishments, it always seems as if American society can count on one public figure or another to come down with foot-in-mouth disease when it comes to race relations.
The result sets us all back as a country, even if only to realize that the 21st century means little in the context of long-held beliefs about what should be our celebrated differences, not a parsing of those differences to determine which of us is more acceptable than another based, of all things, on skin tone and speech.
Sadly, though, here we go again.
Today's editorial compares what Trent Lott said eight years ago and what Harry Reid said about Barack Obama six years later when he revealed his own true colors, in determining that Obama would be a stronger presidential candidate despite being black due to the fact that he is a "light-skinned" African-American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
This comment, revealed years later as a result of the publication of a new book, "Game Change," by journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, was all kinds of insulting -- although perhaps as purely political analysis probably true. An article in the Root by Omar Wasow refers to research strongly suggesting that white voters do favor lighter-skinned black candidates.
Still, Reid's statement was wrong. His words, however, do not rise -- or, lower -- to the Lott statement, made at former Sen. Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party, that the senator's policies should have been implemented and had that happened, "we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either." Say, what?
While, as a dark-skinned African-American woman I find Reid's comments appalling, I can't say that those of us in the black community hadn't wondered aloud whether Obama would have been successful were he dark-skinned and less "articulate." It's a sad truth when it comes to comfort levels and who is perceived as "threatening" and why.
Obama, to his credit, has accepted Reid's apology but what he should do is continue an earlier promise he raised during his campaign to discuss race in America. The conversation clearly isn't over.
Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer