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A prominent double standard for racial speech

Staff Columnist

Published: Thursday, January 21, 2010

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 16:08

On Saturday, Jan. 9, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) apologized to President Obama and the nation for a 2008 comment he made about the president. Reid admitted to calling the future president a "light-skinned" African-American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one" and saying that would be an asset to his presidential bid. The intent and character of the quote, released in a 2010 book about the presidential campaign, "Game Change", is up for debate. It is fair to say that had a conservative politician made the same comment, public reaction would have been very different.

Some commentators have likened Reid's statement to one made by former Congressional party leader Trent Lott (R-MI) at the 100th birthday party for 1948 presidential candidate Strom Thurmond  (R-SC) in 2002. Lott commented that his state, Mississippi, was proud to have supported then-segregationist "Dixiecrat" Thurmond and that if the rest of the country had followed Mississippi's lead, then "we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years." Lott's critics, Reid included, hounded him over the comment characterized it as an endorsement of segregation, until Lott was forced to resign from his leadership role in 2002.

An observer cannot help but notice the duplicity of the Democratic Party in these two situations; they reprimanded Lott and pressured him to resign but have shown no such zeal in pursuing Reid after his controversial statement.

Another, perhaps more glaring, example of the double standard is evident in the case of 92-year-old Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV). In the 1940s, Byrd was the "Grand Dragon" of his own chapter of the Ku Klux Klan and vehemently opposed President Truman's integration of the military in 1945. Though he has since called his membership and leadership position within the Klan both "haunting" and "embarrassing," it does not alter the fact that Byrd was a part of perhaps the most hated organizations in our nation's history. He remains controversial, even using the word "n_____" in a live television interview in 2006. The fact that Democrats are content to have a former Klansman among their ranks but had the gall to call for Trent Lott's resignation after his hat-tip to a dying friend at his birthday party is a jarring view of the double standard to which the parties are held in Washington.

Also, we must not forget Vice President Joe Biden's numerous racially-tinged gaffes before and during the 2008 campaign. After calling Obama "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," he commented that "you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent." Just imagine the outrage that would have erupted had Biden's Republican counterpart and the media's favorite punching bag Sarah Palin made the same comments about Obama.
A final example of the Democrat double standard in the context of racial remarks is one of Bill Clinton's comments about Obama, also published in "Game Change." In a conversation with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, he said, "A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee." Some leftist media outlets, MSNBC included, never even reported on this, a testament to how the mainstream media, like the liberal political establishment, is more than willing to bend over backwards to ignore the racially charged comments and actions of its own people while going out of their way to smear opponents for the same offenses.

How can Democrats get away with comments and actions for which Republicans would be criticized? Perhaps because elected Democrats are seen as the defenders of minorities and the little guys. They are presumed incapable of such inappropriate and irresponsible actions. Harry Reid's comment, which implied that Americans would not feel comfortable electing a dark-skinned black person, is typical of those who share his political persuasion. Few Republicans have ever on-record assessed the president's "blackness," like Reid and other Democrats have, yet there is no lack of Democratic allegations of Republican racism. It is time for the supposedly politically correct Democrats to finally realize that they, like everyone else, live in glass houses.

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2 comments Log in to Comment

robert jackson
Thu Jan 21 2010 13:05
The difference is in context...Reid and Byrd have a near 100 percent voting rate from the Urban League, NAACP and other civil rights organizations, whereas conservative Republicans like Lott have a very poor record on civil rights. A much better example of a double standard was in play in Tuesday's Mass. Senate special election. Senator elect Brown once posed nude in a major magazine; little was made of it in the campaign. Could Vanessa Williams, Halle Berry, Elin Nordegren or other woman who's posed nude be able to run for public office without massive media coverage?
Evo Shandor
Thu Jan 21 2010 10:26
The difference is Reid correct. Jesse Jackson was likely seen as too black—in color and attitude—whereas Obama is light-skinned, sounds “white” and therefore not as threatening to so-called mainstream Americans who might have an unconscious twinge of racism running through them. Though bad taste, he’s on the money.

This is miles apart from Lott’s hateful comments that segregation, had it continued, would have made America a better place.

As for Byrd, people can change. Using the term “white n****r” (I notice you neglected the entire term) is in poor taste and he did apologize for it, but it is an insult to white people.

Biden? Yeah, dumb thing to say and he should have been called to task.

But Clinton? Come on. Now I know you’re reaching. That was not about race. The reference was to Obama being the JUNIOR senator from Illinois (and previously a state senator) versus the former President of the United States and a long-time Senator in Kennedy.

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