Harry Reid and “Negro Dialect”

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Amazon.Amazon.Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is getting slammed for this, from John Heileman and Mark Halperin’s gossipy book on the 2008 campaign, Game Change:

[Reid] 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 apologized for the “poor choice of words,” and President Obama accepted the apology, but Republicans are still demanding that Reid resign. Kevin says “This whole thing is ridiculous” and Reid “didn’t say anything offensive anyway,” and points readers to Mark Kleinman’s excellent post defending Reid. Conservative columnist George Will also thinks Reid didn’t say anything wrong. Ezra Klein says he’s “trying really hard to understand why Harry Reid’s comments about Barack Obama’s electability were offensive.” As Kevin said, the feigned outrage from congressional Republicans is fairly predictable—anything that damages Reid tends to help Mitch McConnell’s guys. But it’s definitely worth taking a long look at some of the criticism of Reid’s from people who don’t have so much to gain from damaging Reid politically. Jack and Jill Politics’ rikyrah, for example, says “this is the kind of mess that just angers me”:

There were whole swaths of Black folk who were educated BEFORE the Civil Rights Movement.

W-T-F is NEGRO DIALECT?

NEGRO DIALECT?

Do you honestly believe that Black people walk around talking Ebonics? That you aren’t talking about a SUBSET of people?

That the overwhelming majority of BLACK people with BLACK parents IN AMERICA were raised speaking the ‘ King’s English’, and that we were liable to get hurt if we didn’t.

This was an insult by Reid, but guess what, it’s not an insult that any other EDUCATED BLACK PERSON hasn’t heard in their lifetime.

The whole, they know you went to college and graduate/professional school, but will utter the words – to your face-

‘ you speak so well.’

Matt Yglesias’ take on this—that’s it really sort of impossible to apologize for being the kind of person who would use the phrase “Negro dialect” or the kind of person who would be surprised that Obama “speaks well”—is also worth a read. What do you guys think?

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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