Friday, January 15, 2010
Reid-ing into it....
So, Harry Reid got called out on mentioning Obama's electability during the campaign because he was "light skinned" and that he was able to speak without a "Negro dialect" if he wants to. Republicans jumped on this without hesitation as a double standard set up by Dems. etc. The fact is, is that this is all theater. The only folks who are really up in arms about this are Republicans. There have been countless African Americans who have flat out dismissed the comments as not worth the time, recognizing them as less than sensitive but that might really be the extent of it.
All of the African American folks who I have had the opportunity to hear respond to this incident said that the same kinds of things were discussed within their own social circles during the campaign. Obama is "light-skinned" there is no disputing that. The idea that whites might be uncomfortable with voting for a darker skinned person to run the entire country, very well might be a regrettable truth. This is something that very well should be discussed, not Reid's comments. This idea that his complexion was something that was on Obama's side is a real issue involving perceptions regarding race and a superficiality that not only the U.S. should finally stand up and face squarely. The taboo of race relations in the U.S. and elsewhere is the main thing holding back progress. The constant sweeping under the rug of a thoughtful, considerate, and well informed discourse is the single greatest hindrance towards the parties involved getting on the same page, and not only about what they feel but why. As with everything else, the lack of understanding leaves people to resort to reactions steeped in ignorance resulting in skepticism, hate, or inaccuracies.
The work "Negro" has some obvious sensitivities that accompany it. All of which reflect that is sounds like and is associated with another "N" word. But Negro was widely accepted by the Black community up until the 70's. We had the Negro-Leagues Baseball, an organization that I doubt people would agree to participate in if they felt the very namesake of the organization was insulting or degrading, even in those times when they were at increased disadvantages. As has been mentioned by possibly every one of the African Americans that I have heard respond to this, the older generation of Blacks still use the term themselves or consider themselves Negro.
It seems that an increased policing of political correctness is muddling the real conversation that could be taking place withing this whole fiasco. In a non-political situation, would a white guy face social ousting from his peers for using the word "Negro"? Of course the elements that come into play to answer that question are variables which range and run the gamut of possibilities. In order to face these issues that pose real consequences for a large part of the population we must be able to get over a certain amount of linguistic sensitivity from both sides in order to free up the space to have the conversation. Words carry meaning. Meaning that we allow them to have. Context and origin shape the meaning of a word. A word is just a word, with all of the possible meaning that it may be able to carry.
Here we should refer to George Carlin and his thoughts on a prime number amount of words. He, Carlin, also had some great thoughts on the "Negro dialect" and how it is always the white kids imitating a black vernacular and never the other way around. As the perception of society has shaped it, one sounds "cooler" than the other.
Here is a link to a conversation between to admirable minds on this subject:
John McWhorter and Glenn Loury, Bloggingheads
Here is a link to Carlin's genius:
The Seven Words
I tried to find the other clip that I referred to but was unable. Anything by Carlin is enlightenment articulated.