Republicans are calling for senate majority leader Harry Reid's head over remarks made about President Obama in an upcoming book about the historic election. Reid, the democrat senator from Nevada, told writers Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, authors of "Game Change" (out tomorrow) that “He (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.'"(Source: CNN)
Well at least Reid was pleased with the outcome of the election. And while it always stings people of color to be praised by white people whenever we don't sound, well, colored, Reid isn't speaking an un-truth. Had Obama sounded more BET than NPR, and looked more like Al Roker than Bryant Gumble, we'd be singing Hail to the Chief to either John McCain or Hillary Clinton. Americans may have been ready for change, but they weren't going to give the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to anyone just 'cuz they was black.
Call it racism or ignorance, Reid's comments don't just illustrate the way some white people view color, they also capture how some blacks and browns view color as well. From the paper bag tests of yore that determined membership into the Jack and Jill club, an exclusive social club for African Americans (you had to be lighter than a paper bag to get into the club, in addition to being educated and well-off)to the million and one things some people of color do to look lighter (whiter), lots of blacks and browns are not only obsessed with color, but with the dilution of color and all of its negative connotations. Don't believe me? Read Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye (true story: I had to read it every year between sophomore year of high school and my sophomore year of college).
But now the chairman of the RNC, a black man himself, wants Reid to resign. In spite of Reid's apologies, which the president has accepted, and in spite of the fact that, well, there are other things going on in the world that merit both parties' attention. That's just beltway chicanery. If a black republican is offended...you get the joke.
Reid's comments are unfortunate, but they're the unabashed truth in a dialogue that we're all having about color and class.