Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Uncle Barack and Mister Reid

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

To many, this is going to be a ridiculous rant, so please bear with me. You have to understand, to me, it's just as ridiculous as many people calling people such as myself "Uncle Toms" and "sellouts" for staying supportive of people that I know personally - just as President Obama has a habit of doing when it comes to issues of race.

Again, I'm admitting - this may come across as ridiculous to many of you, but go with me for just a second.

As it may come across as unfair or undeserved to many of us - just as those slurs seem uncalled for and undeserved to many Black conservatives when they are hurled by the left side of the political aisle - President Obama may be quickly gaining a reputation for being an Uncle Tom racial apologist for those that he caucuses with on the Democratic side of politics. Looking over his time on the national scene, Mr. Obama has a track record of overlooking racial slights whenever they come from his side of the house, while at the same time taking on an aggressive campaign to isolate and label folks such as Rush Limbaugh, conservative talk radio, and Fox News Network as racists and entities that promote hate throughout America (rightly or otherwise.)

And lest we not forget the racial interjection of President Obama that led him to the "Beer Summit,” either.

We slam those that stand with us but "forgive" (i.e., overlook) the racial slights that come from within our own ranks, Mr. President?

Some media outlets have accurately reported that the comment from Harry Reid was not the first time that President Obama has had to handle issues of racial disrespect within his own party - taking those opportunities to respond with interesting results.

For example, comments very similar to Senator Reid's remarks were attributed to then-Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, saying that Obama represented the "...the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy..." No offense to the other hundreds of mainstream African-American men that were capable of meeting these "requirements" and changing America - from Malcolm X to Dr. Martin Luther King to Thurgood Marshall to Colin Powell (never mind the countless attorneys, politicians, preachers, and businessmen that also have these qualities) - but, to Biden, this Obama must have seemed like a "...new type of Negro..."

How insulting, particularly when it comes from a man that later told the young (but apparently naive) presidential candidate that the presidency was not a "...(position) that lent itself to on-the-job training..."


So, after being called a "new type of Negro" (in essence) and being told that he was not ready to be president by this man, what does Mr. Obama do after overcoming the odds?

He makes him Vice President Biden.

Now, Harry Reid - a man that flippantly compared Civil Rights Legislation (one that prevented Black people from, among other things, from being denied the right to vote, continuing to endure savage beatings and torture, and living a legal second-rate citizenship) to the health care bill he was championing - now comes out in 2008 and equates Obama's chances as a presidential candidate as greater due to his “light-skinned” features and not having a “Negro dialect.”

Let’s overlook the fact that he is – along with many others over the course of the past 30 years (and, in many years, a lot longer than that) – Ivy-League-educated, multi-degreed, and published. Let’s overlook the fact that he was, after all, a United States senator at the time when he decided to run for president. Let’s overlook the fact that he overcame a lot of personal challenges in his life to become an attorney, a legislator, and a national figure.

No – let’s just focus on the fact that those qualities don’t give him the same access or shot that being “light-skinned” or being devoid of a “Negro dialect” will.

Obama’s response? Basically accepting an apology, calling Reid a reliable friend of his and a friend of America, and trying to put it behind him, even as many Democrats defend Reid by saying that the “light-skinned” comments were intended to be “complimentary” – an offense that Mr. Obama’s late father should shudder to hear if he were still walking this earth.

After months of insults from the Clinton camp – ranging from everything from then-Senator Clinton calling Obama a neophyte politician (similar to the remarks from Biden) and President Clinton’s now-infamous comments about Obama only being capable of “serving coffee” to him just a few years ago – President-elect Obama’s response to the vicious slams was to make Hillary Clinton the Secretary of State. That, of course, meant taking on the presidential luggage of Bill Clinton as well, baggage that now includes more racially-insensitive (or blatant racist) remarks from the “first Black president of the United States.”

And, perhaps, those are just good ol’ fashioned political bedfellows playing out.

Of course, that’s until you remember President Obama’s first fundraising tour as United States senator. That endeavor included stumping for Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, a known former Klansman for decades.

Political bedfellows is one thing, but does an African-American candidate that won a senatorial election with 70% of the statewide vote need to turn around and campaign for someone that would have looked to hang his late father from a tree around the same time he was conceived in his late mother’s womb?

One thing is for certain – and Americans don’t want to talk about this aspect of the controversy with Harry Reid – it’s this: if a Black Republican (notably, a biracial Republican) would have had the gall to campaign for a known-Klansman so early after winning a historical seat, there is no way that he would have gained enough of Black America’s imagination, support, and votes to even consider running for the presidency in the 20 next years after his victory, let alone in the 20 months Obama turn his victory into a presidential campaign as a Democrat.

One has to wonder: would a biracial president that was a Republican be given the continual pass to overlook racial slights, jaded and antiquated racial ideologies, and divisive comments and viewpoints that equate into the “…well, you’re not really Black…” sentiment that many of us grew up with (and hoped to overcome as a society) that continues to create chasms within America and distrust among many of us?

The longer that President Obama picks and chooses when he wants to address perceived racial hatred and division (see the Tea Party outrage, the Fox News Freeze-out, and the Rush Limbaugh and conservative radio chronicles of this administration to date for examples), the more he comes across as the very stereotype that his counterpart in the RNC (Michael Steele) continues to hear as the head of the other major political party nationally. Obama’s willingness to jump into the racial fray over friends (Dr. Henry Louis Gates) or have the system do it when politically convenient (the Tea Party movement over the historic spending and government option debates last year) reeks of political opportunism and politics-as-usual when it contrasts with the president’s track record of lovingly “turning the other cheek” when similar disgusting comments come from his apparent allies in the Democratic Party.

People say that the president does not garner the respect he should because, in large part, it is due to Mr. Obama being Black. However, looking at issues such as this, it has as much to do with the willingness to flip-flop on his outrage to intolerance than it does with his extreme big-government policies and failure to deliver on the unity and prosperity domestically and internationally that his campaign was built upon. Regardless of history-making endeavors, the American people will not respect those unwilling to call to task their own when the same mistakes made by adversaries are subsequently made by allies. There’s a reason why people have my back when I speak to matters that impact our communities, particularly about race. It has much to do with my willingness to call out the Democrats’ inconsistencies with race just as I did with Audra Shay’s unfortunate stumbling during the Young Republican election in July 2009. It comes from my willingness to question what other civil leaders and I can do to improve the educational opportunities for poor Black children (and say that we are not doing enough to make more of a difference), even as I criticize President Obama for cutting funding to poor Black children for primary and secondary educational pursuits. It comes from being able to speak strongly at a tea party about the changes we need in government today while also being able to speak to some of the racist and hateful rhetoric that was spewed in a minority of events – and speaking to it directly.

President Obama does not speak to these things. He rode the wave as being the first Black president, yet has ducked from being Black at every chance he gets except when it’s politically prudent not to do so. The Harry Reid example appears to be another case in a track record of catering to political allies while overlooking the same racial stereotypical thinking that brands the Republicans as hateful, racist, and separatist – only when it’s convenient to ignore the poison coming from the left. Of course, all bets are off when shunning Michael Steele (as he did to the then-Lt. Governor of Maryland in 2005 when Steele reached out to befriend Obama) or condoning the hate-labeling when it’s done to those on the right (very often wrongly.)

Or, maybe not. Maybe it’s just a rant based off of a string of separate events that have no correlation to each other. Maybe it’s just a perception. But, you know what they say – in politics, perception is reality. And if this were perceived from the other side of the political fence, I know what the reality would be.
Then again, perhaps it would be best to drop these silly slurs and names in the first place, regardless of who is accused and where the accusations stem from.


  1. Ignorance is Ignorance, no matter where it comes from... There will always be a divide between Republicans and Democrats, should Obama create divide within the Democrats... I am absolutely/positively sure that the conversation between Reid and Obama was not pleasant behind closed doors... We don't always need to "Air our Dirty Laundry" in public...

  2. Lenny, I was very much looking forward to your post about this. And you never let me down - this time included - GREAT post!