Racism has consequences
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made an unfortunate mistake when he said privately:
Obama, as a black candidate, could be successful thanks, in part, to his light-skinned appearance and speaking patterns with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one…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.
The comments and the response to the comments have been laughable, disconcerting and indicative of the broader race-related issues that our country continually kicks down the road.
I’m frustrated that the only tellers at the Bank of Apologizing to Black People are still Rev. Al Sharpton and/or Jesse Jackson. Many have used the fact that Rev. Sharpton accepted Reid’s apology as grounds for vindication. Rev. Sharpton is as much a proxy for Black America’s social consciousness as the CEO of Goldman Sachs is a proxy for the interests of community banks. Just like there’s a movement to move our money out of big banks, Black folks should be moving their representation away from Rev. Sharpton and to community voices.
It’s further frustrating to think about how the latent prejudice of our politics has contributed to structural inequity reinforced by public policy.
Take health care reform. Why is there disagreement between the House and Senate over the need for reform to narrow disparities in health care coverage? The House bill does this; the Senate bill does not.
Take unemployment. A community jobs program would work wonders for communities over-represented on unemployment roles: Black and Latino people. Yet the current debate on public job creation has shown little interest in this regard.
Perhaps there is more at work than the latent racism that leads to remarks that are at their best in poor taste and at their worst indicative of utter moral failure. The way to work through a controversy like today’s uproar is to put these incidents into a larger narrative about the consequences of entrenched racism and prejudice. Once that narrative is constructed, we can create a solution.
One Love. One II.