James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Monday, January 11, 2010

The new Reid flap: Pure B.S.

This country is drowning in bullshit.

Please forgive the crudeness, but no other term quite conveys the necessary level of contempt for deliberate, nonsensical phoniness.

The hottest “news” story at the moment is an absurd flap over comments made two years ago by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his new apology for stating some simple, obvious facts at that time.

Reid suddenly was pilloried in the corporate media a couple of days ago for statements made during the early stages of the presidential campaign to the effect that Barack Obama might become the USA's first black president in part because he was “light-skinned” and had “no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one.” The stories continue to run; see the New York Times, page one, on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010, and any network or cable news show at any time, day or night.

Use of the long-outdated word Negro was pretty dumb, but other than that Reid's observations were unmistakably accurate.

We're told that Obama and Reid got together and the senator apologized to the president for his remarks and the president accepted the apology because he knows Harry is a good guy and not a racist.

If we could get a transcript of that conversation, I'm guessing that they shook their heads together over the reaction to the comments and that Obama chided Reid a little for being silly enough to say something that could be twisted by the scandal mongers, Republicans and the dimwits of the press into being racist.

It's simply, sadly fact: In this country, a really dark-skinned black man could not have been elected president. It is equally fact that Obama has no touch of black dialect unless he chooses to, and then he injects it subtly and beautifully into his speech.

I hope someone brings out a video, but it almost certainly won't happen: Some time after his election, Obama spoke to an almost entirely black audience at some large event. May have been an NAACP meeting, may have been a convention of another mostly black group. I wish I could remember the specifics, but cannot.

At any event, the speech was televised. As Obama spoke, I said to my wife: “Hey, listen. He's talking black.” Her attention had been elsewhere; she stopped, listened for just a minute and said, “Yes, he is.” And he was. The rhythm of his sentences was different, pronunciations were slightly altered, certain sounds were stretched. It was fairly subtle, but unmistakable.

For the record: I do not say these things as insult to the president. On the contrary, I rather admired how well and how easily he changed his speech, and it made perfect sense to me as one who knows quite a lot about politics – as much sense as his dropping those black-community cadences when speaking to a bunch of white guys in $5,000 suits.

Beyond that, judging from my own fairly broad circle of acquaintances and friends, and knowledge of others who are selectively flexible in their speech, I'd lay very big bucks that millions of middle class black Americans can and do exactly the same thing with their speech, depending on locale and present company at any given time.

Reid simply made a quick, clear, honest observation. That it has become a big hoohaw is pure bullshit. But then, so is about 95 percent of political discourse in this country, at least as reported in the corporate media.

Even the underpants bomber was wearing out as a point of fixation for the talking models on television “news,” and they needed something else that would help them avoid real journalism for a few days.
One other observation: Throughout my youth, in my part of the country, “Negro” was a word that acknowledged ethnicity without carrying negative connotations. It may have been used differently elsewhere, but here in the north central part of the country it was a respectful word, and so it also was on radio, television and in newspapers.

Though I have no problem with black people shifting their preference to other terms, and have shifted along with them, I think some of the complaints from younger blacks about the word Negro stem from lack of historical perspective and, frankly, from the arrogance of youth which crosses all ethnic borders: Anything of an earlier generation which is not the same as their usage and taste is stupid, ugly, etc., etc.