What Does Senator Harry Reid's Remarks Really Mean?
By Fahim A. Knight-EL
This writer initially wasn't going to dignify Senator Harry Reid's racist remarks relative to President Barack Obama and the African American race, but my primary audience is the African American community and I have since talked to many blacks who felt outright offended by Senator Reid’s comments (I was equally offended).
This writer had initially thought that may be the timing of the media to expose Senator Harry Reid’s remarks was a mere controversial ploy to entice hype which to promote the new book titled "Game Change," authored by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin in order to create excitement for the book and in the world of marketing there is nothing like creating controversy because controversy sells.
However, Senator Reid's racial comments and analogy, extended to a complex historical past that evolved out of a 450 year old social dilemma (Chattel Slavery) that is still very much unresolved and had left many scars on the victims of this human tragedy.
Senator Reid's words were divisive and inexcusable, but it left us with a teachable moment, as we work to understand America's controversial racial historical politics and in the larger debate Senator Reid can only be partially blamed for making his insensitive remarks towards President Obama (this is not meant to absolve him of personal responsibility), in particular and all black people in general, because even his thoughts were created by a system of injustice and inequality (he was perhaps socialized into those views by being a member of the dominant society).
However, the United States refusal to engage in the unresolved discussion of the history of American racism continues to haunt every generation that have preceded thereafter slavery and Jim Crow era. America has had this habit of sweeping the race debate under the rug, as though through osmosis it is going to go away and it never does (racial feelings and misconceptions for over 450 years have laid to fester in a cesspool of silence and denial). (Reference: Tim Wise YouTube Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQWP7fUSPJU ).
This writer studied under a great intellectual and professor named Dr. Earlie Thorpe, who would often espoused that you can not legislate attitudes and thinking—real change has to be internal and no laws can change the hearts and minds of humanity; they must be willing to do that themselves. No, doubt Dr. Thorpe's words looms high when you examine the social tension and racial climate inside of America—we have passed Brown versus Education of 1954, Civil Right Act 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, but in reality it appears hasn't to much changed since these monumental pieces of legislation. (Reference: Al Jazeera television YouTube Link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sQ7JCgbYc4
I made the below comment on Kenny’s Sideshow Blog and it is fitting that I restate my position relative to the Al Jazeera piece. It appears this documentary was put together by Al-Jazeera television and I have tremendous respect for this network, but I am bit suspicious of this piece. Thus, I know the Middle East and Islamic nations are plagued with their own political, economic and social issues and as we saw in the video, the United States definitely has its share of problems and concerns relative to race relations. However, this writer is smart enough to know that the Arabs themselves have practiced systematic racism against darker skinned Africans and even against darker skinned Muslims. So they are not in a moral position to highlight racism.
Now, we have to be able to discern, how much of this is mere propaganda to further incite racial division, with a strategy and tactic to cause internal confusion by putting together this slick marketing video to flat-out heighten the racial contradictions in the United States. Much of this plays right in the hands of those who have a vested motive to divide and conquer. This is not to suggest that white neo-Nazi hate groups aren't real. I believe that race/racism within the United States is an unresolved issue after 450 years and the enemy plays on that reality. I have been engaged in civil rights and human rights struggle all of my adult life, in which I have determined that racism is a disease. This type propaganda supports the power apparatus—it ultimately keep the haves and the have nots in conflict.
Yet, we are stilling dealing with the question of equality and fairness in 2010. Senator Reid is an elected official and if he holds these types of negative cultural sentiments, than we can only imagine how many others might share these same views. The scope and intent, of this article is by no means, meant to overlook the social progress that African Americans have made since their sojourn in America and I definitely do not accept that every white person believes in the type of racist venom that the great Senator of Nevada made.
You would have thought that the U.S. Senate would offer some type diversity training to its member in order that Reid and Trent Lott and the boys would not become an embarrassment to this august body of public servants. But my contention is that racism is a disease.
Dr. Frances Cress Welsing in her book titled, “The Cress Theory of Color Confrontation and Racism” states: "Racism is viewed as a global behavior power system with a constant and specific set of power relationships. Racism evolved with the singular goal of white supremacy or white power domination by the global white minority over the vast non-white global majority. This 'colored global collective' has been forced into the position of relative powerlessness compared to the 'global white collective' establishing the power equation of white over non-white (W/N-W). Racism, whether consciously or unconsciously evolved as a survival necessity for the tiny global white minority, due to their genetic recessive status as albino variants (mutants) in a world of skin-color genetically dominant black, brown, red and yellow peoples”
Perhaps there is still a great necessity to have race leaders such as Reverend Al Sharpton, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Benjamin Jealous, Marc H. Morial, etc., not that I have ever doubted their continued usefulness to the liberation struggle of the black downtrodden. Some have argued that we have entered into a new era of post racial politics in America; in particular since electing America's first African American president, which had rendered the above black leaders as being obsolete and outdated until an incident like Harry Reid pops up on the Civil Rights leaders radar screen.
This writer does believe that some of these so-called black leaders use the race issue to exploit and to financially enrich themselves in the name of promoting black causes.
The United States Government has to take full responsibility for its role in the process of institutionalized racism and do not think this half-hearted governmental apology, which lacked real moral conviction was sufficient for the wrongs of slavery and racial injustice—this so-called apology for the historical wrongs of slavery was viewed by most grassroots blacks as public mockery—symbol without real substance. If you had taken notice, no black people were out celebrating America's so-called official apology for the wrongs of slavery, that alone should have told us something.
The United States Congress on June 11, 2009 so-called publically apologized to the descendents of slaves; it was an apology that was a well crafted resolution which was equally protected by well crafted legal language (it wasn't a full admittance, but it served to protected the U.S. Government from future reparations debate).
The resolution in part stated: "African-Americans continue to suffer from the consequences of slavery and Jim Crow laws--long after both systems were formally abolished--through enormous damage and loss, both tangible and intangible, including the loss of human dignity and liberty; Whereas the story of the enslavement and de jure segregation of African-Americans and the dehumanizing atrocities committed against them should not be purged from or minimized in the telling of the history of the United States"
Thus, U.S. Government just should have come straight-out and admitted that it was an evil practice which stands to be condemned by all of humanity. The resolution continued: "Whereas an apology for centuries of brutal dehumanization and injustices cannot erase the past, but confession of the wrongs committed and a formal apology to African-Americans will help bind the wounds of the Nation that are rooted in slavery and can speed racial healing and reconciliation and help the people of the United States understand the past and honor the history of all people of the United States."
When black people react to racist comments like the ones that Senator Reid made, it's partially out of their historical trauma in which the victims were never allowed to heal and the perpetrators were never mandated to take full responsibility for their criminal activity—it is this social polarity that undergirds the emotions and attitudes of two conflicting people and societies.
How many whites stood up and condemned and repudiated Senator Reid for spewing racism and hatred? If we are truly seeking better race relations within the United States then CNN, CBS, FOX, NBC, ABC, etc., should have had a slew of Caucasians publically lambasting Reid for having the audacity to make such outlandish remarks. This writer did not see a lot of white people publically condemning Senator Reid.
This writer constantly hear whites saying, why do blacks continually bring up slavery and the painful racial past of American history? (many ordinarily wrongfully characterize these type conversations as a dialog in victimization), but Senator Reid's remarks is a stalk reminder that as much as most Africans living in America can not consciously overlook their historical persecution past and in reality they should not be asked to do so (this history created a false system of inferiority). It is, perhaps equally true that most whites can not let go the past either because of the deep seated guilt of their ancestors and the false status of racial privilege that led to their social, political, and economic empowerment as well as present day status.
Dr. Naim Akbar in his book titled, "Visions for Black men," stated: Racism is a strange phenomenon that blocks human opportunity, that destroys human potential, that is predicated on the destruction of people on the basis of physical racial characteristics. That phenomenon is a Euro-American phenomenon of the worst kind and what does it do? Even though it teaches the inferiority of non-Caucasian people, it has a much more important logical source. You must understand that the premise of racism is not Blacks' inferiority, but white superiority. Let us understand that white supremacy is not intended for the purpose of denigrating black folks. It is done on the basis of a group of insecure people trying to grab their own questionable self-esteem and raise it to a level at which they can begin to justify their own questionable authenticity on the stage of human progress. It is necessary for them to somehow define themselves as superior on the basis of somebody else's inferiority. In order to do it, they had to distort history, they had to distort records, they had to go out and wipe out the signs of the greatness of our history." (Reference: Naim Akbar; "Visions for Black men,"; p. 28).
This story was buzzing throughout black America and most black leaders and black talking heads were milking this incident for all that it was worth. Race in America is still one of those hypersensitive issues and by it remaining as one of those historical unresolved issues; it still carries a lot of emotions ranging from anger, fear, and suspicion.
Tim Wise in his book titled, "White Like Me: Reflections on Race From a Privileged Son" stated: I don't view it as my job to fight racism so as to save you from it. That would be paternalistic and would imply that you aren't-or that folks generally aren't—capable of liberating yourselves from white supremacy. I think you are, though I think it might be a bit easier if you have some internal resistance from whites like myself. But that's neither here nor there. I fight racism because racism is evil, and I don't want to contribute to, or collaborate with, evil. I fight it because it's a sickness in my community, and I'm trying to save myself from it."
Let's take a moment to revisited Senator Reid’s comments relative to President Obama being "light skinned and with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one." What does this mean? This comment to say the least, was loaded with all types of past stereotypes, racial indictments, bigotry, unapologetic racism, etc., which was perhaps rooted in a culture of racism that evolved out of Chattel Slavery (1555-1865) and it is quite difficult to detach the statement from the overall sociological and psychological time period, but nor can the statements be placed in a historical vacuum.
I am going to play a little devil's advocate here; supposed Senator Reid would have spewed this type of insensitive and derogatory remarks towards Jews and the Jewish community and, thus the Jews perceived his remarks as being anti-Semitic. The Anti Defamation League (ADL), chairman Abe Foxman would use all the weapons at his organizational disposal to punish Senator Reid and any other person who did not respect the sanctity of the Jewish heritage and Jewish cultural experience.
Moreover, every Jewish organization would be leveraging their power and influence towards working to curtail Senator Reid's political career. The Jews would demand that his constituents in the U.S. Congress repudiate him and it would not matter how many apologies Reid would make, they would never forgiving him for echoing the slightest words of anti-Semitism. If you do not believe me, just ask former president Jimmy Carter, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Patrick Buchanan, Jesse Jackson, Cynthia McKinney and a host of others.
But when you perceive a people (African Americans), as a powerless people in which you know that the political consequences of your actions and remarks would be minimum and insignificant to derail their political aspirations and/or impact their economic wither all; blacks becomes an easier target for these type of racist insults, a powerless people do not control the institutions that effects humanity's stations in life (as far as having the power to reward and punish). Senator Reid has no choice, but to respect the Jewish people because he respects their power (money) and influence to alter the political, economic and social paradigm including his own.
Slavery created the term "Negro" race (it was devised as a denigrated race classification which served as a final by-product of slavery and the slave making system), I did not say the African race because there was a distinct difference (African people had a glorious history and civilization prior to advent of slavery). But the evolution of the "Negro" race was a by-product of the evil and racist systemic practices of dehumanization, which was associated with Chattel slavery. (Reference: Nation of Islam minister YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBe68F3nJmQ ).
African slaves were robbed of their names, religion, folkways, mores, values, language, culture, traditions, etc., and most of all they were robbed of their humanity. The institution of slavery created what became known as the "Negro" this label signified and denoted that the slavery process was completed and they had created something entirely new, which would serve their agenda for generations to come. (Reference: Naim Akbar YouTube Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvwQK_EzWIQ ).
Blacks in America have been in search of a unified racial identity and a nationality for over four centuries. Africans in America have yet to agree unilaterally on how they want to be identified—Negro, Ethiopians, Asiatic, Nubians, colored, black, African, African American, Moorish American, Hebrew Israelite, etc., it was slavery that caused this disconnect from their original heritage. Some blacks would argue who gives two cents about how Senator Reid views them and for that matter, any other white person and would argue, why would I waste my energy and time trying to assess and analyze what white people thinks about black people? My response is very simple, I have always felt compelled to set the record straight in order to give the antithesis and lay an intellectual road map for my 11 year old daughter and others.
Senator Reid covertly appears partial to giving credibility and legitimacy to that everlasting personality that the sociologist John Blassingame in his book titled, "Slave Community" call the "Sambo" personality, which was a by-product of the slave plantation life (most slave masters preferred that personality). However, Senator Reid's comments could be viewed as being more rooted in ignorance and/or may be not, perhaps he totally understood the evil intent and the negative effect that Chattel slavery had on the social and psychological personality of the African race and sadly his comments was showing appreciation for the effect that process had on African people.
President Obama to him represented a past, present and future prototype and in the collective sense—these type African Americans who are light skinned and talked with good standard English would be considered more acceptable "Negroes" from the dominant culture standpoint. Let’s go even a little further the type of schooling and education will also factor into this "good "Negro" prototype profile; in particular Negroes who are graduates of Harvard, Yale, Cornel, Stanford, Duke, Princeton, Columbia, Georgetown, etc. (Reference: Dick Gregory YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAcN5iKArQU&feature=PlayList&p=3C7268A7577EEA60&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=32 ).
I am not surprise that Senator Reid's comments gives the inference and implication that whites find the "Negro” DNA relative to President Obama’s type and who shares close ethnic proximity to their own, as perhaps being less threaten and even better suited to be placed in leadership over the ex-slave master's White House (you can draw a direct parallel from Minister Malcolm X Speech dealing with the “House Negro” and “Field Negro”). (Reference: Minister Malcolm X speech see YouTube Link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znQe9nUKzvQ ).
Reid's comments even further implied that unless blacks have adopted white culture and have encultratated themselves into talking with an American European dialect and disowning their own culture and heritage only then, are they considered real "Americans".
This is how the preeminent historian/sociologist Dr. W.E.B Dubois describes this peculiar dilemma in his monumental book "Souls of Black Folk" he stated: "After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,--a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness,--an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two un-reconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder." (Reference: W.E.B Dubois; "The Souls of Black Folk")
The light skin that Reid was applauding represents the image of the former slave master half-black children and oftentimes even during slavery these racial mixed offspring received more privileges than darker skinned slaves. Perhaps, a society that has been structured on the premise of a pigmentocracy paradigm where rewards and privileges are bestowed based on skin color is still in effect in 2010.
Reid essentially was saying that President Obama's white blood lineage uniquely qualified him to be looked at different than blacks who did not share his light skinned pigmentation and may be Senator Reid understood the unnaturalness and brutality of those who survived this evil system and his statement reflected how reliable the end product (making of the “Negro”) would be toward self-hatred and loving those other than self. But the most alarming covert attack and assumption that Senator Reid's remark suggested was that Africans had no culture and tradition. His light skinned analysis subtlety implied and affirmed the acceptability of African women having been raped and sexually violated by white slave masters, which produced mulatto offsprings and from his worldview he sees nothing wrong with that historical picture.
We felt an obligation to weigh in on the racist comments made by Senator Harry Reid and we have a job, duty and responsibility to work from our moral compass and to be willing to fight injustice wherever we may find it. This writer view President Barack Obama as fair game, when it comes to criticizing his politics and critiquing his presidential decisions, but racism should not be one of those variables used in the assessment equation. Senator Reid’s comments were highly offensive and inappropriate and stood to be condemned.
He covertly indicted the African American race while at the same defending the symbols of white supremacy and the system of institutionalize racism. Now, there are those who systematically instigate racial conflicts and are the true benefactors of divide and conquer. Some will argue that if I know this reality, why am I then participating and engaging in this hidden plot and scheme, which ultimately works against the good of all humanity? It is because I have a deep seated love for freedom, Justice, and equality.
Fahim A. Knight Chief Researcher for KEEPING IT REAL THINK TANK located in Durham, NC; our mission is to inform African Americans and all people of good will of the pending dangers that lie ahead; as well as decode the symbolisms and reinterpret the hidden meanings behind those who operate as invisible forces, but covertly rules the world. We are of the belief that an enlighten world will be better prepared to throw off the shackles of ignorance and not be willing participants for the slaughter. Our MOTTO is speaking truth to power. Fahim A. Knight-EL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
STAY AWAKE UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN,
Fahim A. Knight-EL
© 2010 Fahim A. Knight-El