by Cynthia McKinney
To paraphrase Kanye West, "Does Harry Reid Like Black People?" All the top Democrats say he does, but are they really good character witnesses, given the Party's confront affronts to African Americans? Former Illinois Governor Blagojevich claims he's “blacker than Barack Obama” - but does that mean he likes Black people, either?
Is This What They Meant by "Post Racial America?" Harry Reid and the "Negro Dialect"
by Cynthia McKinney
“Extant racial disparities have not been addressed by Senator Reid during his tenure as Majority Leader.”
Nevada Senator and Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid is in the news again. This time, for remarks he made to a journalist writing a book about the 2008 Presidential campaign. In the book, Game Change, Reid reportedly characterized President Obama as a "light skinned" black man "with no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one.”
Many of us remember Harry Reid's stellar performance when the issue arose of President-elect Barack Obama's replacement in the U.S. Senate from Illinois. About that, I remember Kanye West's George Bush comment and ask the question, "Does Harry Reid Like Black People?" Clearly, his most recent remarks indicate that he must not have been around very many. And that speaks very poorly for the country's most powerful Senate Democrat, responsible for preserving the special relationship that exists between Black voters in this country and his political party. The Democratic Party would long ago have been relegated to the margins without the strong, loyal support of America's Black voters. The fact that Black voters continue to receive short shrift in the very policy decisions produced by Senator Reid is more than disappointing to me and should also be disappointing to those bearing the brunt of the policies put forward by Congressional Democrats in tandem with the Democratic White House. Extant racial disparities have not been addressed by Senator Reid during his tenure as Majority Leader, a position impossible for him to even hold without the reliable votes of Black Americans.
Surely, Black and Latino voters overwhelmingly put Senator Reid in a position to work with President Barack Obama in the White House and address long-standing issues important to our communities, ranging from health care, jobs, education, and the economy. Instead, Senator Reid has gone along with bailouts for bankers who are about to reward themselves with yet another round of excessive bonuses using the people's money; unquestioned continued finance for the military-industrial complex including contracts for the ignominious DynCorp, Halliburton, and Blackwater and despite President Dwight D. Eisenhower's prescient warning about it; and expansion of wars that sap our country's moral stature and its treasure represented by our young men and women whose talents are being diverted to kill and maim people, or to be killed or maimed, themselves.
“Senator Reid has gone along with bailouts for bankers who are about to reward themselves with yet another round of excessive bonuses using the people's money.”
Senator Reid has not distinguished himself in any way as a problem solver for the people of this country nor has he done anything to stem Washington, D.C.'s growing alienation from the very people it is supposed to serve.
But let me not stray too far from "Negro dialect."
Back in those halcyon days when Rod Blagojevich was governor of Illinois, it fell to him to appoint President-elect Barack Obama's Senate replacement. Media speculation was rife and the stakes were high. Because Barack Obama was our country's only Black Senator, the desire among many was to see Governor Blagojevich appoint another Black to that position. And among others, apparently, it was their deepest fear.
When Governor Blagojevich decided to appoint Illinois's former Attorney General, Roland Burris, to the slot, Democratic Party leaders had the temerity to suggest that they would not seat Burris because he had been appointed by Blagojevich, enmeshed in a scandal at that time, accused of trying to sell President Obama's former Senate seat to the highest bidder. So Senate Democrats whipped themselves into a frenzy vowing to reject Burris, who would become the country's only black Senator, until Illinois Representative Bobby Rush stopped them in their tracks and reminded them that they probably didn't really want to do that. To his credit, Governor Blagojevich was quoted as saying, "Don't allow the allegations against me to taint this good and honest man." Recognizing their utter folly, the Senate Democrats backed down.
Interestingly, before the Blagojevich appointment, reports surfaced thatSenator Reid had actually called the then-Governor to press him to not appoint either Jesse Jackson, Jr., Danny Davis, or Emil Jones to the vacant seat. They all just happen to be Black. The appeal was made, according to the Chicago Sun-Times report, because Reid feared that they would lose to a Republican candidate. The request was curious because President-elect Obama had just defeated a well-oiled Republican machine led by Republican insider, John McCain.
“Senator Reid had actually called the then-Governor to press him to not appoint either Jesse Jackson, Jr., Danny Davis, or Emil Jones to the vacant seat.”
The Sun-Times goes on to report that Reid offered the names of two White women as acceptable substitutes for the governor's consideration instead of the Black males whose names had all been floated as possibilities. A Blagojevich spokesman pointed out the clear conflict of interest for Reid, who was refusing to seat Burris, but had called to support two White women for the post. The Sun-Times goes on to report that William Walls, a community activist with the Committee for a Better Chicago, called Reid's opposition to the blacks an act of racism. It quotes Walls as saying on FoxNews, "'The U.S. Senate is an institution that is primarily white and has been forever and some people are more comfortable with people of their own kind. Harry Reid seems to be one of those people.'"
Senator Reid, however, continues to feed the Walls perception. Unfortunately for Senator Reid, eyebrows are now raised over reports that the Senator called Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg to ask Bloomberg not to support a potential Harold Ford, Jr. challenge to incumbent New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Harold Ford, Jr. is also black, although in his Tennessee Senate campaign he did claim that his grandmother was White--much to the shock of some family members who publicly disputed young Harold's statement.
In his celebrated 2004 Democratic Party Convention address, Barack Obama said "There is no Black America," yet President Obama's Commerce Department will be circulating census forms that list "Negro" as a race option, invoking to many images of "Jim Crow America." Finally, in an Esquire Magazine story hitting the news stands on January 19, Blagojevich said that he's "blacker than Barack Obama." Question: Is this what life is like in post-racial U.S.A.? Sounds like the same old stuff to me: them that gets are the ones that's got. And we understand who's on the wrong side of that equation in any dialect.
Cynthia McKinney is a former congresswoman from Georgia and Green Party candidate for president. She can be contacted at Cynthia@runcynthiarun.org.