Harry Reid on Obama: He has no discernable “Negro” dialect


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) is busy fending off charges of racism after privately confiding that Obama had a good chance of winning the presidential contest because he was “light skinned” and spoke with no discernable “Negro dialect”.  He’s currently on an “apology” tour and is apologizing to Obama, Al Sharpton, Donna Brazille, Julian Bond and others. 

Ultimately, this speaks more to Reid’s lack of exposure to African-Americans, even though there are plenty in the congress.  I’d venture to suggest that lack of exposure is somewhat self imposed as there’s often a tendency for the majority culture to look at us while not really “seeing us”. So it’s entirely conceivable that Reid could be in the congress for the length of time he has and never really step out of his mental confines to “see” a host of articulate African-Americans in the congress or in DC in general.  The stereotypical images are too powerful for him to accept any other imagery that might offer another definition of African-Americans.

Quite frankly, there’s not an accomplished African-American who has not been subjected to the sort of thing where someone is amazed that you speak or write well or even have an education to begin with.  This usually surfaces in situations when one doesn’t expect it.  A few weeks ago, this occurred with me once again as I was visiting a new dentist to get a root canal.   As I’m sitting in the chair, the dentist starts to engage me in a conversation and queries me as to what I do for a living.  When I tell him, he begins asking another series of questions revolving around where I went to school and grew up.   At some point, it became apparent that he was trying to reconcile what he had supposedly learned about black men versus the obvious contradiction sitting in the chair.  This particular gentleman was Asian, but was laboring under the stereotypes around African-American males.

The problem is that the pervasive perception of black men is one of being some sort of irresponsible baby making “playa” who’s in between jail sentences  and unfortunately, too many black men reinforce that stereotype by actually behaving that way which results in folks like me being considered the “exception”.

In any event, I’ve resolved to not overly concern myself with the self imposed limits that others have when it comes to looking at us but really not “seeing us” and I’m certainly not going to waste time and emotions over their sight issues or seek meaningless apologies.  I’m my own self reference point, hence not requiring an approval stamp other than my own, so it’s inconsequential to me what someone thinks of me.  It’s far more important what I think of me.  However, I will say that we’re basically invisible; the same sort of invisibility that Ralph Ellison narrated in his famous novel The Invisible Man.  Ellison concluded that invisibility can be advantageous sometimes and I agree.

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