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The Senate majority leader has apologized for his remarks about race and color, but he was simply being honest about how voters react to skin color.
CNN is aflutter. Bloggers are calling it a "big-time" mistake. Newspapers describe the "racially tinged" remarks as "sensational." What is this "juicy revelation"? Apparently, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid privately told two journalists in 2008 that Obama was more electable because he's "light-skinned" and lacked a "Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
With the publication of Reid's impolitic quote in the new book Game Change, journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin have landed a PR coup. By revealing Reid's racial faux pas, they've also set in motion the now tediously familiar process of a media frenzy, an inevitable apology from Reid acknowledging "deep regret," and an equally inevitable gracious acceptance of the said apology from Obama.
Lost in all the handwringing and shock, however, is any clear explanation of what's wrong with Reid's comment. Clearly, using "Negro dialect" is about half-a-century behind the times, but does anyone think Reid meant ill by his anachronism? Moreover, as the recent kerfuffle about the 2010 Census revealed, "Negro" is still used by a non-trivial number of older black folks. In 2000, for example, more than 50,000 people went the extra effort of writing-in that they identified themselves as "Negro" (over-and-above the millions who checked the box for "Black, African-Am., or Negro").
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