Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had the audacity to say during the 2008 presidential campaign that Barack Obama was a light-skinned African-American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
To quote the great Snagglepuss, "Heavens to Murgatroyd!"
Sen. Reid has been outed for echoing a familiar sentiment expressed throughout the last election. But how dare he express it in a way that sounds so ... quaint? I mean, that sort of political incorrectness just isn't something to be expected from a 70-year-old white man from Nevada, is it?
Apparently not, which means I need to stop everything I'm doing and join the chorus of critics who are roasting Reid for daring to suggest that Barack Obama may not so indirectly benefit from both his lighter complexion and his ability to sound nothing like the Rev. Jesse Jackson (or any reverend, for that matter) when speaking.
Meanwhile, Reid has had to go on the obligatory apology tour, and commentators of every hue and political persuasion had to chime in with the same old talking points in yet another trivial, surface-level discussion about race in America.
All of which distracts all of us from more pressing issues like health care, jobs and counterterrorism (or lack thereof). And none of which does anything to advance a serious discussion about race.
I don't need to hear Harry Reid outline his work in the civil rights movement to convince me that he's not a racist, merely a man who sometimes doesn't think before he speaks.
I don't need to hear Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele call for Reid's resignation, arguing that "Democrats feel that they can say these things and they can apologize when it comes from the mouths of their own. But if it comes from anyone else, it's racism." This of course, comes from the genius who made his own race-fueled headlines for using the phrase "honest injun" in a recent interview.
Nor do I want to entertain faux anger from a political party that not only has a long list of actual racists in its roster, but over the past decade has engaged in actual racist tactics like redistricting.
I especially don't care to hear from people like Ward Connerly, since if you've read one piece of his, you've read them all.
And I certainly don't want to spend the first year of a new decade agonizing over whether or not using the word "Negro" will be the end-all for black people, people of color, African Americans or whatever your term of choice is.
If you believe the term is antiquated, don't use it when your census form arrives. Why pester older black people to not use a term they've heard most of their lives, when they're going to use it anyway – as many did in the 2000 census when they wrote it in? You know how older people are about changing their ways. Isn't that right, Harry?
None of these stories dominating the news cycle will mean much in the long run. They're not dealing with any of the systematic factors at hand that make race still such a complicated matter in American life. They're nothing more than examples of how obsessions with political correctness allow news organizations and the list of characters they enable to continue to talk us to death over issues that are essentially much ado about nothing.
If there's anything to be enraged about as far as Harry Reid's comments goes, it's that there was this big a fuss to begin with, given that there's so much else going on.