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Doug Wilder: Reid’s Apology Not Sufficient

If America's First Elected African American Governor Doesn't Have Moral Authority Here, Who Does?

It seems that the further you get from the elites in Washington DC, who have a stake in Harry Reid remaining in power, the more likely you are to find African Americans who have a problem with Harry Reid’s comments about Barack Obama. And while I don’t agree with Doug Wilder on much, he makes a point that Reid and his defenders have attempted to gloss over: just because Barack Obama has (unsurprisingly) forgiven Reid, that’s not the end of the matter. Harry Reid’s surprising use of a term that is at best, antiquated and at worst, racist, is not a concern just for the president. It speaks to the way Reid views the African-American community as a whole. Wilder thinks Reid needs to apologize more broadly to the American people:

So it saddened me to read the words of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid when he ostensibly was trying to bolster the bid of Barack Obama for the White House. Mr. Reid suggested that as a “light-skinned” black man, Mr. Obama would be more palatable to the electorate as a potential president. The Nevada senator “praised” Mr. Obama’s ability to turn off what Mr. Reid must perceive as a widespread “Negro dialect” when speaking to audiences who are not amenable to such a speaking style.

Voters certainly deserve more credit than some of the people they elect to high office give them.

Whether those words and the sentiment they represent were spoken in the U.S. Senate to praise Mr. Obama or used to sanitize deep-seated hatred at a White Citizens’ Council meeting in the 1950s, they are reprehensible and indefensible. No ifs ands or buts about it. Our leaders need to acknowledge that fact.

Mr. Reid, indeed, has apologized to President Obama for what has to be one of the most dreadful compliments in American political history. But I have to ask why he stopped there. His words were, as a matter of fact, an offense against the president, but they also were a slap in the face of the American people – especially the millions of younger Americans who have worked diligently to extend the American dream to every person in every corner of this nation. And they didn’t do it just at the ballot box – they did it on school buses, in classrooms, in cafeterias and in basement rec rooms around the country. They did it by just refusing to hate and by merely living with their neighbors as friends and people of common good cheer. Where was Mr. Reid’s apology to those everyday Americans he underestimated and dismissed as yesteryear’s market-variety haters?

The people of this country have earned more respect from Mr. Reid than that, and he should not let too much time go by before he tells them he regrets what he assumed about America.

How will Harry Reid answer?

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