Tag Archives | Harry Reid

Conservatives for Harry Reid

I was happy to see that several conservative commentators have recently pointed out that Harry Reid’s comments were not actually racist, and that expanding the definition of racism in order to attack him, is a dangerous game for conservatives to play. I made similar points here and here. Here is prominent black conservative Ward Connerly, writing in the Wall Street Journal:

For my part, I am having a difficult time determining what it was that Mr. Reid said that was so offensive.

Was it because he suggested that lighter-skinned blacks fare better in American life than their darker brothers and sisters? If so, ask blacks whether they find this to be true. Even the lighter-skinned ones, if they are honest with themselves, will agree that there is a different level of acceptance.

Was it because he used the politically incorrect term “negro”? If so, it should be noted that there are many blacks of my generation who continue to embrace this term. In fact, “negro” is an option along with “black” and “African-American” on the 2010 Census.

Was it because he implied that Mr. Obama might be cut some political slack because of his oratorical skills or his looks? If so, that fact was not harmful to Joe Biden, who was elected vice president after praising Mr. Obama as “articulate” and “clean-looking.”

Or, finally, could it be viewed as offensive that Mr. Reid suggested that blacks often have a distinctive way of speaking? If that is, indeed, the offense, then I will offend a lot of individuals when I assert that I can tell in probably 90% of the cases whether an individual is black merely by talking to him on the telephone.

In short, this incident does not rise to the level that it prompts me to

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Harry Reid and the Costs of Expanding the Definition of Racism

Various Republican politicians and some other conservatives are calling on Harry Reid to resign because, back in 2008, he said that Obama had a chance to win the presidency due in part to the fact that he is a “light-skinned” black who doesn’t speak in “Negro dialect.” For reasons outlined by senior Conspirator Eugene Volokh, I think these remarks were not racist, even if they did use outdated terminology such as “Negro.” In addition, I believe conservatives should think long and hard about whether they really want to promote such an expansive definition of racism.

Conservatives and to a lesser extent libertarians are often accused of being racist for things like opposing affirmative action, skepticism about broad antidiscrimination laws, claiming that intergroup differences in income are not necessarily due to discrimination, arguing that some cultures are better than others, and so on. If the GOP wins this particular fight and Reid is forced to resign, there will be a new norm in public discourse under which no prominent person can openly say the same kinds of things as Reid without being labeled a racist. This norm will ensnare some people of all persuasions. It will also have the unfortunate effect of making honest discussion of racial issues even more difficult than it often is already. But in many settings – especially the media and the intellectual world – it is likely to be used most aggressively against conservatives and libertarians. And if conservatives complain that such attacks are unfair, their credibility will be undermined by their own previous attacks on Reid. I realize, of course, that it’s tempting to score some political points against Reid, especially at a time when Republicans see the Democrats’ popularity plummeting and hope to make major gains in the November elections. However, even forcing […]

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