January 11, 2010

Harry Reid, "light-skinned" and "Avatar"

Democrats are jumping to the defense of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for his racially insensitive remarks about Barack Obama:

"I think if you look at the reports as I have, it was all in the context of saying positive things about Senator Obama," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine. "It definitely was in the context of recognizing in Senator Obama a great candidate and future president." Sen. Diane Feinstein of California said Mr. Reid should not resign, and defended his remark as just a "mistake."

"Clearly, the leader misspoke. He has also apologized. He's not only apologized to the president, I think he's apologized to all of the black leadership that he could reach," she said.

And you know what? I agree with them. My long-time blog nemesis Perry commented over at Common Sense Political Thought:

Back on topic, here is what [former GOP] Leader [Trent] Lott said at Strom Thurmond’s bday shindig: “I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.”

It was a stupid racist statement which one would not expect from the Republican Leader in the Senate.

Here is the context of Leader Reid’s remark, from the book: “… Game Change, as saying privately that the US would be “ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama – a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.’”

It was a stupid racist statement which one would not expect from the Democratic Leader in the Senate.

In my view, neither statement is characteristic of the individual who made it, therefore, again, just plain stupid. Besides, both apologized.

I did not think that Leader Lott should have been forced by his Republican colleagues to step down, nor should Leader Reid be forced to step down.

Both parties are guilty of making a mountain out of a molehill. Partisan politics rears its ugly head once again.

Don’t we have more important issues to debate?

While Perry is wrong about 99% of what he writes, he's right about this. Unfortunately, many of his fellow "progressives" certainly didn't feel that way in the past, nor anytime the subject is a conservative or a Republican. Regarding Trent Lott,

  • Long-time Democratic operative Donna Brazile "was outraged."

  • Jesse Jackson called for Lott to resign as did Al Gore who said Lott's comments were racist. He said, "Trent Lott made a statement that I think is a racist statement, yes. That's why I think he should withdraw those comments or I think the United States Senate should undertake a censure of those comments."

  • Nancy Pelosi said "Lott can apologize all he wants. It doesn't remove the sentiments that escaped his mouth that day at the party."

  • CA Rep. Maxine Waters and Sen. John Kerry called on Lott to resign.

  • And lo and behold Harry Reid himself said Lott "had no alternative" but to resign.

And, unlike the Lott situation, where numerous prominent Republicans did not come out in support of him, Democrats have immediately jumped to Reid's defense:

  • Al Sharpton, the vocal civil rights leader who has inserted himself in the middle of many of the biggest racial fights over the past 25 years, said that while Reid “did not select the best word choice in this instance,” the Nevada Democrat should not be forced to step aide.

  • D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and an African-American, is warning Republicans against trying to make hay out of Reid’s comments.

  • House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the highest-ranking African-American in Congress, came out in support of Reid, as did Nevada Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, the top black pol in Reid’s home state.

  • “Senator Reid’s record provides a stark contrast to actions of Republicans to block legislation that would benefit poor and minority communities – most recently reflected in Republican opposition to the health bill now under consideration,” CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said. “I look forward to Senator Reid continuing to serve as Majority Leader to guide this important agenda through the Senate.”

  • And, again, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine defended and supported Reid.

So, when Republicans charge "double standard" in this whole matter, they're absolutely right. (UPDATE: our LGOMB has a "thoughtful" post about Reid's comments; just imagine what it'd be if a Republican said what Reid did.) Not just regarding Democrats, but the mainstream media as well. For example, it's like MSDNC's Chris Matthews chuckling and smirking about foul-mouthed Dem. Rep. Alan Grayson's past comments, but having a coronary about former veep Dick Cheney's recent policy criticism of Barack Obama. I virtually guarantee you Matthews will be rationalizing Reid's comments later today, but on the other hand almost anything remotely associated with the GOP is laced with insinuations of racism.

Being a liberal and/or a Democrat gets you a pass because somehow "you mean well." Otherwise, you'd have actually heard about things like this, let alone its necessary accompanying criticism. Right?

UPDATE 2: Tyler Nixon at DE Libertarian reminds us all why he is the smartest of all the First State's bloggers.

In a related matter, you might think that only the Right has misgivings about James Cameron's awesome "Avatar." However (as even the AP amazingly admits), a "small but vocal group of people" actually think the film is -- wait for it! -- racist:

Near the end of the hit film "Avatar," the villain snarls at the hero, "How does it feel to betray your own race?" Both men are white — although the hero is inhabiting a blue-skinned, 9-foot-tall, long-tailed alien.

Strange as it may seem for a film that pits greedy, immoral humans against noble denizens of a faraway moon, "Avatar" is being criticized by a small but vocal group of people who allege it contains racist themes — the white hero once again saving the primitive natives.

Since the film opened to widespread critical acclaim three weeks ago, hundreds of blog posts, newspaper articles, tweets and YouTube videos have made claims such as that the film is "a fantasy about race told from the point of view of white people" and reinforces "the white Messiah fable."

Which is kind of ironic since the film more overtly portrays [the whites] as unscrupulous, immoral conquerors! If you look at the full equation, I think the so-called "minorities" come out on the "moral top" when compared to the so-called "white messiah" concern. After all, Costner, Cruise and now Sam Worthington in "Avatar" end up siding with the "minority" because they recognize their [supposed] inherent goodness/superiority. (And were Costner and Cruise "saviors" in their respective films? The Native Americans and Samurai were ultimately defeated/wiped out! What kinda "messiah" leads to that?)

Overall it's a good debate: For example, isn't the West (ie, developed nations ... which just happen to be quite white, by the way) most responsible for things like the abolition of slavery (and on moral grounds at that), codifying political and legal equality, and fostering a technological age unmatched in human civilization that has led to increased standards of living for untold billions? What if the West had never colonized the areas that it did (the Americas, in particular)? Would these lands, still dominated by its indigenous peoples, be at the same technological (among other aspects) disadvantage that they faced back then?

Now, this may sound sort of like the "Well, the descendants of slaves should be glad their great-great-great-whatevers were brought here" argument used by some (less than scrupulous folk) to say that ultimately, slavery "wasn't all that bad." But that is far from the case. If anything, it's a needed reminder of the current edu-babble PC that denigrates anything Western, and lionizes everything else. (See Costner's "Dances With Wolves," which, while an outstanding film, nevertheless furthered the myth of the Native American as a faultless Noble.)

Personally, I am clearly in the camp of non-intervention; if I was a citizen in the "Avatar"-verse, I'd be dead-set against the invasion of Pandora -- much like I was dead-set against the invasion of Iraq and other areas in which the US really has had no business being. However, it is a common error to utilize 21st century moral codes to impose standards upon the peoples of 200, 300, 400 or more years ago. Because we recognize that slavery is (was) a horrible institution today doesn't discount the fact that it was once, centuries ago, an accepted world-wide phenomenon.

I'm getting off on a bit of a tangent here; I suppose my overall recommendation to this "small group" that thinks "Avatar" is racist is that it needs to take the view that most conservatives do with it: It's a freakin' science fiction film. If this "small group" wants to express a more real-life beef, perhaps they can look at flicks where, for example, some whitebread teacher [usually reluctantly] accepts a teaching gig at a tough inner city school and suddenly "reaches" and "transforms" the "underserved" youth there. As I wrote over three years ago:

Sorry, but I just have to wince every time I see a spot for the new Hilary Swank film "Freedom Writers." If this isn't just a sappy remake of Michelle Pheiffer's "Dangerous Minds" for all intents and purposes, I'll eat my hat. Certainly, teachers that are dramatized by Swank, Phieffer and others are nothing short of miracle workers. And, their stories can be uplifting. But one thing that annoys me is the seeming Hollywood mantra of a "Great White Hope" that is "needed" for these tough, inner-city classrooms. Remember how Pheiffer was virtually terrified in her first few days in the classroom. But hey -- she is determined to "reach these kids" by, among other things, "understanding" where the kids come from. Swank is obviously keen on doing likewise. Matthew Perry in "The Ron Clark Story" is another. Meryl Streep in "Music of the Heart" is yet another.

If you know me by my past writings, I'm certainly not one to endorse the multiculti philosophy that kids will learn "better" if they are taught by teachers who "look like them." And surely, middle-class whitebreadish teachers like Pheiffer, Swank et. al. will have to make necessary adjustments to whatever teaching methods they learned in order to be successful with high-need urban students. But this isn't my point. The point is that Hollywood seems to believe that these stories are "inspirational" in part because these middle-class whitebreadish teachers "gave their all" to help these destitute pupils -- they sacrificed and were devoted beyond measure -- when they could've taken a cushy suburban teaching job that would have been much easier. They're "Great White Hopes" as I said before.

But what about the stories of teachers who DO "look like their students" who have been there since day one doing their utmost to get through to these kids?

I went to note several excellent such films, like "187," "Lean On Me" and "Stand And Deliver." The latter two are staples on the Encore channels, so if you've never seen them, you gotta check 'em out.

Posted by Hube at January 11, 2010 06:07 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

I might take Perry's position had the demonic leftist troika of Democrats, media, and civil rights leaders not insisted that a dumb statement of this sort was grounds for resignation. After all, Lott's comment was a courtly compliment to an old man on his 100th birthday -- the equivalent of telling great Aunt Mildred that she is still the beauty she was when she was county fair queen in 1934.

But the reality is that the standard is set -- and unless the Axis of Evil that made such a big deal out of the Lott comments is prepared to retract their earlier statements and acknowledge their partisan thuggery, then Harry Reid must go. Especially given Reid's history of other racially insensitive remarks.

Posted by: Rhymes With Right at January 11, 2010 07:17 PM

I would say the problem with Reid's comment was not that he himself was racist, rather that he was calling the American electorate racist.

The problem with Avatar was that it was boring.

Posted by: Donalbain at January 12, 2010 08:56 AM

Harry Reid wasn't being racist, he was just being pure leftist - calculating the political benefits to be had from Obama's unique characteristics within the rubric of his victim class. As to Trent Lott, of course he wasn't racist either - but I was never so happy to see a Republican forced out of an office as I was to see him go. He was one of the people who led Republicans down the path to fiscal undiscipline.

Posted by: GW at January 20, 2010 09:54 PM

> much like I was dead-set against the invasion of Iraq and other areas in which the US really has had no business being.

I take issue with this claim on grounds I'm sure have been made ad nauseum in your presence prior to this -- Saddam was a clear threat to the USA and her interests, had shown a willingness to abuse the weapons he was seeking access to, had repeatedly violated UN resolutions restricting his actions which were the primary reasons he was still in power, to say nothing of the simple decency obligations to an oppressed people (inadequate by themselves to justify US intervention, BUT applicable to the case where there *ARE* US interests involved)

Any one of those things by itself may be inadequate. As a collection, they do justify US action to the point of at least arguability.

Posted by: O Bloody hell at January 23, 2010 10:32 PM

I don't disagree, OBH. I'm far from a nutty lefty who doesn't -- and won't -- see any rationale for our actions in Iraq. I do and can understand them. I just disagree with them. I don't think we should send American boys to "nation build" especially if most of the world doesn't want us to.

Posted by: Hube at January 24, 2010 08:51 AM