Negrogate And The American Conversation About Race

Okay, here we go: In re Harry Reid’s negro problem, let’s all take a deep breath and give it the kind of Pollyannish spin that we’re going to need to make it through what is sure to be another difficult year. Is it a little galling to see the rush of Republicans lining up to demand Reid’s ouster by comparing his remarks to Trent Lott’s “Gee, it woulda been swell if we kept the drinking fountains separate like ol’ Strom wanted” statement from 2002, particularly when you consider that the two remarks are diametrically opposed to each other in import and intent? (Gwen Ifill dispenses with this comparison fairly effectively in the clip above. Also note how VERY CLEAR Matt Lauer wants to make it that he is ONLY QUOTING when he says the word “negro.”)

Sure. Of course it’s galling. And a little depressing. And a little amusing. And a lot predictable. (It would actually be alarming if they didn’t even give it a try.) But! New year, new attitude! Lets look at it this way: The election of Barack Obama did not, and I don’t know of anyone who seriously argues that it did, solve the racial problems in this country. So let’s have a thousand conversations like this one! Let’s use this and every subsequent incident-which there will surely be-as yet another moment on the road to reconciliation. Every one of these lessons will help move us a little closer to our understanding of our fellow citizens as exactly that, and will give us a better perspective on the kind of respect we all deserve. I mean, now that we know Republicans are so concerned about equality and the proper ways in which to address it, we can move forward as one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Because, really, isn’t that what it’s all about?

I know. Still, give it a try!