Dash thirty dash: Talk of race behind closed doors

January 28, 2010

by Eboni Jaggers

W e’re all guilty of it, whether we’ve done it self-consciously or not. If you are like me then I am sure you have, on numerous occasions, caught yourself censoring your every word according to who was in the room.

You avoided that fat joke or that black joke, and let’s not leave out those infamous blonde jokes that you were just dying to tell. Your humor said yes, but the gawking stares you anticipated after telling the joke all said no.

So, since we’re so guilty of making these comments behind closed doors, what was the difference between our actions and the actions of Sen. Harry Reid?

In 2008, Reid was cited in the book “Game Change” as saying then president-elect Barack Obama would succeed in his run for president because of his “light skinned” appearance and speaking patterns heard “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

If your reaction was like mine then you were, without a doubt, shell-shocked by Reid’s derogatory words. But in all honesty, is there a difference in what Reid said and what we, as being only human, do on a daily basis? He was only representing the voice of another million disapproving Americans, right?

Maybe, but as a public figure Reid should have considered the magnitude of his words whether he thought they would be kept in confidence or not. As someone who chose his spot in the public eye he owes it to the public to set an example.

CNN.com said it best in a Jan. 15 article: “Behind closed doors, whites talk differently about blacks.” In a 2007 study, two sociologists found that most whites have sharply reduced the blatant, racist actions and remarks they make in public, while still doing a large amount outside of the spotlight.

This may be true, but don’t think of this issue as solely a black and white one. People of all races, sizes and background are guilty of judging others before even knowing anything about them, outside of the way they look.

The only difference between Reid and me is his position and mine. When he speaks, millions of eyes and ears turn his way.

As for the remark he made regarding Obama, it’s all dirt swept under the rug as far as Obama is concerned. For him, Reid’s apology alone was enough, but some may not be as forgiving.

Had Reid made the comment about someone other than Obama, the conversation could have turned into more than just a field day for every media outlet in America. It could have cost him his life, in some of the country’s more remote areas. How about we all watch what we say but say what we mean?

Eboni Jaggers is a junior journalism major from Haughton who serves as a senior news editor for The Tech Talk. E-mail comments to edj008@latech.edu.