In one corner of Atlanta, at least, Senate majority leader Harry Reid's racially insensitive comments about Barack Obama don't seem to be worthy of much concern.
Washington is obsessed by Senator Reid’s observation in 2008 – and made public Saturday – that Barack Obama was electable because he is “light-skinned” and has “no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
Republicans have called on Reid to step down. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele (who is black) called the statement a return to Jim Crow ideas.
So the Monitor did a curbside survey of what black Atlantans think of Reid’s statement – random and unscientific, yes, but also somewhat instructive.
Six of the 10 people asked had never heard of the comments. Yet even when they were read the quote, umbrage was scarce.
Willie Blair, a 60-something Atlantan, would have been hopping mad upon hearing those kinds of words from the mouth of an older white man years ago.
But today, Mr. Blair says, it’s just a case of a throwaway comment being magnified beyond its importance.
“Sometimes people mean what they say, and sometimes they let a word just slip out,” he says, referring to Reid’s anachronistic use of the word “Negro.”
Republicans say Reid is benefiting from a double standard. Republican Senate majority leader Trent Lott was ousted in 2002 for lauding the career of former South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, who once led a segregationist party challenge in the South.
Why shouldn’t Reid be ousted, too? they ask.
It is a double-standard, Blair says. But “it’s just the way things are,” he adds.