No Negro Dialect – Harry Reid Apologizes! But What About All This “Political Correctness”?

So here’s the CNN report today:  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid apologized Saturday following reports he had privately described then-candidate Barack Obama during the presidential campaign as a black candidate who could be successful thanks in part to his “light-skinned” appearance and speaking patterns “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

Apparently Mr. Reid’s comments are included in a book soon to be released in journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann’s new book “Game Change.”

I’m sorry, but I must admit…this political correctness thing is just becoming way too burdensome.  I expect criticism from this post, but it’s getting to the point that a person, especially in the public eye, can’t express themselves without offending someone.  Is it not possible anymore to express your opinion and allow folks to accept you for who or what you are?


I’m a speaker.  Over and over I hear about what one should say and how one should say it in front of an audience.  Don’t offend.  Well, I’m becoming more and more convinced that offending is becoming easier and speaking what’s on your mind more difficult.

Reid verbalized what many American’s said about Obama before the election.  I admire Obama’s voice, speech patterns and ability to deliver a speech and inspire a crowd.  Now…here’s a fact.  If Obama spoke like a street thug – be he black or white…he would not have captured the imagination of the American people.  Straight up – Obama did not speak like stereotypical black man and that did contribute to making him electable.

If, candidate Obama, had said in a speech over and over again – “Let me axe you a question…” vs. “Let me ask you a question…” – would he have been elected by the American people?  REALLY…I’D LIKE TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK…  But read on…


Fact: I was in prison in the mid-90’s and my cellmate was a young black ma named – Buck.  Buck became one of my closest friends and taught me much…in fact, he is one of the reasons that my prison experience became such a profound learning experience.  Today, when I deliver a speech I often share a dialogue that Buck and I had on my second day in prison.  When I share this exchange…I carry on the conversation just like it happened – speaking and sounding just like Buck.  He sounded like a Black street thug – which is exactly what he was when he entered prison.

I’ve been told – “Oh, you can’t do that.  You’re degrading African-Americans.”

No.  I’m not.  I’m sharing with an audience exactly what happened – tone speech patterns and all.  The lessons I learned from Buck happened, in part, because I was able to learn from his street smarts just as he was able to learn from my education.  Speaking like Buck is real.  What Harry Reid said was real and true.  I just don’t see what all the fuss is about.


3 Responses to No Negro Dialect – Harry Reid Apologizes! But What About All This “Political Correctness”?

  1. […] No Negro Dialect – Harry Reid Apologizes! But What About All This … […]

  2. Alan Boyer says:


    I can’t agree more.

    If there is one thing I’ve discovered as a coach and speaker is that

    I have to be able to say what I believe, not necessarily what the audience wants me to say. I won’t be bringing anything new to them if I’m afraid to say something that will not challenge them. In fact, the best speakers challenge their listeners to think differently. That will be uncomfortable for some. Some will be unhappy and leave. But, if I make a difference with some in the room by getting them thinking I’ll have done what I came there to do.

    Not too long ago I was approached by a group that wanted me to speak to them on how to become successful at coaching and speaking. But they wanted to hear me speak to another group first.

    The person who came to hear me walked out within 5 minutes of the start of my speech. When I asked him about it later he told me that what I said just wasn’t possible so he left in disgust.

    What I said in the room was how to connect to most of the room and even said that if you do this you could get 20% to 30% of the people in the room wanting to talk with you afterwards. He left because he didn’t think that was even reasonable.

    What he didn’t stay around to see was that 30% of that room wanted to talk with me afterwards. In other words if I had said what he wanted to say so that I could get the speaking gig I wouldn’t have helped anyone else in that room who did come to me for help afterwards.

    So, it’s important to speak your peace.

    Alan Boyer
    THe $100K Coach

  3. […] No Negro Dialect – Harry Reid Apologizes! But What About All This … […]

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