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

January 9, 2010

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?

LETS BE FRANK!

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…

SO WHAT DO YOU DO?

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.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?


The Ethics of Change – A Letter To President Elect Barack Obama

November 5, 2008

Today – the day after the election – we, as Americans, have seen yet another historic moment in a life that has seen many. Those of us with some age have seen the end of wars and the beginning of others; we have seen space travel and a man on the moon; we have seen technology change everything about our daily lives; and we have seen a man rise up and break barriers that once were thought to be iron clad. Mr. President Elect – your election may be historic for African-Americans, but, more important, it is historic for all Americans as we see through you a change of attitude and focus – we see hope in your eyes.

With the above said, Mr. President Elect, I must caution, in the midst of celebration, that we not lose sight ofbarack-obama-smiling what got you there and what your task at hand is. President Elect Obama – we must restore a sense of ethics to this great nation and make choices – tough choices at times – based on sound ethical and moral principles that have guided us for so long.

I, of all people, have no right to lecture you on ethics or change – after all, you are our new President elect. But, like you, I know a thing or two about adversity and obstacles. As a former convicted felon (not something I am proud of) now professional speaker, I have risen above my poor choices from the past and become a voice for CHOICE and ETHICS. Regardless of the choices made, we can moving forward make better choices that will bring about positive results.

You said, “it’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America.” Your statement is true…we have turned for too long away from choices that empower people to achieve greatness and focused on what’s wrong and how we exercise our muscle to the detriment of others.

You, Mr. President Elect, are aware of the challenges ahead. Your words reveal it, “For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime — two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.” You know, as do we all, that the only way to succeed is to do so by making choices founded on the ethical foundation of our forefathers as they founded this great Nation.

I speak on ethics today, founded on the lessons I learned from not living an ethical life. Perhaps, as a Nation, we have not made the best choices – or even ethical choices. The challenges ahead are significant and you, yes you – Mr. President Elect – will be tempted beyond belief, after all you are the most powerful man in the world. Don’t lose your sense of ethics, sir. Remember your promise! “But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it’s been done in America for 221 years — block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.”

Regardless of who authored these next comments you delivered – and delivered well – they form a promise of an ethical foundation for your Presidency.

“So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.

In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let’s resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.”

Mr. President Elect – we need that foundation that you have stated so well – a foundation of hope and promise and belief that as American’s we can be proud of who we are and what we stand for – that we can be proud to call ourselves American’s here and around the world. You have given us that hope and for that we say – Thank you!

Regardless of political belief, I think we are witnessing the dawn of an new age for America. We will succeed or fail based on the choices we make moving forward. If our choices are based on fear, ego and power, we may find that we will be no better than we have been and perhaps even worse. Those choices and not based on sound ethical principles. On the other hand, if we make choices that foster freedom, opportunity and a spirit of selfless cooperation we might see the dawn of the “Age of Aquarius.”

Let me end with your words…

“America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves — if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.”

Read the rest of this entry »