I’m not sure I could pinpoint this, but about 20 years ago the phrase “white men” became a putdown — an automatic epithet. I think this was about the same time “dead white males” came into vogue: you know, Shakespeare, Bach, and the rest of them crackers.
One funny thing about the phrase “white men” is that white men often use it, as a putdown. When they do, they seem to exempt themselves. “No, I don’t mean me. Not wonderful me. I mean those other guys, the bad ones.”
I thought of this when reading this item in the Daily Caller. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, said that the Hobby Lobby case was decided by “five white men.” As the article points out, one of the five justices whom Reid disdains is Clarence Thomas.
In all honesty, I wonder whether Reid regards Thomas as white, for political purposes. Thomas is a conservative. In Reid’s mind, could he be black? When he last ran for election, in 2010, Reid said, “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, okay? Do I need to say more?” Not really. We get it.
You may recall how Reid described Barack Obama’s promise as a vote-getter. This was in the 2008 cycle. The majority leader noted that Obama was a “light-skinned” candidate “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” By those standards, would Clarence Thomas make it on the campaign trail? He is not light-skinned. I believe he grew up speaking Gullah, and that probably qualifies as a “Negro dialect.”
Anyway . . .
In no area is America weirder than in the area of race. You sometimes hear that race is a “social construct.” This argument gets a lot of sympathy from me.
I’ve told this story before on this site, but will again. One of the strangest political races I ever witnessed was a Detroit mayoral race. It pitted a woman named Sharon McPhail against Dennis Archer, the eventual winner. Now, McPhail was light-skinned (as Reid would say), and I believe she had freckles. About “Negro dialect,” I’m not sure. Archer was darker (as long as we’re doing gradations). And McPhail campaigned as the “black” candidate, trying to out-black Archer all the way. Her charge was that he was too moderate — not “black” enough.
I’m glad she lost.
By the way, the best part about Reid’s 2010 statement that “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, okay?” That was just before a Hispanic Republican, Brian Sandoval, was elected governor of Reid’s state, Nevada. And the Democrat he beat — was Reid’s own son, Rory.
It’s bad enough when the Senate majority leader abuses his position to vilify Charles and David Koch. When he goes racial, he is at his absolute worst.
A final word about Reid’s most recent stunt. Talking about Hobby Lobby, he said that “women’s lives” should not be determined by “five white men.” If the issue is men versus women — which is of course asinine — why add the word “white”? Why bring race into it? Because the phrase “white men” trips naturally off the lips of people such as Reid. Race is the special poison that weakens America — that sickens its brain — time after time.