Monday, January 11, 2010

Obama's Dialect

The New York Times is running an article entitled, "In Reid's Comments, Hints of Obama's Own Words." According to the article, President Obama once said, "“We have a certain script in our politics, and one of the scripts for black politicians is that for them to be authentically black they have to somehow offend white people...And then if he puts a multiracial coalition together, he must somehow be compromising the efforts of the African-American community...To use a street term...we flipped the script.”

A previous New York Times article quotes Senator Harry Reid as saying, "Barack Obama could become the country’s first black president because he was 'light-skinned' and had 'no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.'" This statement has generated a great deal of controversy and even calls for Reid's resignation. President Obama quickly forgave his Democratic colleague for any potential offense.

Questions to Consider:

1. Why do you think that Harry Reid's comments have generated controversy. Did he say anything rude or racial? Explain!

2. Do you think that people tend to speak in different ways in front of different audiences, or with different groups of people? Why would they do this?

3. Some people would argue that a sign of maturity is knowing how to behave in appropriate ways in different situations. Would you agree with this opinion? Why or why not? What does it mean to be mature?

4. Many have compared Senator Reid's comments to those made by Senator Trent Lott racially tinged comment made in 2002 when he said that the United States would be a better place if Strom Thurmond had won the Presidency. Strom Thurmond supported segregation when he ran for President years ago. Senator Lott was forced to step down from his position as majority leader because of his comment. Do you think that Senator Reid should suffer a consequence as a result of his statement? Why or why not?

5. Do you think that Republicans who are calling for Senator Reid to step down really believe that he did something terribly wrong? Why or why not?

Questions for Younger Children

1. Do you think that people should behave differently in different situations? Is it ever acceptable to run and scream? Why or why not? Is it ever unacceptable to run and scream? Why or why not?

2. Do you ever speak in different kinds of voices? Why might some people do this?

3. Have you ever done something and been punished for it but then seen somebody else do the same thing and not get punished? What did you do? Why do you think that you were punished but somebody else was not punished?


  1. Excellent questions! In response to No. 5, I think Republicans want Reid to step down so they can possibly push their healthcare agenda further, not because they think he is racist.

    Here is a comprehensive video covering the situation:

  2. Hi Eliza,

    Thank you very much for your comment. It's almost as if the different political parties have an agenda to simply stifle the other party. The best interests of the nation are not the goal but the stifling of the other party.