David Paterson is the rather light skinned legally blind first African American governor of New York. He finds remarks attributed to United States Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a recent book to be reprehensible, according to an article at timesunion.com this morning.
In "Game Change," an insider account about the 2008 presidential election, Reid was quoted as saying that then-Sen. Barack Obama would likely find success as a candidate because he was "a light-skinned" African-American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
The article goes on to say that Reid was an early supporter of Obama. Patersen himself goes on to say that
not only were [the comments] reprehensible, but it's amazing to think to print a whole book, that so many people saw, and nobody noticed that this ill-chosen remark was in the book?
I'm confused. The ill-chosen remark had to do with… He's talking about President Obama — right? — the first black President of the United States. Not the blackest Negro, but certainly black enough that no one questions his racial heritage. He speaks a very standard, supremely articulate English. Is this a surprise? He was raised in Hawaii, attended Columbia University and Harvard Law School. He taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School. What kind of English should he speak? Where in this process would he have acquired, for example, a Mississippi accent, or Alabama slang, or even Harlem jive? And how is it "degrading" to suggest that such a person would have broad voter appeal? He won the election, didn't he? Patersen finally says that Reid should not be forced to resign. I'm sure Reid is greatly relieved by this.
It's a very intrusive and kind of degrading remark, but it's one that was probably close to a different kind of way of phrasing it which might have been acceptable.
I'm obviously not cut out for politics, but maybe what Reid meant to say was that Sen. Obama had the potential to be the first English speaking not necessarily black President of the United States.