Sunday, April 29, 2012

Political correctness can conceal truth

 Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada)

Note: This post originally appeared as a column in the April 2012 edition of the Detroit Native Sun
By John Telford

    Black (and many white) reactionaries are still calling Nevada Senator Harry Reid a racist for simply stating a probable truth — that many of President Obama’s white (and some black) supporters were swayed to vote for him because he’s light-skinned and speaks "standard" idiomatic American English. 
     It’s known in southeastern Michigan that I’ve battled white racists throughout my career and called them what they are in print, in board halls, and over the air. 
     As I said regarding Rochester’s resident racists when I was the deputy superintendent there, and as I said again two decades later on television regarding Madison Heights’ racists when I was the superintendent there, "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and talks like a duck, you can be pretty sure it’s a duck." 
     Sen. Reid is a liberal Democrat with a record of supporting African-Americans.  A "duck" he definitely isn’t.  
     This brings to mind the Dale Lick case of 1993. Dr. Lick was the Michigan State University governing board’s favored candidate for the MSU presidency, until word got out that he had said blacks are innately superior in some aspects of athletics. When confronted with that with that statement during the interviews, he refused to recant. By all accounts, he was the best candidate.  
     Many mainstream publications, including Runner’s World in a 1992 article, have stated the obvious in asserting that athletes of West African descent are generally faster sprinters than are athletes of purely European descent. Throughout the past half-century, Track & Field News’ annual listings of the world’s 100 top times in the dash races confirm that 95 percent of them were usually clocked by Caribbean or American blacks, who some anthropologists hypothesize are collectively stronger and faster due to innate muscular-skeletal traits, plus hybridization and slavery’s brutal "natural selection."  In the 1950s in national and international competition, nearly all of my toughest opponents at 100, 200, and 400 meters were African-Americans or Jamaicans.    
     Dale Lick’s statistically supported statement cost him the MSU job, even though he had also made this relevantly redeeming remark, "Just because Blacks are superior in athletics doesn’t mean they’re inferior in something else." 
     When we insert the word "intellectually" in place of the words "in something else," we reach the crux of this issue.  I taught black youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds who with what in those bygone days was a good Detroit Public School education became top academicians. They included Southeastern High alumnus john powell (uses no caps in his name), a former Harvard professor and national legal director of the ACLU. I encouraged them to be able to switch from dialect to the "standard" English spoken by leaders like Obama when the situation requires it. 
     Also, as Sen. Reid implied, favoring lighter-skinned blacks socially and politically remains a discriminatory practice of many Americans, both white and black.  Reid simply told the truth.  So did Dr. Lick. 
     "Political correctness" shouldn’t supersede plain truth or plain justice. 
     Contact Dr. Telford at 313-460-8272 or 


  1. I mostly agree with you, John except for your opinion about the lighter skinned blacks being favored over darker skinned blacks, and, your stated perception of what Dale Lick said and how others could perceive it. "Dale Lick’s statistically supported statement cost him the MSU job, even though he had also made this relevantly redeeming remark, "Just because Blacks are superior in athletics doesn’t mean they’re inferior in something else." How do you know he was referring to "intellectually"? And, what are whites superior in? I am referring to positives here. Besides, racist whites attribute black's being brutes and one step away from primates as the cause for us being better at sports, etc. It takes a talent/gift to be good at sports. The "dumb jock" title does not fit all, as you well know.

  2. As a "fair skinned" black person, I've always disliked the term as well as "bright". Both - even though they are thought of as being only descriptions - imply that a darker skinned person is not as attractive and a dull color compared to the lighter skinned person. Reminds me of a woman telling some kids to ignore a boy who was acting out by saying: "Ain't nothin to him but his color." WTF? That's a sure sign of a good hair, bad hair mindset. You're alright if you aren't darker than Paper Bag Brown, or can belong to the Blue Vein Society, and the fine tooth comb test may get you a pass even if you are...shudder, dark.

  3. It is sad that people all over the world are bleaching their skin with harmful products and lighter skinned people are using tanning beds or willing to burn in the sun to get darker. It is also ludicrous!
    When summer comes, I would like to get a tan because I like to be browner - all the time, actually. However, I pretty much don't do that now because the sun is not as kind as it used to be and I burn easily. But I have basically always accepted myself as I am.
    Yes, blacks' and whites' relationships in the USA always reflect the past. However, it has been my experience that some whites don't like lighter skinned blacks. I think it may have something to do with someone like me being a reminder of what was done to my ancestors or they just don't like anyone who appears to be "other". Among blacks - who don't like lighter skinned blacks - I always think about the house and field negro situation. It is assumed by many that all of the house servants were light skinned and were all too happy to be chosen for their color and felt special. Yeah, I guess it was fun wet-nursing your stepbrother and being allowed to sleep on the floor of Miss Ann's bedroom in case she wanted a glass of water in the middle of the night. Anyway, I tell people there were a lot of mysterious deaths going on with the whites in their homes. The house negroes were grinding glass into food and acting as spies, while pretending they couldn't read or understand what "massa" was saying.
    When I was in art school at UofM, in the late '70s, I was ostracized and/or mistreated - even by the instructor - in one class. Being the only black person, I soldiered on alone despite many indignities. I was outnumbered and wanted to remain in college so I was able to make it through. Luckily, no one hit me. I think I would have put out of school, then. I have many other stories but I have written far too much already!
    I have friends of many hues. One surprised me by actually making the statement that lighter skinned black DO have it easier. I was able to enLIGHTEN her and we remain close to this day. It's not true and a lot of times the reason it is not is BECAUSE some blacks FEEL that lighter skinned blacks THINK they ARE superior. I had to fight for my life almost once a week as a kid because of those type of thinkers. For the record: ALL LSB DO NOT feel superior to DSB. A lot of the vitriol coming from DSB is because they have bought into the myths, and/or dislike their own skin color. Mentally, I was/am so black that I never paid attention to my color until I was 12 and figured out why certain folk hated me on sight. It still happens today but I learned to see it as that person's problem, not mine.
    And for those who need proof that all LSB aren't house negroes, take a look at who some of our most dedicated freedom fighters were/are: Angela Davis, Huey P. Newton, Adam Clayton Powell, and even the one who is famous for the house v. field negroes speech - Malcolm X.
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