Politicians say the “darndest” things. No, seriously they do. Last week it was White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs patronizing American Urban Radio Network’s April Ryan by condescendingly comparing her tough interrogation to his son’s temper tantrums. Don’t believe me, ask Summer. Yesterday it was Harry Reid, tomorrow it will be someone else. Can I blame them for their candidness? Absolutely not. Sometimes Freudian slips are the only way we as the public can see the real side of government officials. While Robert Gibbs’ comments were as Summer put “sexually racialized” or “racially sexualized”, I think Harry Reid’s comments were right on point. Yeah I said it.
In a prepared floor speech on Monday Harry Reid compared Republican efforts to block health care reform, to anti-abolitionists who wanted to maintain that thing called the “peculiar institution” and the folks who wanted to keep Blacks and Women as second-class citizens.
“Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all Republicans have come up with is this: Slow down, stop everything, let’s start over. You think you’ve heard these same excuses before, you’re right. In this country, there were those who dug in their heels and said, Slow down, it’s too early. Let’s wait, things aren’t bad enough about slavery. When women want to vote, slow down, there will be a better day to do that. The day isn’t quite right. This body was on the verge of guaranteeing civil rights to everyone, regardless of the color of their skin, some senators resorted to the same filibuster threats that we hear today. History is repeating itself before our eyes. There are now those who don’t think it is the right time to reform health care. If not now, when?”
Did he go there? Yes he did. I’m damn happy that he did. The struggle for health care reform is not just a public policy issue, it is a human rights issue. Unfortunately, Republican Party National Committee Chairman Michael Steele doesn’t see it that way. In fact he thinks Reid was “far out of bounds with his absurd and offensive comments.” What offends me is that in this “post racial society” today 17 percent of Hispanic, and 16 percent of Black Americans report they are in only fair or poor health, compared with 10 percent of White Americans (http://www.ahrq.gov/research/disparit.htm). Of the 16% of American adults who don’t have health insurance 41% are Hispanic, 28.6% earn less than $36,000 annually, and 19.9% are African-American. These patterns reveal that there are some inherent inequities in the disastrous healthcare system that continues to neglect poor and minority constituents. An unconscionable number of Black men die every year from preventable diseases such as obesity and cardiovascular disease. Many of these folks are dying because they treat the emergency room as their primary care center. But what do these numbers mean to Michael Steele? Not much. Can I really expect a guy who thought he could give the Republican party a “hip-hop makeover” to understand what’s going on in the real world?
Senator John McCain joined the choir of self-righteous Republicans and has demanded a Senator Harry Reid apology. I could’ve seen this one coming from a mile away. Of course John McCain doesn’t recognize the importance of civil and human rights; he voted against a Senate measure to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a federal holiday. So why should Harry Reid apologize? For telling the truth about the human rights issue that is the health care crisis. For recognizing that health care is a human right that over 30 million Americans don’t enjoy. For putting the interests of poor and people of color upfront. I don’t think we need an apology. We need more political leaders to tell the truth and stand up for all people!