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Ken Adelman
Political advisor

Ken Adelman

A Reagan-era Ambassador and Arms Control Director, Ken Adelman is co-founder and vice-president of Movers and Shakespeares, which offers executive training and leadership development.

The tender topics

If not zero, then pretty darn low. Race - even more than the other tender topics of ethnicity and religion - is simply explosive.

Maybe that's because slavery was the original sin of our country, its real birth defect. But that sensitivity extends beyond America. Anyone watching Shakespeare's treatment of Othello or, yet more apt, Shylock, realizes how explosive the Bard knew these subjects to be.

Othello has been deemed racist, and Merchant of Venice a raw anti-Semitic tract. That's why Merchant was the Nazi regime's favorite play during its 12-year regime of hatred. We have photos of the top Nazi brass watching yet another staging of Merchant during the Third Reich.

But these works are not racist or anti-Semitic. Rather, they're about racism and anti-Semitism. Actually, they're about "the other" - how society treats, or mistreats, people who are different from the majority.

In Merchant, it's not only Shylock the Jew that is so examined, but also a gay couple (Antonio and Bassanio); the Prince of Morocco, a black man who makes an unwanted visit to Venetian society; and Portia, a woman oppressed by Venetian mores that say her father gets to choose who will be her husband (even, as in her case, that father is dead).

Hence when Trent Lott or Harry Reid begin to tread into territory Shakespeare realized was laden with minefields, they'd better show the same level of sensitivity the Bard did. Otherwise, their musings will explode in their faces. And you can't feel too sorrowful for them, since appreciation of such sensitivity has been around for at least 400 years.

By Ken Adelman

 |  January 11, 2010; 2:30 PM ET
Category:  Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Comments

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Race should not be an issue. Remember that Obama himself hired the supreme court justice Sotomayor based on her gender AND race. To lash out at Reid is akin to raising the banner of bigotry.

We play the race card when it suits us and is pleasing to the hearers. It is also interesting to find if no one knew Obama's race, how would have that effected the elections of 2008?

Posted by: flaxseedsrgood | January 11, 2010 11:16 PM
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Is it relevant to ask whether Sen. Reid's comemnts were accurate or is the fact that he commented on then candidate Obama's race at all deserving of censure? Maybe I am missing something here but wasn't Reid simply saying that, as a black candidate, Obama was more acceptable to white voters that some others might be? Didn't he simply suggest that being a black man might be to his advantage; presumably because he allowed people to exorcise their white guilt, or something? Isn't that a greater indictment of white people than a smear on Obama?

Eric Holder was right. We are cowards when it comes to talking about race.

Posted by: lmmbham | January 11, 2010 6:10 PM
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I missed the part where Reid intended his remarks to be public.

Or are we supposed to treat the subject as 'explosive' even among our closest partners, with whom we routinely discuss the most sensitive and confidential matters (like our electoral strategies and backroom political deals)?

This whole kerfuffle is utterly disingenous and counterproductive.

Much like Obama's comment that the Cambridge cop "acted stupidly", there are some truths that powerful interest groups will *crucify* you for uttering.

Posted by: KAR_120C | January 11, 2010 4:01 PM
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African Americans can recognize bigotry even when it is silenced. It is like an ambience in the midst of the soul. As an African American and many other African Americans, Reid's comment was far from racism. We are not acknowledgfing it as racism. Lott, on the other hand was wooven in a racist flesh. He incorporates Rogers and Hammerstein who played this song in the movie called "South Pacific", “You’ve got to be “Carefully Taught.” This is “Prejudice” at its best:

“You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,
“You’ve got to be taught from year to year.
“It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear,
“You’ve got to be carefully taught,
“You’ve got to be carefully taught.

“You’ve got to be taught to be afraid,
“Of people, whose eyes are oddly made?
“And people whose skin is a different shade.
“You’ve got to be carefully taught.

“You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late
“Before you are six or seven or eight,
“To hate all the people your relatives hate.
“You’ve got to be carefully taught,
“You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You can see it in his countenance. I wished NEWS did not quote everything that is negative without including all involved. Why report the Republicans? Ask the African Americans? If you did you would have nothing to report or quote. As African Americans we are not frivolous and do not dwell in "Speculations." Speculations always end up being a "LIE." EX: President Obama travels to France. But, will it be enough? The 'BUT' factor has no reason being. Every time the President speaks of terrorism, there is always an expert panel. But, where are they in curbing terrorism? Terrorism is like racism, it is in the mind and you cannot legislate morality. You always have to wait until it is committed. Racism is not color coded, it deals with keeping finance away from certain groups.

Posted by: revruc1 | January 11, 2010 3:37 PM
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