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Yash Gupta
Business School Dean

Yash Gupta

Yash Gupta is Professor and Dean of The Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

Theater we can't afford

There's no question that Harry Reid made a poor choice of words, using language that carries ugly and painful reminders of an earlier era. But the proper response is not to pull out daggers and attack him for the sake of political gain. This is a learning opportunity for all of us, and if we're going to become a more mature society, we must continue to hold conversations about our most difficult issues, and certainly one of those is race.

President Obama set the correct tone when, as candidate Obama, he delivered his famous speech on race in the wake of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy. He addressed the topic in an honest and level-headed fashion. He took a similar approach when he invited Professor Henry Louis Gates and Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge police to the White House for a beer last year. That was an example of confronting and defusing a potentially volatile situation with straight talk and a mature attitude. The president even admitted to the mistakes he made in his initial early judgments about the arrest of Professor Gates. He acted the way a leader should act in such a situation.

I realize this is an election year, but what a shame that some people are trying to score points by comparing Reid's situation to Trent Lott's. Rather than use this as an excuse to damage the Senate Majority Leader, they should be promoting a way to put the matter in the proper context of the nation's longstanding struggle with racial concerns. Forcing Reid to quit becomes a political show that steals attention from where it belongs - on a conversation whose aim should be to advance the inescapable fact that our society is a great mosaic of races and cultures.

This is a tough, anxious time for the United States. We're fighting two wars, our economy is in the doldrums, and we're facing more and more economic competition across the globe. We need to be clicking on all cylinders, and that can't happen if we allow ourselves to become divided and weakened. We need to work together instead of adding to an already-contentious atmosphere by turning Harry Reid's unfortunate choice of words into political theater.

By Yash Gupta

 |  January 12, 2010; 11:43 AM ET
Category:  Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: No double standard | Next: Whispering about race

Comments

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Conservatives don't want Harry Reid to resign - just squirm a little.

Next to Nancy Pelosi, Harry's the person in Congress who's best at promoting the Conservative cause.

Keep it up Harry and Nancy.

Too bad we'll lose Harry in the Fall elections, but we're grateful that San Fran will never oust Ms. Peolsi.

Posted by: jfv123 | January 14, 2010 10:44 AM
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Those of us over 50 remember when it was only educated white liberals and black civil rights leaders who used the word "negro", because the normal choice of vocabulary, especially among whites, was far worse. What is the United Negro College Fund called now, anyway? But your point that this is a very bad time to play politics is well taken. Now exactly why did Rush Limbaugh suggest that the President's ethnic heritage drove his quick response to the Haitian disaster?

Posted by: greyK | January 14, 2010 10:29 AM
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Trent Lott was defending Strom Thurmond, who was guilty of statutory rape - and perhaps more - of a 15-year old African American girl who worked for his family, then he engaged in political opportunism that included inciting lynchings of blacks who tried to vote or drink from the wrong water fountain. Although people who claim that Reid's awkward remarks are similar to Lott's, they have not dared to explain how their claims are remotely true. And neither has WaPo - MSM gives the windbags a pass.

Posted by: achamblee | January 14, 2010 10:20 AM
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What a reductive column. "language that carries ugly and painful reminders of an earlier era" Oh, c'mon. This may be considered insulting but is more on the level of rudeness rather than the inference of lynchings, separate school systems etc. This is the type of column that could have been written while working out a crossword puzzle. Tell us something orginal.

Posted by: jhtlag1 | January 14, 2010 8:45 AM
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