Shortly after Harry Reid's "Negro dialect"
contretemps died down, the Nevada Senator posted a Black History Month essay
on his page. In it, he he recalls his struggle for racial integration in Las Vegas:
I worked hard during my time in local politics in Nevada to integrate
the Las Vegas strip and the gaming industry. I backed affirmative
action in federal contracting and sharply criticized the Supreme Court
when they turned Brown v. Board on its head and ruled against cities'
efforts to diversify their schools.
His recollection, however, hasn't played well with historians of the movement. As AOL News's Steve Friess
reports, Joe Neal--a former
a key figure in Nevada's civil rights movement--"was baffled by
For one thing, Reid was only 20 when a famous
1960 meeting between casino owners, progressive government officials
and NAACP leaders resulted in an accord to integrate Las Vegas casinos
Friess also notes that Reid's 2008 memoir, "The Good Fight” lacks any mention of his involvement:
The words "integration" and "African-American" do not appear anywhere
in the book, and the only reference to black people is a recollection
of Jackie Robinson breaking the baseball color barrier and an instance
where he defended a black man accused in a robbery-homicide whose case
no other attorney would take.
Republicans vying to unseat
Reid, like businessman Danny Tarkanian, are quickly spinning Reid’s op-ed as a heavy-handed effort to compensate for the
"Negro dialect" remark. Says Tarkanian: "he's making one outlandish statement after
the other, and I don't think he feels it'll ever catch up with him." Michael Arceneaux
of AOL echoes Tarkanian's forecast of political complications for Reid:
On top of battling perceptions
that his views on racial politics are archaic, he will have to contend
with a credibility issue in a re-election campaign where he's already
suffering…All of which would have been easily avoided had Reid been
advised to do one thing: Stop trying so hard.
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments
or send an email to the author at
jkeller at theatlantic dot com.
You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.