So a South Florida Congressional candidate was making a campaign speech the other night and in the process of decrying Pres. Obama's new healthcare bill, he blurted out "Listen up, Buckwheat. That's not how it's done!"
Would you assume "Buckwheat" was a race-bating slap at Obama, for the most obvious reason?
I would. It's reasonable assumption, I think.
Now, the twist to the story: The candidate, Corey Poitier, is black. Not that it should matter, but he's running as a Republican.
Poitier says he was taken aback by criticism of his comment, and says "Buckwheat" was aimed at the healthcare reform plan itself, not at Obama. He says he meant to convey that the plan is "silly."
Otay, then! That makes sense. I don't like your plan, so I'm going to call it by the name of a harmless but buffoonish sitcom character from back in the day - not the whole show, but the very buffoonish character who shares some obvious physical characteristics with you!
Poitier completed his self-defense by arguing it's not logical that he could be racist toward another black person, being black himself.
If you read me with any regularity, you know one of my biggest pet peeves is hypersensitivity and hyper-Political Correctness.
But the criticism of Poitier falls into neither of those categories. What he said was stupid, and by virtue of the fact that it was an obvious race-related putdown, maybe racist.
Maybe. But not necessarily. It's possible Poitier really intended to convey an opinion of silliness. If so though, he took a round-about way to make the point. Whatever the case, one of his potential Democratic opponents - also a black man - downplayed suggestions of racism on Poitier's part and said instead that Poitier simply spoke before he thought and said something stupid.
Anyway, Mr. Poitier, if you're reading this, here are two free lessons from Politics 101 that informed supporters of your campaign should have given you:
- Don't take swipes at people over characteristics they don't control - like skin color, eye color, height, physical disability, etc...unless you're Sammy Sosa, who apparently has discovered how to control his skin color. But that's another story. Those types of knocks, no matter how you mean them are going to be interpreted in a bay way nine out of 10 times.
- And what determines an action of yours as racist or some other "ist" isn't the group to which you belong, but rather the group to which your target belongs, and your apparent intentions.
PS. Follow me, please, at twitter.com/jamesburnett.