Another prominent politician has said something honest about race and the predictable tut-tutting has ensued.
This time the offender is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
In "Game Change," a book about the Obama presidential run, the Nevada Democrat is quoted saying that then-Sen. Barack Obama had a good chance of winning because he was "a light-skinned" African American and had "no Negro dialect."
What's untrue about that? The color prejudice that Reid references in his candid remark to two political reporters is a fact of life and not just in white America. In the searing new movie "Precious," the dark-skinned African American star is explicit about the kind of boyfriend she wants — "light-skinned with good hair." In the movie's many dream sequences, she's romanced by a mulatto-looking African American male just about Obama's shade. No one is threatening to boycott that movie or castigate its very prominent African American producers, Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey, for the honest portrayal of color prejudice within the black community.
But then everybody understands the rules. When race is discussed, it's long been recognized that different standards apply.
Blacks have more latitude than whites to use the "N" word or to spout politically incorrect utterances about blacks. Latinos can do the same about Latinos, and Jews about Jews, etc.
In the wake of Reid's missteps, Republicans have pounced, predictably.
Party Chairman Michael Steele has called upon Reid to resign as majority leader. Other Republicans, noting that Obama and other prominent African Americans have defended Reid, complain of a double standard. They specifically cite Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott who, in 2002, made remarks that were considered insensitive to blacks and was forced to resign.
The two cases are not similar. At a birthday party for the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, Lott said the country would have been better off if Thurmond had won the presidency in 1948, the year he ran as a Dixiecrat and staunch segregationist. That was offensive to blacks and embarrassing to Republican President George W. Bush, who helped nudge Lott aside.
So, on the Reid front, enough already. President Obama says he was not offended by his comments. No one else should be either.
Rutland is associate editor of The Sacramento Bee. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.