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Is "Lazy" A Racist Word?

On "Meet The Press" over the weekend, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, an African American and still a Republican and someone I would have been very pleased to have had the opportunity to vote for for President, said something partially true and largely disturbing at the same time.

He warned fellow Republicans that they have--sadly--earned a reputation as being both racist and bigoted.

I tend to agree that Republicans have lost any chance of staging a political comeback as long as they continue to alienate minority after minority, from African Americans to women (although not technically a minority) to Hispanics to gay people.  Let's call it the Bully Without a Pulpit syndrome!

The Akins comments on abortion certainly tarred the Republicans last fall.  A former and recent Speaker of the New Hampshire House set the party back probably a generation.

We see time and again how the vast majority of New Hampshire Republicans are, if not bigoted, then at least insensitive and certainly on the wrong side of history when it comes to gay and transgender rights.  Facts are facts; just look up voting records.

Much of what General Powell says is true, and Republicans have to mend their ways.  Senator Marco Rubio offers a good first step with his ideas on immigration reform.

However if General Powell is to be taken seriously making such allegations, he has to be careful when he provides specific examples.

He went on to claim that it was racist for a former governor (he never mentioned a name) to call Barack Obama lazy.  It was racist for another former governor to accuse Obama of "shucking and jiving" on issues. 

I won't try to psychoanalyze the jiving comment, but when it comes to the "lazy" reference, I disagree with the esteemed general.  .  Whether or not Obama is lazy is not the point here (I believe he's not the hardest worker to ever occupy the Oval Office, but I doubt whether anyone who could get elected twice is truly lazy).  General Powell seemed to be implying that you are a racist if you call someone lazy. 

That's absurd.

I'm sure that a great many white people, even some highly successful white people, are lazy; a great many African Americans are lazy as well, but to imply that it's racist to call someone lazy is...well...it's the type of shorthand language, born out of political correctness, that will never help you prove your point.

Powell went on to say that the next word people use after "lazy" is shiftless as if to imply those who call Obama lazy are also saying he's shiftless.

That's absurd as well, and it pains me to see a man I so admire make such a just plain silly analogy.

General Powell went on to imply that the "birther" movement is also born out of racism. 

I disagree with that as well.  The birther movement is born not out of racism--after all many white Presidents have been slurred in similar fashion--but out of stupidity.

There's a difference between racism, bigotry, out and out bigotry and simple stupidly.

General Powell should know that.

Powell blasts GOP's "dark vein of intolerance"

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican who crossed party lines to endorse President Obama in 2008 and 2012, scalded his party for harboring a "dark vein of intolerance" Sunday, saying the GOP "has to take a very hard look at itself."

There is a "dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party," Powell said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "What do I mean by that? What I mean by that is they still sort of look down on minorities."

As evidence, Powell pointed to a number of statements that were directed at Mr. Obama during the campaign by Republicans - statements that he believes were racially motivated.

"When I see a former governor say that the president is 'shuckin' and jivin'.' That's a racial era slave-term," Powell said of Sarah Palin's description of the president's response to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

He also took issue with former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu's characterization of the president as "lazy" following a tepid performance in the first presidential debate.

"He didn't say he was slow, he was tired, he didn't do well. He said he was 'lazy.' Now, it may not mean anything to most Americans," Powell said, "but to those of us who are African-Americans, the second word is 'shiftless,' and then there's a third word that goes along with it."

Powell also singled out the "birther movement" for criticism, expressing amazement that Republicans have not excommunicated the fringe conspiracy theorists from the party.

"The whole birther movement: Why do senior Republicans tolerate this kind of discussion within the party?" Powell asked, counseling the party to "take a look at itself."

Powell noted, "I'm a moderate, but I'm still a Republican," and fretted that his party may soon be facing obsolescence if it does not reorient itself.

"In recent years, there's been a significant shift to the right" on the part of the GOP, Powell said, "And we have seen what that shift has produced: two losing presidential campaigns. I think what the Republican Party needs to do now is take a very hard look at itself and understand that the country has changed. The country is changing demographically, and if the Republican Party does not change along with that demographic, they're going to be in trouble."

And Powell argued that the problem is more message than messenger - beyond public relations and optics to the Republican platform itself - and advised the GOP to moderate its stance on education, immigration, and climate change to attract new voters.

"Everybody wants to talk about, 'Who's going to be the candidate?'" Powell said. "You've got to think first about what's the party actually going to represent. If it's just going to represent the far right wing of the political spectrum, I think the party is in difficulty."

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Reader Comments (4)

The issue isn't with the definition of a word, its often not even in how its said, the real issue is how it is heard.

To you lazy might have one primary meaning, for another person with a different history, living in another state, or community, or even body... lazy is most certainly an epithet.
January 15, 2013 | Unregistered Commentertesha
Hey tesha –
Was BozObama using the word "lazy" as an epithet when he was describing himself to Babwa Walters in 2011: “There is a deep down... a laziness in me.” Wonder how he heard it, or does he need Colin Powell to interpret historic context for him to grasp the sub-tle nuances?
– C. dog on point to flush libs from the thick underbrush
January 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterC. dog
I understand Tesha's points, but if we think in those terms, then we can have no dialogue about anything. Sensitivity is one thing, but when it prevents us from communicating, it's sensitivity run amok, with a counterproductive purpose. I guess it would be like saying gay people are overly promiscuous; to some extent, it is--or at least it was--true. Because some gay people might be sensitive about it, does that mean we are not allowed to discuss it? I would hope not; only by discussing it can we reach the point where we can say that society in fact created the promiscuity by the way it treated gay people. I'm currently reading a book which really slams Jefferson the slave owner, Master of the Mountain by Henry Wiencek. Many of the slaves in it come across as just the opposite of lazy--very productive people. This is the kind of message we need to get out there to counteract the lazy comment. It's a book well worth reading especially at a time when Mecham's new bio of TJ is tepid on criticism and atop the NY Times best selling list.
January 17, 2013 | Registered CommenterRep Steve Vaillancourt
Steve –
If BozO himself described his behavior shortfall as lazy, who are we to judge? Seems his golf game frequency backs him up. Data point of one. And for you football affectionadosj: "Stats are for losers" – Bill Belichick
– C. dog opining on mosaics to see the whole picture
January 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterC. dog

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