November 03, 2010

Steele's hypocrisy on racial slights

Steele demands and gets apology, while Natives await theirs

By Rob CapricciosoThe chairman of the Republican National Committee has demanded an apology for what he perceived to be a race-based slight, while failing to directly respond to a similar concern from Native Americans.

On Oct.5, during the first week of a new program on MSNBC, host Lawrence O’Donnell mentioned Michael Steele, the GOP leader, opining that he was “dancing as fast as he can” for his “master, the Republican National Committee.”

The parallels to slavery and racist overtones were apparent to many observers, and also apparent to Steele himself, who reportedly phoned O’Donnell the next day, requesting an apology.

O’Donnell took quick action, reporting to viewers Oct. 6 that he had received a call from Steele, who said the words “sort of stung.”

“I called him back immediately and apologized for using the word he found offensive,” O’Donnell said on his program. ”Those of us who are not descendants from slaves can never know the full impact of the word master in the ears of an African-American man.
But when the shoe was on the other foot:During a Jan. 4 appearance on the Sean Hannity Fox News program, Steele used the phrase “honest injun” to punctuate a point he was making about conservative ideals.

The words are widely seen as racist toward Indians, which many groups, including the Native American Journalists Association and congressional advocates, noted publicly at the time. And they demanded an apology.

But Steele was slow to offer amends, and his office did not return calls on the matter. When he ultimately responded, he parsed his own words, while calling on another politician to step down for using racially offensive words.

Fox News host Chris Wallace ended up asking Steele about the “honest injun” remark Jan. 10, noting that congressmen from both parties said that it is a racial slur.

“Well, if it is, I apologize for it,” Steele responded on the show. “It’s not an intent to be a racial slur. I wasn’t intending to say a racial slur at all.
Conclusion:Steele’s conditional take on the phrase outraged some Native Americans, as they said he was qualifying his own racism, while hypocritically calling out someone for using a racist term.Comment:  For more on the subject, see Twain Invented "Injun"? and Calling BS on Steele's "Injun."

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