Tuesday, February 2, 2010
We just posted on AOLNews.Com my piece analyzing a claim in a Black History Month essay by Harry Reid that Reid was somehow instrumental in the integration of Las Vegas and the gaming industry. Since I'd never heard that before, I started asking around and it seems that the claim is questionable.
You can read that here.
Now here's the odd part. When I read the Reid's piece, the claim of integration wasn't what initially drew me in. It was this part, the second paragraph:
Whether visiting our relatives in the hospital after a successful blood transfusion, waiting in traffic at a stoplight or watching our president speak from the Rose Garden, the contributions of black Americans are ingrained in our nation's DNA.
This struck me as a very strange passage. It seemed like he was marveling at the notion that blacks give blood or drive cars. As it happened, I was able to take it apart and figure out that what I was missing was that black scientists had invented the blood transfusion and the traffic light. I have to believe that most people don't know that, though, and this essay never explains it.
Turns out, I'm not the only one baffled. CityLife editor Steve Sebelius told me in our interview for the AOL piece he was surprised, given Reid's recent controversy about having praised President Obama's lack of a "Negro dialect," that his people would write something so clumsy and unclear.
And Rainier Spencer, the founder of UNLV's Afro-American Studies program, just found the passage "a little patronizing." He's no fan of segregating black history into a specific period anyhow, but if you're going to do it, pointing out accomplishments like this seems unworthy.
"If a black person hadn’t invented the traffic light and Charles Drew hadn’t invented the transfusion, the result would be meaningless in terms of black history," he said.