To avoid the same fate, Reid followed the path of former Air Force Academy football coach Fisher DeBerry: Apologize -- early and often -- and let others decide what, exactly, you are apologizing for. After a lopsided loss during the 2005 season, DeBerry said, "(Our opponent) had a lot more Afro-American players than we did, and they ran a lot faster than we did." Unleash the hounds!
DeBerry's athletic director criticized him for making a "seriously, seriously inappropriate comment. ... This was not Fisher DeBerry, not the man I've known for 25 years." Why, the Air Force "has a zero-tolerance policy for any racial or ethnic discrimination or discrimination of any kind." Oh, sure, a black Air Force player said, "We, as a team, didn't think he meant anything by it. ... I personally wasn't offended." And a white teammate said, "There are 250 guys on the team, and there is not one player that was offended." But still ...
DeBerry held a news conference. "I realize the things I said might have been hurtful to many people," he said, "and I want everyone to understand that I never intended to offend anyone." So far, so good. "I have made a mistake, and I ask for everyone's forgiveness," he continued.
OK. But what exactly, asked the reporters, was he apologizing for? Is it wrong to say blacks run fast? "I don't think there is anything wrong with that," DeBerry replied. Oops. "We have some Caucasian players that run very, very well, also." Uh-oh. Sensing danger, the athletic director stepped in. "What we're talking about is speed," offered the AD. "There's speed that cuts across black, white, gray, blue, whatever." Huh? "It was just an inappropriate comment, and you all know it was an inappropriate comment." Racial insensitivity, understand, is like what a Supreme Court justice once said about smut. You know it when you see it.
"Light-skinned"? Didn't black director Spike Lee do a film, "School Daze," about how light-skinned fraternity students considered themselves more appealing than their dark-skinned counterparts?
"Negro"? The term is on this year's census. What about the United Negro College Fund?
"No Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one"? Last January, National Public Radio interviewed black Obama supporter and linguistics professor John McWhorter. He said: "(Obama) is a very bidialectal person. ... He can talk in a way where you would not know that he was black over the phone. ... But then, especially when he talks to a black audience, he can sound quite a bit like (Martin Luther King colleague) Rev. Lowry sounded at the inauguration."
Now, if Sen. Reid wishes to apologize for something real -- such as the budget-breaking abomination of ObamaCare or his shady self-enriching Nevada real estate deals -- I'll take the call.