I’m not sure whether ck wrote his post about Obama’s speech in response to this one or on his own, but he seems to differ with me on this speech quite a bit. Gotta love Jewlicious.
I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners â€“ an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.
It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts â€“ that out of many, we are truly one.
Forget the politics for a moment, although they obviously drove this speech. The topic, race, is what matters.
Barack Obama chose to address some of the nasty public comments made by his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. The result, in my opinion, is an important speech and perhaps one of the best political speeches I’ve heard in a while. It is (Bill) Clintonian in its intelligence, and ability to reach out to people and to find a middle ground among groups with strong differences. The topic, race, however, is a critical one for American society and as such it gives this speech additional weight and makes it nothing less than profound.
I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother â€“ a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.
Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.
But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America â€“ to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.
The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through â€“ a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.
In some ways, the discussion of race was inevitable in this election because Obama is the first realistic and viable Presidential candidate in the history of the United States. I happen to believe that it was his campaign that infused the “race card” into this race in S. Carolina and that he made this speech because the topic has boomeranged – there’s little scarier, or more anger-causing to the white majority than to hear a black leader attack the country as Obama’s pastor did. However, in this speech, Obama deals with the issue of race relations in the US in an honest, forthright and perceptive manner. He seeks to find a healing place and the commonality of all.
For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.
And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.
In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience â€“ as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.
It is a great speech. Obama is not afraid to speak the truth and isn’t holding back in a manner that you’d expect from a politician. It’s true that he’s fighting for his political life here, but it seems that he decided to do so with integrity and forthrightness instead of playing games. Read it!
The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country â€“ a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know — what we have seen â€“ is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope â€“ the audacity to hope â€“ for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination – and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past – are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds â€“ by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.
Gotta feel a little sorry for Hillary. Obama is a formidable opponent to have to face. By the way, I heard her on NPR the other day and then he was interviewed the following day. Both were hard and demanding interviews and in both the politicians had to be on their toes. Her performance was far superior, in my opinion, and drove home that she would be a better opponent to face McCain than Obama. This speech by Obama, however, indicates that while he may not be as competitive in facing McCain, there is little doubt that he has the maturity and vision to actually lead the country. After 8 years of Bush, having 3 candidates of this quality is a great thing for the US.