You call that progress?Offensive?

Remember Obama’s speech the other day, where he outed his white Grandmother (Madelyn Dunham) as a racist in an attempt to diminish the impact of his association with Reverend Wright? I quoted from his speech when I blogged about it and noted that it seemed, you know, a little harsh. I mean, the woman raised him and all and here he was telling a national audience that she was racist!

Well, it turns out I was wrong. He wasn’t really saying that she was racist at all. What he was saying was that her irrational fear of black men and her use of racial epithets simply made her a “typical white person.”

Oh my. Out of the fire and into the frying pan as far as I’m concerned. Here’s Obama’s statement, made to a Philadelphia radio station during an interview:

The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity, but that she is a typical white person. If she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know – there’s a reaction in her that’s been bred into our experiences that don’t go away and sometimes come out in the wrong way and that’s just the nature of race in our society.

Obama spokesman Sean Smith later explained “Barack Obama said specifically that he didn’t believe his grandmother harbored any racial animosity, but that her fears were understandable and typical of those often shared by her generation.” OK so Gandma is then a typical white old person? Old white people have been bred to be racist? OK good spin Sean. Except that’s not at all what Obama said.

I don’t know about you, but I feel offended.

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About the author


Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.


  • ck, you just need more HOPE. 😉 IMHO a man of his alleged intelligence and orating skills should have known how to express himself better had he meant any better.

  • Get over yourself.

    Replace “typical white person” with “many white people” and I think the glove fits just fine.

    If you can listen to that speech and all you come away with is that Obama thinks all white people are racists, you need to take a step back.

    For once, a politician has acknowledged that there is real animosity between whites and blacks in this country and that both sides have some valid feelings and both sides hold some responsibility.

    I’m sure ck is the perfect, loving human being without a single bigoted thought in his mind, that we all strive to be. So, you sit in your corner and pout while the rest of America takes heed.

  • Wether Obama is a slimy eel or a true hope for the almost destroyed U.S. of A. is truly debatable but your take on being offended about white prejudice is naive. If you have never ever grouped somebody, in your thoughts, in some sort of demeaning subgroup, even briefly, then I congratulate you and wonder which planet you come from.
    The truly hopeful thing about us humans, even if it maybe won´t save us, is that despite our flaws, shortcomings and almost instinctive cultural recidivism we in many cases still strive to find, do and be aware of the “right” thing (what the right thing is of course still an ongoing debate). Some of us despite our inherent cultural and historical handicaps actually achieve incredible things.
    Wake up, everybody is prejudiced, but being aware of it and not accepting and acting on our prejudices is a part of life. We are paradoxical animals searching for truth and it aint easy.

  • If Barack’s happy to throw grandma under the bus if it advances his ambitions, it’s kinda hard to cut Barack himself slack. (Though I suspect Middle will find a way.)

    Now, excuse me, I’m off to curl up with a glass of milk and my Lawrence Welk records.

  • No slack from me. I’ll let others do the heavy lifting this time.

    It’s disappointing that the dem nomination campaign has come to this.

  • Isn’t there someone in Obama’s inner circle who’s able to keep him from running off the rails? Middle, what’s ironic about Wright and its aftermath is that Hillary has had nothing to do with it, and has wisely kept silent while Barack’s meltdown unfolds.

  • Chanan, jc: Lord knows I’m not perfect. Racism can be really sneaky and even otherwise well meaning people can inadvertently express thoughts, sentiments or opinions that can be construed as such…. why some of my best friends… But let’s face it. What I didn’t like was that he equated an otherwise lovely old lady, who loved him and raised him and gave him all that she had, with great success too I might add, with a hate mongering firebrand. And then to make matters worst, he equated all white Americans with that same man!

    Now sacrificing poor Grandma by equating her with Reverend Wright is wrong, thankless and by all accounts really inaccurate. The error is only further compounded when Obama extends that comparison to all or most white people. I don’t think it’s wrong for me to be offended by that even though I am by no means perfect.

    I think Obama really fucked up here and it saddens me that in doing so he has only made it that much easier for the Republicans to walk away with yet another election. For all his honesty and soul searing analysis, his inexperience and lack of depth has never been more apparent.

  • Tom: he’s not running off the rails. This is who he is. And his wife.

    He was raised in a white household, and latched on to the more radical aspects of black separatism as a way of cementing his identity.

    His white constituency has largely consisted of people who have bought the notion that they all are tainted by potential, unconscious racism. Largely limousine liberals and post-boomer kids who’ve been subjected to PC indoctrination at school.

    For these folks, voting for O means absolution.

    And of course the Clinton-weary masses…

  • Great, so I’m just like Wright since I’m a typical white person… Well, if typical white people were really as racist as his minister, do you really think he would have gotten as far in life and in the campaign/election process? Come on… Wright’s comments were incredibly hateful, vicious, and showed no signs of hope nor change. I only hope Barack and his wife realize just how atypical the average white person is if compared to their hate monger/minister.

    And if THAT’s how the average black man thinks about white people, then I’m REALLY offended and don’t believe reconciliation is possible at all, with that level of animosity. Of course, none of the (half-)black people I associate with have ever been that racist toward me. I’ll ask them tonight how they REALLY feel when I’m at the Jill Scott concert.

    Yes, my old grandma is racist. She grew up in the Soviet Union where the only black people were students in Moscow and the only nice thing Russians had to say about them was that “at least we don’t hang the n****** like the racist Americans do!” Is she a typical white person? I don’t know, I don’t know many typical people in general.

  • Obama can stuff it. I am so sick of the race card being played over and over. I consider Obama to be of my generation.

    A generation that grew up just after civil rights really sank in. He and Hillary are proof that the US has made tremendous progress. A Black man and a Woman have a legitimate shot at becoming POTUS.

    We have had two Black Secs of State, Latino AG etc.

    Race does not prevent you from success in this country. Socioeconomic status, education, drive and work ethic are all factors that are more significant.

    There comes a point in time when you stop being a victim. It doesn’t mean that we pretend that the bad/evil of the past didn’t exist. You still acknowledge it because we shouldn’t forget, but we recognize that it doesn’t prevent our success. It is in the past.

  • Uhm, not to be too cruel to my own sweet Jewish granny, but she still refers to 60+ year old women who work as home health aides and nurses as, “the girl.” And I know she’s not the only one…

  • The economy is in the toilet, the value of the dollar sucks, and America can’t even make a decent television anymore.

    I could give a **** about what B. Obama thinks about his white grandmother.

    Time to move on.

  • It’s not so much anymore about what Obama has said about his grandmother (as in a person he’s related to), but that he has called her a typical white person. If she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know – there’s a reaction in her that’s been bred into our experiences that don’t go away and sometimes come out in the wrong way and that’s just the nature of race in our society; he did neither call her reactions typical of that of “white” people, nor did he call her or her reactions typical of white people of her generation, but his statement clearly refers to all “white” people, suggesting those are inherently racist – regardless of the many anti-racism activists and many millions that do not condone “white” racism of the past and / or the present, generalizing, and by any means racist. Obama has repeatedly been lauded for his skills as an orator and I’ve never quite seen why other than that he provides empty catchphrases speaking from a European point of view; are the other candidates supposed to stand for “despair”, “divisiveness”, and “regression”? This man is aiming at running for the highest and most powerful position the USA has got to offer (right after the CEO of Starbucks, I suppose). Even if he hasn’t meant to express what he clearly did express, such a faux pas is troubling and will make it easier for McCain to run against him in the general election. And if he did express what he meant to express, then, I dare say, he does not stand for “unity”.
    I do, however, think that it is important to tackle issues of racism in the US society (which certain Obama supporters claimed did not exist when I mentioned this way back), but to portray all “whites” as racist is a step back, not forward.

  • Froylein:

    I don’t really care for Obama either.

    But this whole “talk” about race is going nowhere. It’s a tempest.

    Noone can have a frank talk about race or religious without offending someone.


    It’s pointless, and it doesn’t change the fact that America is falling behind.

    I don’t care for Obama’s links to his Pastor…but this media discussion is overkill.

  • davesax, from a campaigning point of view, it is going somewhere, but apparently it has been backfiring from the direction it was aimed at.
    Not meaning to boast, I get paid in Euros (Thinking about it, should I spread a handful of coins among random passengers in the streets next time I’m in NYC?), but I’m not quite sure whether any new President will be able to drastically improve the economy within four years; Germany’s economy was better off, we’ve had tremendous tax rises and and cuts on social programmes under the current government, and the economy is only improving slowly.

  • Yep. He threw her under the bus and “sacrificed” her, by… by… admitting that she’s not perfect – you know, just like most people aren’t perfect. What a craven, evil person he is. Everyone knows that in order to be good, you can’t always tell the truth. Well, at least that’s the kind of dishonesty you’d have to believe to buy ck’s implication that Obama said his grandmother isn’t “lovely”, negated her love for him, doesn’t deserve to be loved. We all know that there are no common lessons to be learned from Obama’s gramama and Wright. They are biologically diametrically opposed creatures from alternate universes who are 99% geneticallydissimilar, and can never be understood to have comparable attitudes or emotional reactions on anything whatsoever. How dare Obama learn a common lesson in the limits of human open-mindedness from both of them!

  • Now, come on, Montana. I’d have figured grandma isn’t perfect. For all I know, she eats with her mouth open, too. But do 300-plus million people really need to know that?

    Watch out for precedents. One of your significant others might run for president someday, and we’ll hear all about your emergency substitutes for toilet paper. Assuming that’s politically useful to broadcast, of course.

  • Michelle Obama talks about Barack’s bad breath. Bill Clinton was a publicly open glutton (of food) before the extent of his other impulse-control issues were blown wide open. And Al Gore brought self-deprecation to a whole new level.

    So, no, I don’t think that revealing details about someone need be seen as a way of destroying them. And I’m astounded how when it comes to public figures, given the degree to which the families of candidates are already – rightly or wrongly – a part of the “vetting” process, the lengths to which we’ll go to defend concealment of such tiny, insignificant details of someone as these. Especially when it was a learning point about the degree to which they fall prey to many of the same unproductive attitudes as most of the nation. Should we deny Barack Obama the opportunity to learn from his family members? Much less prevent him from imparting onto the public examples of the usefulness of those kinds of lessons? I mean, I think my family would be more than pleased if I learned valuable things about life about them, even if it was because they were less than perfect. And Obama’s success in furthering discussions of race – ostriches notwithstanding – speaks to the pride his grandmama would probably feel in her grandson’s willingness to serve a greater end than her own vanity. And if it helps his political legacy in the long run, so much the better. But I can certainly understand why narrower, more Macchiavellian motives were assumed on the part of Obama by Hillary supporters, however.

  • Do you want to bone this guy MUL? Are you Obama girl? Really, I mean you are jockin him hard! That’s Ebonics by the way, learn it.

  • God bless America, where instead of addressing a person’s opinion we can just attack ad hominem.

    As stated before, I’m an Obama supporter and I still don’t know how I feel about this. Maybe I’ll post later with my opinion.

  • I apologize, I didn’t make it clear that that was in direct response to Alex’s most recent post.

  • You choose your church or synagogue! You don’t choose your family members! This is an important difference between your grandmother’s personal beliefs and what your pastor or Rabbi says in public to hundreds of people.

    Obama defends his connection to Wright by talking about Wright’s good works and religious faith. Is he saying that he couldn’t find a single black church in Chicago that could provide these things without preaching hate?! He made a choice. He can’t run away from that.

    Not only that, Obama’s church newsletter prints propaganda from Hamas. Hard to believe, but see for youself, here’s the link (if someone hasn’t taken it down yet…) :…lumn072207.jpg

  • Right Sarah. You don’t choose your family members. But what is it with this obsession over biology when it comes to, well… when it comes to anything in America, but when it comes to even family as well. Repeat after me: Family does not equal infallibility. Family members can do horrible things. Family members can molest other family members. Bad stuff can happen in families. And family members can do other things that are quite a bit less nefarious, but no less worthy of criticism – especially if something useful can be learned from it. Perhaps if you’re still stuck in the perspective, let’s say this is Obama humbling himself or perhaps his family’s “coat of arms” on the altar of the nation getting to a better, more just, more mature place. And I don’t see his grandmother complaining about that.

    Everyone defending Obama’s grandmama from what they’ve termed as equivocation between herself and Wright, or from how they believe that her sacred grandmotherly duties were violated by Obama’s comments, are basically defending the vanity of grandmothering – as if there were something to be vain about in merely being a grandmother. It’s kind of silly. It’s kind of ridiculous. He didn’t say she wasn’t a good grandmother.

  • Steve,

    If you read through the rest of this thread as well as the two other recent Obama threads, you will see that I have addressed MULs opinions repeatedly.

  • Alex, apart from just the ad hominems, I suspect it’s safe to say that Steve might include your penchant for confusing my stances with my assessments on what to make of the stances of others, in that category. Guilt by association is something you’ve done a lot of here. And you can repeatedly address someone without publishing the same post twenty times, too. Just so you know.

  • Alex,

    The intent of my comment was just on the one specific response mentioned, and I apologize for any confusion regarding your general post content and rhetoric. Generally I find your

    I decided re-read this thread specifically as you requested, partially because of time limitations and partially because I feel it’s rational to only comment on this thread. Unless something is not working correctly, I see that your only response to MUL’s posts in this thread was the comment I addressed.

    After thinking of Obama’s statements, I’m less enthusiastic about his campaign. If he has just said “person” as opposed to “white person” and focused on that how everyone has their own prejudice, I feel it would have been wiser. Unfortunately, he didn’t and made another pretty big slip. Unfortunately most people are hearing the statements and (in my opinion) are leaping towards screaming “racism” and not “prejudice.” Again, he didn’t say this, unfortunately. I suppose I’m just trying to put logic or intent to misspoken words.

    Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your view, I still prefer him over the other candidates.

  • Whoops. Didn’t proof read. I meant to finish the statement as such:

    “The intent of my comment was just on the one specific response mentioned, and I apologize for any confusion regarding your general post content and rhetoric. Generally I find your posts interesting, at least to see another perspective.”

  • I am in no way defending Obama´s pastor but i find his aknowledgement of the paradoxical side of most humans to be refreshingly honest and an obvious reality that somehow we´re supposed to pretend doesn´t exist among “polite” people.
    I agree that his choice of pators seems to be poor if not just not plain stupid, but is perhaps understandable if you are a black american.
    I do find it odd that the furor over his pastor (black) is large whereas McCains pilgramage to lynchburg to bow before that truly evil man Fallwell (white) a documented racist and hater who used his interpetation of the bible to legitamise the oppression of blacks in america, the death of several thousand people in the twin towers and so much more evil hatred of mankind as well as forwarding his own personal economic well being.
    Now I am aware that Fallwell was not McCains pastor but if Obama should make a pilgrimage to Farakhans(sp) throne to make political points with a militant black minority Obama would be so crucified. But not McCain.
    I truly believe that the media measuring stick is white.
    I also believe, unfortunately, that Mcain will win in november because so many voters (including democrats) will percieve of him as a sensible “moderate” canidate (i.e. not black, clinton or female). The democrats are such masters of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and america is soo in the toilet bowl.
    Waterboarding anyone?

  • Sure, waterboard me. I see hippies getting waterboarded in Berkeley almost daily. Looks like the kinda enjoy it.

  • I can’t believe this is front-page news, while McSame can hang out with his cadre of Christofascists. Once THAT becomes front-page news, THEN we can talk.

  • Obama’s equation of his grandmother’s racism and Wright’s racism is just a smarmy way of saying, basically, “We’re all racists at some level; why are you hating on me?” This is a very slick bait-and-switch and will work for the kind of people who want to vote for Obama as a way of expiating their sins and who are looking to him for absolution of some sort. If this is what passes for “honest dialogue on race”, include me out.

    Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but since when is a Presidential election supposed to be about this kind of puerile nonsense? Racial psychodrama for the purpose of some phony catharsis that will supposedly usher in a “post-racial” future with Obama as its poster-child is childish nonsense. Geraldine Ferraro was right: Obama is where he is precisely because of his race, just as she was nominated precisely because she is a woman. This is just plain fact. Pointing this out is hardly racism.

    And Obama’s campaign is either about race or it isn’t. It seems to me that this recent flap shows that it most definitely is all about race and pretty much nothing else. The very fact that most people are falling all over Obama for this speech shows just how important his race is to his campaign. It is absolutely central to his appeal. I read somewhere that somebody called him the “Benetton candidate”. This is a very astute observation.

    All of this being said, I don’t think that race should not be part of politics. I just think that we should have an honest discussion about it. Somehow this doesn’t strike me as that discussion.

    Obama can’t choose his family members, but he can certainly choose his church and his pastor just like I can choose my rabbi and my shul. If someone has been a member of Meir Kahane’s shul for 20 years I think it would be pretty easy to figure out where they stand on certain issues.

    And, like it or not, racism, to the extent that it is defined as (loosely, I agree) as preferring, and being comfortable around, members of one’s own race/ethnic group/religious community/language group or whatever, is the default human condition. To the extent that people of one ethnic group have certain misconceptions about members of some other group, everyone, without exception, is a racist on some level. I have never met anyone who is not.

    In any case, it is disingenuous in the extreme for Obama to equate the private feelings of his grandmother with the publicly expressed ravings of an influential public figure for whom extreme racism and paranoid conspiracy theories form the bedrock of his world-view. A person is known partially by the company he keeps, and Obama has been running with a pretty suspect crowd.

    I would have been far happier if Obama had just come out and said that he simply used Wright and his church as a way to establish his racial bona fides with the black community in order to further his political ambitions and that he never really believed any of that nonsense. Believing that Obama is an ambitious cynic is far, far better than believing that he actually buys into anything that Wright says. A Machiavellian politician I can deal with. It would prove that at the very least he has the mettle to do what it takes to win, which is at least one quality a leader needs to have.

    However, Obama presents himself as a new-paradigm idealist. If he really is, then his 20-year membership in Wright’s church is a huge, huge problem.

  • Bigger news. George Mason University is back IN the tournament.

  • Joshua wrote: I can’t believe this is front-page news, while McSame can hang out with his cadre of Christofascists. Once THAT becomes front-page news, THEN we can talk.

    I’d never vote for McCain, so I don’t care who he hangs out with. Well not yet anyway. Wait for the general election and that will be one amongst many reasons for criticizing him. Once they finally pick their candidates, the Democrats will have a ton of work to do in order to undo the damage and the divisiveness caused by the primaries.

  • “Once they finally pick their candidates, the Democrats will have a ton of work to do in order to undo the damage and the divisiveness caused by the primaries.”

    Or not, ck. Hillary’s made it pretty clear that she thinks McCain is a much better candidate than Obama. So if she doesn’t win the primaries her likely wish is for Obama to be so damaged that a McCain win in 2008 becomes likely, leaving the possibility for her to have another run at it in 2012.

  • Well, you said, I’d never vote for McCain, so I’m wondering if there are any republicans you would consider voting for past, present, or future?

  • Haha. You got me. Let me rephrase that question. Is there any Conservative you would vote for, in theory? Bloomberg, a lifelong Dem who ran on a Repub ticket and thought about running as an independent, is not really what I meant. I forgot you were a Canadian. I’m sorry that I forgot and I’m sorry that you are. 🙂