Obama Distances from Longtime Pastor in Race Speech

"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."

Obama described the anger as "not always productive" but "real" and "powerful" with roots embedded in a "chasm of misunderstanding".

Nodding to the expression by Ferraro last week that Obama wouldn't be where he is if he were white, Obama also took on grievances of "working- and middle-class white Americans (who) don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race."

"They 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; ...when they hear 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."

"Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation."

Obama called on both groups to move beyond their anger and grievances to work together.

Moving from Wright to his Democratic and Republican rivals, Obama said "We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election...We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies. We can do that. But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change. " With a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas, Obama sees himself as uniquely able to deliver this call for the nation to move forward together.

Today he said his background "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 -- that out of many, we are truly one."

That very postracial appeal is at risk with Obama's 20-year relationship with Wright, a man who says among other things, the U.S. government created AIDS to kill black Americans.

It will be quite the high-wire act for Obama to address Wright's anger without seeming to justify it, while taking on the most sensitive subject in American discourse.

Todd Boyd, a professor of race and popular culture at the University of Southern California, says the challenge that faces Obama is considerable.

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