Exclusive: Obama on Reverend, Race and When He Was Ashamed For His Own Community

"And I was ashamed for my own community to respond in that way, but I also understood what was taking place, which was that reaction had more to do with a sense that somehow the criminal justice system historically had been biased so profoundly that a defeat of that justice system was somehow a victory.

"Now, that is an example of how unproductive that anger is and how we have to get beyond it, but it's there. And so, that's why I said during the speech, in some ways for me to completely disown Reverend Wright is for me to disown the African-American community, because he embodies all the contradictions."

Black and White: 'I've Got a Foot in Each Camp'

For Obama, his speech was an opportunity to say out loud, in public, what Americans say in private within their different groups.

"And hopefully," he said, "I accurately captured not just what blacks say privately, but of what whites say privately ... One strength I do have is that I've got a foot in each camp, right? You know, since I'm half-white and was raised by a white mom and white grandparents, I have a little more insight into those white resentments, again that are also rooted in history, and some of which are legitimate."

Obama said he considers himself an American first, rather than primarily a black man. He also doesn't distinguish between black patriotism and white patriotism, but he does see a difference in how each group has experienced America.

"What I think is that the African-American community is much more familiar with some of the darker aspects of American life and American history, and so the African-American community can express great rage and anger about this country and love it all the same, in a way that probably is less familiar to white America."

While he believes blacks may be more familiar with the darker aspects of American history, he says it is not an excuse to express anti-American sentiments, either.

"It doesn't excuse it, it just describes a reality," Obama said. I think it is very important — for white America to understand that this anger is not based on nothing. The anger is based on slavery and Jim Crow and a history that continues to have powerful sway over our daily lives.

"And I know that one of the most difficult things about race in this country is that white America is much more likely to say, 'That was in the past, so forget about it. Let it go.'" And black America is saying, "The violence that was committed then under Jim Crow now expresses itself or is tied to the street crime that I'm having to deal with in my neighborhood or in my own family. I mean, those connections are made in the black community.

"And so, part of what we have to do is, on the one hand, the African-American community has to say to itself that we can affirm and acknowledge that tragic history, but not be trapped by it, not be obsessed by it, not use this as an excuse or a crutch for our responsibilities in moving ourselves forward as a community."

Obama believes his candidacy can spark an open, honest dialogue about race in America. He believes he might be able to help change the racial dialogue, or lack thereof, and the way America deals with race.

"I've never been so naive as to think that one election cycle or, as I put it, my candidacy, as imperfect as it is, could somehow change entirely 300 years of history," he said.

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