Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's Speech

It's here, it's brilliant. I think it particularly shows the complexity of the interplay between Black Liberals (Obama) and Black Conservatives (Wright) that I explored in this post. Obama is not in Wright's camp. But he understands why folks are, and he and his coalition see their goal not to disrespect or stomp on them for their lack of faith in White people, but to simply go out, and prove them wrong.


Unknown said...

I thought it was a great speech, and assuming Obama wrote it himself, it shows he's a great leader.

But I already knew that. Many of the people who really loved this speech probably also thought so.

So the real test of the speech is its utility: does it put Obama in the White House?

That I don't know, because it was awfully long and complicated for a presentation to our ADHD media culture. I suspect he could have made all of the same basic points quite powerfully in fewer words. And you know what they say about brevity.

PG said...

I don't know that he could have, because he was negotiating some difficult points. He had to say that Wright's anger is understandable and not morally wicked while also saying that he did not share it; he had to say that his relationship to Wright was part of his tie to the black community, while also reminding us of his ties to white/ "mainstream" America; he had to talk about white anger over race without sounding like he was re-running Reagan's welfare-queen myths; and finally he had to communicate how much his Christianity had to do with his involvement in the church and with Wright in the first place. These weren't basic points, but complicated ones. Maybe he could have talked faster, but I'm encouraged by the fact that YouTube shows 980,000 hits to that video already.

PG said...

Conservative Michael Gerson's reaction in the Wash Post was an interesting one. First, he says that he knows, 'Wright is not a symbol of the strengths and weaknesses of African Americans. He is a political extremist, holding views that are shocking to many Americans who wonder how any presidential candidate could be so closely associated with an adviser who refers to the "U.S. of KKK-A" and urges God to "damn" our country.'

Gerson thereby reveals himself to be rather ignorant himself -- either unaware of or unwilling to mention that African Americans are far more suspicious of white America and its institutions than white people are, and that what is seen as unforgivable extremism by him and his peers is not seen the same way by others (including an 8000 member church in Chicago and black clergy around the country).

Gerson complains that anyone who believes the government had a hand in creating HIV is obligated to overthrow that government, yet doesn't explain why someone aware of the Tuskegee syphilis "study" isn't obliged to do something similar. He doesn't mention that or any past episodes of medical mistreatment of African Americans at all, again either because he's ignorant or unwilling to acknowledge the sources of black anger and suspicion.

Second, Gerson declares that any donation to Wright's church is necessarily subsidizing hatred. Apparently one subsidizes hatred by giving money to a church that helps the black community. The analogies between TUCC and the KKK or other white supremacy groups kind of blow my mind -- they show just how little the person making them thinks of TUCC's work to help black people. Let the pastor say a bad word about whites, and none of that counts. From what I can tell, it's not like Wright used donations to feather his own nest like a televangelist.

I just wish that Gerson and his ilk had the honesty to admit that they do not see this from a perspective sympathetic to African Americans, and declare openly that this is a White perspective on Wright. The White perspective is no less valid, so long as it does not claim to be the objective or universal or "any reasonable person thinks" perspective.