After today, I actually feel a little better about Obama. My first impression upon reading the text of his speech was that is was stunningly honest and daring, but having come only after being pressed to react to an issue, I cynically put it off as damage control done by a politician. And then I heard the speech.
Obama was both honest and eloquent in his speech. It was an astute and poignant analysis of racial issues in this country, honest to both black and white Americans alike, admitting to resentments lingering in both races that neither like to talk about. There was a true demonstration of hope if I’ve ever seen one, and I mean that sincerely. To believe that America is ready to hear that racial conversation takes hope. And maybe we are ready. As it is now we have no choice but to talk about race.
Senator Obama should never have been put in this position in the first place. The media, not the campaigns, turned this race for the democratic nomination into a racial struggle. After weeks of asking, “will race be an issue? Will race be an issue? Will race be an issue?” guess what? They succeeded in making race an issue. They made a huge racial divide out of negligible statements by Geraldine Ferraro. Just tonight one MSNBC commentator made an issue of Obama mentioning his white grandmother. We’ve seen video of Obama’s pastor over and over and over again.
It’s not right to judge people based on things they have no control over. As a gay man, I hold that belief very deeply. Race, by now, should be a non-issue. Clearly, it’s not. Race is what we’re talking about. Not the war, not jobs or the economy or issues, but Black and White.
That’s another thing: I keep hearing and reading “Black” these days, when the proper term is African American. Even Obama today referred to the “experience of Black America.” And no one has become outraged about that fact. I find that a fascinating observation. On all the talk shows, on all the blogs, the term African American has been disappearing and it’s “black, black, black, black, black.” Even the African-American pundits are saying “black.” If the term has become a non-issue, then is America ready to truly see beyond race? Is the Senator right?
Oh, we could hope so, couldn’t we? Perhaps we’ll be able to discuss sexism as well, and why some men refuse to even consider voting for a woman. And if so, Obama’s speech today may end up as a bookend to the civil rights era opposite Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, and ushering in an equal rights era. But the realist in me remembers that old axiom: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Instead of being, as Obama himself wanted, not “Red America” or “Blue America” but The United States of America, we’re back to being Black and White America.
We’ve just heard the most painfully honest speech on racial issues in perhaps 40 years. What we do from here on out is up to us.
Here are some highlights: