Conversation on Race and Barack Obama

An original version posted on 3/25/2008 as "Conversation on Race and Barack Obama"@

Barack Obama's speech on race was one of the big highlights of his remarkably successful 2008 Presidential campaign.

As you might remember, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, someone Obama had clear ties with, made some remarks that didn't sit well with a lot of the big talking heads of America.

He cited various instances of US government deceit. He said that the government(s) lied about a gross number of things from Pearl Harbor to the treatment of Nelson Mandela.

He also cited various instances of the US government mistreating people of color. He cited the administration of the Tuskegee experiment, the internment of Japanese Americans, the taking of Indian lands, and the overall mistreatment of African-Americans throughout American history.

Essentially, the public and media had largely perceived him to be saying that America's bad kharma was simply coming back to haunt them. What Wright said in the sermons reflected back negatively on Obama. How could the American people a man whose spiritual leader hated America?

Hot on the campaign trail, Barack was pestered for a response to Wright's comments.

At first, he tried to distance himself. Apparently, he didn't hear of Wright's comments.

However, as the questioning heat up and it was no longer acceptable to say that he wasn't aware, he finally confronted Reverend Wright's comments in his dramatic speech "A More Perfect Union."

He condemned Wright's comments, but didn't condemn Reverend Wright the person. He explained before a national audience where Reverend Wright was coming from and bridged that with an anecdote about his white grandmother's own racial beliefs.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.
The speech was as great synthesis and explantion of the touchy issue racial relations as you could expect from a politician.

Most of the media outlets covering the speech made me indifferent.

Then, there was one that dropped a ton of big red bricks of dumbass on me.

The tired LA Times columnist Jonah Goldberg with enough pomposity to fill a hot-air balloon.

Then there was one that got the neurons firing, the white matter connecting, the soul uplifting.
A piece by a quick-rising, quick-rhyming Blue Scholar.

Goldberg said that we already talk about race so much. He listed the things we already have dedicated to race: We have a Black history month, the movie "Crash", entire majors devoted to race, books about race, corporate diversity consultants. What more could we possibly need?

Goldberg represents talks as if that there aren't anymore race problems. Now that good ole Martin Luther King Jr. bravely fought against segregation, thus effectively ending racism as far as he was concerned, people of color are now just "creating or re-hashing problems."

In his world, race issues in regards are merely deliberate schemes to hustle billions of dollars from the good old American system. If it's a problem, people of color or at least the ones "making race an issue" by continually producing these books, producing these graduates of race and ethnic studies, and generally making a living off of emphasizing race.

In reality, it's actually been a very unhealthy passive-aggressive relationship between white folk and people of color.White people shit-talk folks of color. Folks of color shit-talk white people. Unless they agree to do it and/or happen to understand each others' humor, they just never actually do it in front of each other.

So where do the two sides meet?

Prometheus Brown, the eminent Blue Scholar, makes the simple but poignant point: racism is everyone's problem.

However, it's hard to see how it actually is everyone's problem.

The subject of race is only mentioned in media lock-in-step when it involves people of color, which gives the image that race is a one-street in which only people of color participate. Otherwise, for most white Americans, it's an issue that seemingly doesn't exist.

"Some people point to Obama’s successes as a sure sign that America has taken many steps forward in resolving its racial contradictions. But isn’t the fact that Obama gets singled out for his views on race a big red flag? Where do Clinton and McCain stand on this issue, and why haven’t they weighed in? Why is nobody asking them what they think about racism?"

The point I glean from all this is just that white folks and folks of color need to actually be engaged in conversation together about race, and not so polarized in their own circles discussing things. White folks reach out. Folks of color reach out.

It's an easy common sense solution, but not so in reality.

The question has been here way before Obama and will probably still be there after him, but the question is will there ever be any political or social will to ensure anything happens towards that dialogue?

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