Warning: This entry could surprise my friends on both sides of the political aisle.
If you're like me, you heard tons about Obama's speech on racism. I've heard nothing positive about it. I listen mostly to conservative talk radio and no one expects them to say anything good about Obama. I also listen to the big networks and they had nothing positive to say either. Years ago I tried listening to liberal talk radio and I just couldn't stomach it.
In 1992, Dan Quayle made his famous Murphy Brown speech. This was when Al Gore was still inventing the internet, so I depended on the main-stream media to read the real speech. By the time it came out, most political candidates had changed their tune and were supporting Quayle's ideas, if not his speech. What a turn-around!
I learned from that experience to go to the source. So today, I took time to read Obama's speech. You can find it here. To my surprise, I found very little in Obama's words with which I disagree.
Sen. Obama's speech included lots of words about Rev. Wright, but that was no more the topic than was Quayle's speech about a TV character back in 1992 (it was about a poverty of values, including absent fathers - which Obama mentioned also). Rather, Obama was talking for the first half of the speech about racism in America. I thought he did a good job expaining the situation. Yes, he spent time defending his views on Wright, but that's not all the speech is about.
At this point, I should indentify myself as a white American. Born and raised in the south and proud of it. I have looked back for about 4 generations and all of these ancestors were raised in the south. I don't know if any ever owned slaves, but I know some fought in the civil war (and not for the north). I do know that some of my relatives have harbored racist feelings and for that I am not proud. I'll also apologize to anyone offended by the term "black". I'll use that in this entry: it's what Obama used in his speech and it's shorter than "African American". I should also point out that I will assume that his speech matches the way Obama feels. I have no doubt that he has speech writers who wrote good portions of the speech, but he gets all the credit and all the blame.
Obama's speech was very well written and shows a good bit of intelligence. Four years ago, I realized that this man was going to be somebody. Starting with a quotation from the Constitution and tracing slavery through the halls of the Philadelphia convention, Obama spoke without malice about the process and the realization that "words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage."
Senator Obama gets it. Neither then, nor now, can "words on parchment" solve the problem. He also gets it that racism cuts both ways. He talks about "white racism" and "divisive comments" by Wright.
Then he transitions his speech. "Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze"
In other words, both black and white racism distract us from the real problems. I agree 100%. He says that "to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns - this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding." In all, I think he spoke more about reverse racism (anti-white) than he did about racism (anti-black). I haven't counted words and think that that too would "block the path to understanding."
What are the real problems? Obama sites these items: 1) Big Business, 2) Washington politics and 3) economic policies that favor the few over the many.
He identifies some specific actions for blacks: 1) embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past, 2) continuing to insist on justice and 3) binding our particular grievances to the larger aspirations of all Americans. This is also where he talks about absent fathers (where's Quayle when you need him?).
He identifies some specific actions for whites: acknowledge that racism is real with both words and deeds (investing in schools and communities, enforcing civil rights laws, providing "ladders of opportunities).
Then he transitions again by asking us not to focus on racism. Instead he wants us to focus on education, on health care, jobs (and offshoring) and bringing the troops home "from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged".
He also mentioned that Wright sees "the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily (with) ... allies like Israel, instead of (starting with ) radical Islam."
So, that's a condensation of Obama's speech, I'll explore my comments on it in a couple of days. I'd be interested in your comments. I'd be especially interested in any comments on the comparisons between Obama and Quayle.