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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's Speech

Ful text is here.

The first portion addresses America's "original sin of slavery" and the long struggle to expel that institution. He then summarizes his and his wife's genealogy. He says that he "saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity," but he does not state what prescriptions for unity he offered. He states that "some commentators have deemed me either 'too black' or 'not black enough,' but does not mention that those voices have come from the left - and in some cases, from the black left.

Then he says this:

On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap.

This is evidently a dig at Geraldine Ferraro. If it weren't for the word "solely," it would accurately reflect what she said.

On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

(Emphasis added.)

How many of us attend churches with clergy who make claims as outrageous as those of Jeremiah Wright? That the United States government intentionally manufactured the AIDS virus? That it is worthwhile to honor Louis Farrakhan, whose Nation of Islam faith teaches, as Malcolm X stated in his autobiography, that the white man is a devil? That buying stuff at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club is a slap at the Third World? (I said this in comments here: "Everything I own that came from the Third World I bought at Wal-Mart.")

Obama continues:

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

Unfortunately, this is a problem with not just Wright but with a massive chunk of the radical Left.

Obama explains that he stays with his church because he knows about Wright a lot more than just a few selected quotes. But aren't those few quotes sufficient to identify serious moral flaws that call into question a man's qualifications as a spiritual leader. Wouldn't Fred Phelps' "God hates fags" sound bite be enough to tell me that investing 20 years at Westboro Baptist Church might not be a good idea?

I would not bemoan someone for associating with seriously flawed individuals like Wright or Phelps or Farrakhan if one refrains from aiding and abetting those flaws - see Romans 12:2. In the case of relations with dubious clergymen, that means not becoming regular members of the organizations through which they spread their iniquity.

Early this morning I linked this article about Wright's theology. In a Sean Hannity interview, Wright identified theologian James Cone as one of his ideological inspirations. What does Cone teach?

Christ is black therefore not because of some cultural or psychological need of black people, but because and only because Christ really enters into our world where the poor were despised and the black are, disclosing that he is with them enduring humiliation and pain and transforming oppressed slaves into liberating servants.


Black theology refuses to accept a God who is not identified totally with the goals of the black community. If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him. The task of black theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the black community ... Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy. What we need is the divine love as expressed in Black Power, which is the power of black people to destroy their oppressors here and now by any means at their disposal. Unless God is participating in this holy activity, we must reject his love.

Obama says that the anger stemming from generations of racial oppression "occasionally...finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews," and acknowledges that it is sometimes less than productive. (If he had been more blunt, he would have said that it is sometimes delusional.) He says that this anger has a white counterpart:

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

How exactly does this compare to Wright's notable quotables?

Obama says that these examples of black and white anger fail to identify the real enemy:

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many.

The middle class is squeezed by overtaxation and overspending, the long-term greed of the United States government. Everybody agrees that special interests are a problem, but not over which ones are a problem.

Obama sees "a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years," idenitified in primarily economic terms.

Compare and contrast Obama's prescription for blacks...

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans — the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny. that for whites:

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

A big part of Obama's solution for racial reconciliation is more welfare spending - big surprise. He implores whites to be more aware of anti-black oppression, but does not warn blacks to refrain from overstating anti-black oppression; examples include the irresponsible reporting of the Jena 6 and whackball conspiracy theories that the government intentionally busted the New Orleans levees. I'm sure Jesse Lee Peterson and Walter Williams could cite more examples.

The bigger problem is that Obama sees racial reconciliation as a primarily political concern. It isn't; it is mainly cultural. Historically, warming in ethic relations moves glacially. In two generations black/white relations have improved at a rate not seen before in history. Politicians had scarcely anything to do it. The Civil Rights Act didn't make white people get along better with black people more; it was the other way around.

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