Obama on Race

I read a particularly embarrassing and racist article in the Wall Street Journal this morning by Shelby Steele, a right-wing commentator from the Hoover Institution who is flogging his book that frames the Obama candidacy as some kind of reverse-racist jujitsu, ultimately doomed to fail. He frames Barack Obama as a “bargainer,” a black man offering “…the subliminal promise to whites not to shame them with America’s history of racism, on the condition that they will not hold the bargainer’s race against him.” It’s an absurd posture on the part of the Journal and the Hoover Institution as they attempt to justify bringing the politics of racism and fear to the Obama campaign, holding racial boundaries in the spotlight while ignoring policy issues and the character and accomplishment of the candidate. We met Obama through his keynote at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. We waited for 2008 to give him a chance to actualize the promise of his vision, the unifying principles of hope and affirmation driving out the fear that the Bush administration has imposed on us for the last eight years.

The text:

“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk – to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough.” We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

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. 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.

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.

As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories tha t we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild.”

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – 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.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination – where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicia ns, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

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 committ ed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

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. And yet, 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.

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

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.

Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know — what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

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.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina – or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

“I’m here because of Ashley.” By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

Posted in People, Politics, Racism
7 comments on “Obama on Race
  1. Leo says:

    I felt that he was trying to manipulate me too much with this pretty speech, especially with that touch of Ashley as well as recalling the Constitution which Lincoln did in his most famous speech. I’ve become a little bit cynic about Obama. He does a pretty speech yet his closest friend, pastor and Advisor spreads a message of hate, bigotry and separatism. I must be one of those “naggers” that he mentions because I still have doubts.

  2. Well, “Leo,” I am left to wonder what and who you are for in this campaign. Do you support Mrs. Clinton? Her position isn’t that far from Obama’s on most major issues. Do you support McCain or someone else? Your repetition of the phrase “pretty speech” seems like an attempt to demean Obama by eroding esteem for one of his strengths. And aren’t you the sly boots using the word “naggers!” Obama doesn’t. He suggests that some may be left with “nagging questions”

    The following words by Dr. Randall Bailey speak my mind regarding what some consider the homiletical excesses of Dr. Jeremiah Wright:

    On the other hand they didn’t show Clinton’s or McCain’s pastors with clips from their sermons, or attribute the views of their pastors to the candidates themselves wholesale. Is anyone looking for sexist, patriarchal, or racist language in their sermons? Or, does the media not think we should know who and what is nurturing the claimed Christian commitments of all the candidates? Without such an exposé, the attack on Dr. Wright is clearly an attempt at discrediting one candidate.

    To understand Dr. Wright’s rhetoric and the reactions to it one has to explore the ways in which the white and black churches came into existence in this country. For the most part the white church in this country has roots in debating whether Black people even had souls and justifying the conquest of the Americas based on the Israelite Conquest of Canaan. The art work presents a view of God as an old white man and Jesus as European.

    The Black church grew out of the horrors of slavery and looked to God as a deliverer from the perversions of that institution and later racialist social systems. While the world has changed somewhat, as exemplified by the viable candidacy of Senator Obama, the effects of slavery continue to influence our society and our views of the function of religion in our daily lives. Thus, one should not be surprised there are different traditions of preaching and seeing the work of God in the life of the nation.

    The current turmoil regarding Dr. Wright’s sermons reminds me of the reactions to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1967 sermon against the Vietnam War delivered at Riverside Church in New York. In that sermon he charged the U.S. with crimes against the Vietnamese people and challenged the military industrial complex and the economic destruction of this nation due to that war. King saw the interrelationship between racist actions in the U.S. and in Vietnam and connected the dots. He did this in the finest tradition of Black preaching. King was castigated for speaking about issues other than civil rights and for criticizing the nation and government. We should not be surprised that more than 40 years later people still decry the marked difference in the ways in which many Black clergy approach the tasks of theologically calling the nation to judgment.

    I often wonder if those who criticize these homiletical strategies of calling the nation to judgment do not read the 8th to 7th C. BCE prophets, such as Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. They delivered judgment speeches against the nations of Israel and Judah and their rulers because of the ways in which they oppressed the poor, perverted justice, and ignored the moral and ethical imperatives of the religion.

    Similarly, Jesus pronounced judgment on the religious and political leaders of Judea. He called them a brood of vipers. He even went into the temple and turned over the money changers’ table where Roman taxes were collected. Thus, a part of the Christian religious tradition is proclaiming that a nation which oppresses the poor will be destroyed by God. It is in this vein that Dr. Wright proclaimed the oppression of others by this nation would bring divine wrath on the nation. “How dare he!” say commentators. He dares, because such is one of the messages of the Bible. One may disagree with the Bible on such a portrayal of God, but one cannot claim it is not a biblical portrayal.

  3. Doubts about what, exactly, Leo? Obama’s several times denounced the hey-you’re-scarin-the-white-folks bits. If you read/listened to the speech, surely you can understand the full context of how he views his friendship with Dr. Wright. What exactly is your fear, now?

  4. madame l says:

    i’m going to mash my responses to two of your posts right here. i agree, Despicable op-ed in the WSJ. and “Obama and His ‘White Grandmother'” “is just as bad”. paint me not surprised and humming “as usual”.

    the other day my mouse somehow lost its capacity to copy and paste a photo and i was showing MG how to use “grab” to capture an image. so (it may have been on your page) i showed her how to capture a selection by outlining it and then naming it and saving it as a tiff. i used the photo part of the obama supporter banner because it was the first thing i saw and i named it automatically: “less of an asshat”.

    i thought about That for a while, while doing stuff with MG and later. the reason, i think, is that i’ve got a couple of questions to add to your and ronni’s list. although obama, for me, is a million times better than clinton (as a human), there are just so many issues that no one is addressing, answering, providing their proposed solutions for or even admitting exist. i refuse to read op-eds on how badly clinton dresses. i know this already and if i wanted to read about how people dress, i would read perez hilton, who is a hillary supporter BTW.

    i would ask the candidates, firstly, 3 sets of questions.

    Are you aware of Monsanto? Are you concerned about their practices? Are you concerned about the fact that Monsanto’s new genetically engineered goods are pushed through the FDAs approval system at an alarming rate, fast-tracked, despite the FACT that their research has been proven to be doctored, manipulated and completely fabricated bullshit, and that first Bush Sr, then Bill Clinton eased the way for their genetically improved soy and corn seed (amongst other “inventions”)? Have you taken any campaign money from Monsanto? (who also makes Aspertame, KNOWN to directly cause brain tumours; oh yeah, and Agent Orange, they made that too.) because, Believe It, this is the One Multi-National Corporation that is going to bring the whole earth down way way way before global warming does.

    Do you think the treaties with American Indians, Indians (NDNs), First Nation peoples have been honoured? And if, as the treaties stipulate, they are indeed a separate nation, do you agree that they should have a seat at the UN table? Do you consider what happened to the Indians genocide? What are your thoughts on the increasing rates of automatic non-patient-authorised sterilisation amongst the poor by always rich, mostly white doctors?

    Can you tell me what “The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” Treaty is, when it came into effect and exactly what it means? And what countries signed it?

    i agree with obama’s message of change, that we need change. and i agree that obama would be a significant step in the change direction. and when i listen to him speak it Does activate those Hope pathways in my brain and in my heart. and i Know he has to tread lightly. but i also know that every politician in the u.s. is a politician. and i’m not sure the change is going to come fast enough. there are too many Critical Issues that we have to deal with Right Now. and i think the electoral college should be eliminated. but what do i know? i will vote for him. we guts to start somewhere.

    do you know when the Massachusetts legislature finally repealed a law that barred Native Americans from entering Boston? May 19, 2005. that fucking certainly gave me pause to think back on my years as an outlaw.

    edit as you see fit.

  5. Betty Jo says:

    Daughter sent me a Washington Post Article on the speech, the conclusion of which said:

    From the Washington Post Article…

    “…In Philadelphia, Obama attempted to explain Wright’s anger as typical of the civil rights generation, with its “memories of humiliation and doubt and fear.” But Wright has the opposite problem: He ignored the message of Martin Luther King Jr. and introduced a new generation to the politics of hatred.

    King drew a different lesson from the oppression he experienced: “I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate myself; hate is too great a burden to bear. I’ve seen it on the faces of too many sheriffs of the South. . . . Hate distorts the personality. . . . The man who hates can’t think straight; the man who hates can’t reason right; the man who hates can’t see right; the man who hates can’t walk right.”

    Barack Obama is not a man who hates — but he chose to walk with a man who does. “”

    My Comment:

    Obama did not ignore that lesson of King’s. Obama EXPLICITLY referenced his own belief (near identical to the above quote from Martin Luther King) that the anger and hate illustrated by Rev. Wright’s tantrums from the pulpit was DISFUNCTIONAL.

    He was explaining where Rev. Wright learned his rhetorical flourishes.

    There was a stage in the Civil Rights Movement when Martin Luther King was considered a dangerous radical. His committment to non-violence and change through love did not save him personally from violent destruction, and many in the Civil Rights movement believed that the high cost to lives of the black young people who manned the demonstrations was not generating rapid enough progress in an intolerable state of affairs.

    There was a stage when the Movement concensus approached a more radical view of the struggle, believing that it was only the threat of violence (and indeed, riots in Northern Cities) that motivated the changes in Civil Rights legislation under Lyndon Johnson.

    There was, for some, a definate appeal to: “You thought peaceful demonstrations were messy to deal with? How do you like Black Panthers walking around with rifles?”

    Remember, this was a time when thousands of young people were drafted for Vietnam. Fear and Anger was high against the draft and against the war. Civil Rights and Anti-War sentiments fed upon each other. Black ghettos saw disporpionate numbers of draft notices as many white young people were advantagously protected beneath Student Deferrments and National Guards.

    THIS is the generation from whence Rev. Wright arose. Martin Luter King was already dead and the hoped for progress from the Civil Rights legislation and poverty programs of the Great Society were overcast by the War in Vietnam.

    I thought that what Obama was trying to say is:

    This United States is an Inperfect Union. No surprise there. It is composed of inperfect people – the human condition after all. And yet – we can strive for and achieve inprovement in both our Union and ourselves by being the change that we seek. It is better to understand positions we don’t hold, and seek common ground where we can.

    He says that it’s better to credit each other with the totality of our quality, rather than dwell on defects in each other we see, understand and forgive. He said this is true whether we speak of Rev. Wright or Obama’s Granny.

    Whether racial or gender or geopolitical divisions are at issue, promoting divisiveness gets us nowhere in making the changes we need in this country “to achieve a more perfect Union.” He said that in times of Economic Distress, especially in times of economic distress, it is easy to be fearful and get distracted by differences rather than pulling together to make the country better.

    Indeed, it is, he said, his recognition of the error in Rev. Wright’s world view, that has prompted his Candidacy. He said that divisions in this country are real. Problems in this country are real. Being all mad and roudy about it (as Rev. Wright did in the unfortunate riffs), doesn’t solve anything.

    He says that unlike Rev. Wright, he (Obama) has arisen from a life experience of accepted blended ethnicity a light year away from the traumatous years that created that hateful damage in the psyche’s of Wright’s generation of leaders. He suggests that his life experience most particular qualifies him to have confidence that a polity can acknowledge difference and still work together for the common good.

    He suggests who better than someone like him to understand and have confidence in that most important technique for “perfecting our Union”.

    ps. I am a Hillary supporter mostly cuz It’s her turn. So what? It was a great speech. Good on Barack for it.

  6. ahfukit says:

    Letter to Barry O

    Good for you, motherfucker. I think you’re bought and paid for but you laid it out there nonetheless. First time I can recall a “viable” pol doing that in quite some time.

    Challenging Americans to grapple with the hard stuff won’t be easy, but goddammit, it’s worth a try. Keep speaking like a human being. As people get over the shock, shake off the stupor, we may respond – if we are still able.

    “Can you get through this process and keep the core of yourself?” [chief speechwriter Jon] Favreau asked. “You know, we’re finding out. I’m confident he can. And I think I can, too.”

    Keep your shit, brothers. They will indeed try to empty you out, as they have U.S.

    Beset

    ahf

  7. Mike Golby says:

    It’s sad that one of the greatest socio-political speeches of recent years had to be wrested from a man transcending race and politics just as he was about to be lynched for being black.

    It’s a greater tragedy that, prior to his speech’s delivery, Barack Obama denounced his pastor, Reverend Wright, for speaking openly, honestly, and truthfully.

    That said, one of Nelson Mandela’s greatest speeches was delivered from the dock just before he was sentenced to life imprisonment, having been found guilty of treason by an apartheid court.

    Today, South Africa desperately needs another Nelson Mandela.

    Unfortunately, such people are hard to come by and we will have to do without. Americans needn’t do so though. Standing head and shoulders above the current crop of world leaders, Barack Obama has it in him to be a New World Madiba.

    Should Americans not put him into the Oval Office in November, they will have only themselves to blame for the shit that then goes down.

    I do not like politicians, but Obama is way more than your average political opportunist. He has it in him to be a statesman and, should Americans follow his lead, they will find themselves in a position to both survive the coming Depression and turn their country around.

    Forget race and find each other. Drop whatever it is that you’re doing and put Obama in the White House. You won’t regret it.

    (This has been a public service announcement from a jaded foreigner who had all but given up on the U.S. and its people — bloggers excepted, of course — until he was given reason to believe that all is not lost. Yeah, Obama has been a ray of sunshine to more than just his constituents along the campaign trail; he’s caught the world’s attention and the world likes what it sees.)

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