Sunday, March 23, 2008

Not that Obama speech again?

My wife exclaimed this morning “not that Obama speech again? Can’t they let it go?”, as we watched the Sunday morning talk-fest. But as I watched “Meet the Press”, something that had been rattling around the back of my brain was pulled to the front. Peggy Noonan, in New York City, was talking about how Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s sermons, or at least the snippet’s shown on youtube and news programs, are far outside “the mainstream”. The rest of the panel included the editor of Newsweek Jon Meechem, NBC’s chief political correspondent Chuck Todd and the columnist Eugene Robinson.

Now, I don’t know Peggy Noonan’s background, but given the fact that she is now a reporter of sorts, doesn’t she know the terrible poverty that many, I believe most, Afican Americans live in today? Or that that poverty is a direct result of the centuries of racism in the county? We may be to the point where white suburbanites claim not to be racist, where business people actually want to hire African Americans because it would demonstrate their company’s commitment to diversification, where Universities also want to admit minority students for the same reason. But the poverty that has been created in the inner cities and in poor rural communities has become self sustaining. Poor parents can’t get jobs because they aren’t qualified and don’t have needed experience. So the neighborhoods they live in have a lousy tax base and the schools suffer. The kids don’t get educated and see their parents not working, and so do not believe they will get hired anywhere. And they are right, no one will hire minority kids fresh out of school who can’t read well. And the cycle perpetuates itself. It surprised me that Eugene Robinson (the token African American) didn’t point this out, but maybe he knew no one would hear him.

Not to say things haven’t gotten better, there are now African American millionaires and an African American middle class (although there was some of that even in the heyday of segregation). But, as the line goes, the poor still can’t buy a job. Somewhere I heard a number that 30% of African Americans agree with Rev Wright, and believe there is a white conspiracy to keep them down. Listening to Peggy Noonan, I don’t blame them.

Of course, as Mr. Obama says, for African Americans to point at whites and say, ‘You deserve 9/11 for all the bad things you have done’, that is not productive. It is no more productive for whites to tell African Americans that all their problems are their own fault. But that doesn’t mean I know anything more about it than that. Peggy Noonan did say one somewhat intelligent thing; that in making his speech Mr. Obama had moved into uncharted territory. Indeed, if we do try to start a dialogue base on Mr. Obama’s speech, we will be also be in uncharted territory.

I also saw Heather Arnet and the Rev Ricky Burgess on the KP/PG thing, with Ken Rice (with a deep, worried looking furrow on his brow) and Dennis Roddy. They were speaking as Clinton and Obama supporters respectively. Arnet was first out of the gate (so to speak), she talked for quite a while, about healthcare and how good Hillary is. Ricky Burgess tried to get a word in edgewise a few times, and when he finally did get a chance to speak he also went on for a while. His focus was a bit more abstract, about how Obama could be the leader who could unite the country. Although I don’t remember him mentioning race specifically, that was certainly the subtext.

As surrogates for their candidates, Arnet and Burgess bore an eerie verbal resemblance to them. Arnet was somewhat more practical and specific, and Burgess more theoretical and global. Disappointingly, though, I didn’t feel any issues were resolved. Burgess did bring up the Obama campaign argument that if Obama has the lead in pledged delegates, he should be declared the winner. Arnet countered that Hillary had won “must-win” states for democrats, and the super delegates should take that into account. Dennis Roddy pointed out that the contests so far have been (largely) limited to democratic voters. So Obama’s lead is in democratic voters, and Clinton has won contests in important states only in voting with other democrats. Since all these contests have so far involved only democrat party voters, they really say nothing about the electibility of the candidates at all. Again, I don’t know what should happen, but it is possible (if dangerous) that the only fair thing is to let this go to the convention with two candidates.


Schultz said...

"It surprised me that Eugene Robinson (the token African American) didn’t point this out, but maybe he knew no one would hear him."

Given the topic of this blog post I was surprised that you used the word "Token" to describe Eugene Robinson, who happens to be a very knowledgeable and talented journalist and political analyst. Just because Robinson was the only African American on the panel one shouldn't presume (even if it was in jest) that his presence was a result of his skin color.

Do you see how that remark could be considered a slap in the face to persons of color who have worked very hard to get to where they are today?

Bram Reichbaum said...

Thanks for watching and sharing; I was sleeping in. When you say:

"Somewhere I heard a number that 30% of African Americans agree with Rev Wright, and believe there is a white conspiracy to keep them down."

I wonder where you got this; I don't believe that is what Wright believes or was saying. I think he believes racism has played a large and looming role in this country, and there is still a considerable amount of racism and prejudice out there. To that extent, and to the extent those facts cause a certain amount of anger and animosity, then yes I believe he is in the mainstream.

Also, to extent that Wright was saying, "You deserve 9/11 for what you've done," I think all he was saying is that we have a long history in engaging in elective warfare, and of stirring up hatred and the thirst for vengeance. So to the extent he was saying anything like that (and he was speaking about a white army veteran on FOX whom he agreed with), then yes I also agree with him. Of course to a certain extent, what went around came around.

EdHeath said...

I can see that, but what I was trying to capture was the irritation I felt at the fact Eugene Robinson was the only African American on the panel. The pundit's smugness was very obnoxious. I was just surprised that no one called them on that, but I guess there is more loyalty between pundits than between a pundit and a politician.

EdHeath said...

Bram, obviously our comments crossed, my previous comment was intended for Chris.

I honestly don't remember where I heard the 30% figure, and I can really only be sure of the white conspiracy part. I might have heard it on the PBS news hour or Washington Week. I would agree that Wright was not talking about a white conspiracy there, pretty much I think you hit the nail on the head about his view of racism. I think that no small number of white Americans believe that racism is a thing of the past, but no small number of African Americans know better.

As far as the 9/11 remarks go, I assume that Rev Wright is addressing the behavior of the US government in being as thoughtless and racist abroad as they have been at home, and that this behavior was catching up with all of us. I believe the specific causes of 9/11, as I understand it (having to do with the US presence in Saudi Arabia) actually bear that notion out somewhat. FWIW.

Char said...

Jeremiah Wright is not running for president, Barack Obama is. Obama has no more responsibility for what comes out of Wright’s mouth than Hillary does in trying to keep Bill’s pants zipped up. Barack has no more responsibility for Wright’s words and actions than he does Dick Cheney’s words and actions. Maybe even less …… Dick Cheney is Obama’s distant cousin! They are related!

Those who have come to admire and respect Obama (I’m one) should quit trying to rationalize Wright’s words which Obama himself has clearly said are divisive, hateful, inexcusable and yes, he denounced them. (Something Hillary has yet to do regarding Bill’s actions, BTW)

Yes, there are still white people who hate black people and black people who hate white people. In a 100 years I’m sure we’ll still be able to find a few. But Obama’s point is we, as a nation, have come so far and it hurts the cause for EVERYONE not to acknowledge this. Obama’s point is his sheer existence is the proof ……. He is child conceived of a black man and a white woman, he has attended the best schools, his economic status is probably in the top 2% of the nation, he is a sitting U.S. Senator, he’s within an inch from being the Democratic nominee for President and from there just another inch from being the President of the United States.

So can we all please spend our valuable time looking and listening to what the candidates THEMSELVES have to say? What the candidates THEMSELVES have done? If we keep giving the sensationalistic media the ratings they desire ….. they’ll just keep giving us more of the same. Framing the debate in lurid terms, defining non-issues as issues and then we’ll never progress anywhere.

EdHeath said...

Well, Char, I honestly had the impression that Obama was trying to make some points about race in America, that maybe he was opening a dialogue on it. And my point in discussing Jeremiah Wright's words was to point out that maybe they are not so far out of the mainstream for some members of the African American community. At least in so far as they give perhaps poorly chosen words to a sense of frustration in that community (at how much some things have *not* changed).

Really, when you say that as a nation, we have come very far, are you talking for the 17% of African American males unemployed in the city? The African Americans living in neighborhoods more segregated than in most cities in the country, and with poorly performing schools? Maybe we have come somewhat further, but the neighborhoods of Homewood, Manchester, the Hill, Lincoln-Larimer and others still need … something, a lot of help, some factories in the area to provide jobs, better schools or maybe just a grocery store. You’ll have to forgive, but I think we are doing a great injustice to a quarter of the city if we don’t have a discussion on race.

Char said...

My comments were not pointed toward you and your opinions/observations regarding race relations. Not talking about unfortunate conditions in our own city. Rather .... was agreeing with your wife that I cannot bring myself to listen to one more pundit, one more run of that tape!

I wholeheartedly agree that honest, earnest discussion between the races is needed before things can move to the next level. And there is a "next level" because we have come a long way. As Obama explained, to not acknowledge the progress we've made is to cheat us all of the real hope there is to savor and to keep us all stuck in the past with the Reverend.

But any way you look at it, endless rehash by pundits, local or national, about how Obama may or may not be responsible for another man's words .... that is not the honest "dialogue" needed here.

EdHeath said...

Well, I agree the discussion needs to move away from Obama and Rev Wright. I think I was particularly peeved myself at the way Meet The Press handled the discussion, smirking pundits agreeing that Obama's call for a national discussion meant they should again attack Rev Wright and complain about having to talk about race.

I will say that I wonder how much progress has been made in this city, from the African American point of view. Now, that should take into account the depressed nature of the region and the lack of progress in the nation as a whole. A recent NBC poll has 43% of polled respondents saying they are worse off today than four years ago, with 34% saying better of and 21% saying they are the same. I still have problems with the “progress we’ve made” notion, but I am willing to be open- minded and listen to all sides. Indeed I hope to hear from more sides.