Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's Philadelphia speech

Barack Obama gave a speech today in Philadelphia, a specch about race relations, in an effort to address the problems that had been raised by the video clips of his pastor that have circled the internet and every news program. His speech did more than just confirm his condemnation of Rev Wright (although in fact he also embraced the anger of Reverend Wright), it also used that as a jumping off point to confront race directly. Obama says that he has heard things from Rev Wright that he (Obama) disagreed with, and I believe Obama would disagree that angry rhetoric would help a particular racial issue (as a tactical matter). But I also believe Obama would understand the rage, since he has surely encountered prejudice against himself while in school in the US. Even as he was elected the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, that very fact in and of itself indicates how blacks are viewed even in the most elite segments of society.

But Obama seems to want us to understand he does see the same world we do. He talked about how bad things are in black neighborhoods, how the under-funded and thus understaffed and under-equipped schools can not provide black kids with the education needed to compete, and thus they can not get jobs to provide for families (and both kids and adults may turn to crime). We, as a nation, have made strides, but clearly not enough. He even mentioned blacks own complicity in some of their problems, and the possible negative effects of welfare. But he also talked about how lower and middle class whites have suffered recently too, seeing their wage stagnate, their credit card and home equity debt go up, and just recently seeing their home values start to tumble in many places. He talked about how we are not confronting the issues of race, not even during tense times of clear differences like during the OJ trial or Katrina. We know there are problems but no one wants to talk about them for fear of saying the wrong thing. But Obama did talk some about them, positioning them as mutual problems, things we need to take responsibility for so that we can turn to other quality of life issues like education, health care and jobs.

So I thought it was a good speech and I urge everyone to read it. I might reprint it as a post. The other interesting thing is that this speech provided Obama with an opportunity to make a pitch to Pennsylvanians. He gave this speech now, in this state. He gave working class white males something to think about for the next four weeks. Hillary might find that some of her support here fades. The goofy way the democrats allocate delegates, proportionally, guarantees that neither candidate will have enough delegates by the convention to clinch the nomination, but it appears Obama will have more than Clinton. I sortta hope now that Clinton doesn’t get the nomination. She is beginning to remind me of John Kerry, and I am getting a bad feeling about that.

1 comment:

Schultz said...

Nice post Ed. I think the speech was brilliant, and as Khari Mosely put it, a "Clutch performance".

As an Obama supporter(and pledged delegate) I am glad that this issue was brought to our attention now rather than October when Obama would have been under more pressure to "disown" Reverend Wright. I agree with his statement that you do not disown people you know just because they speak of something you "profoundly disagree with." In today's political world, doing what Obama did takes guts. It would have been easier to write off Wright but then in that case we would not have this opportunity to have a dialog about race relations in this country.