I just noticed that my name comes right before Chad Hermann’s on the Tube City Almanac’s blog roll for Pittsburgh.
Bram at the Comet posted about Chad’s four volume analysis of Obama’s speech on race. Like Bram (I assume), I wanted to wait until Chad had finished before posting about it. But today was one of the days where I leave CMU a bit early to go to the Southside to prepare and/or review taxes. So I couldn’t post at 4:30.
I rather like Bram’s comparison of Chad to Ahab. Personally I feel like I read a work by Melville going through the four parts of Chad’s criticism of Obama. After all, Obama’s speech was pretty long to begin with, and to reprint it and criticize it, sentence by sentence and paragraph by paragraph....with repeated declarations that Obama is lying, or obfuscating or whatever, over and over. We get it, you don’t like the way the man talks.
Bram posits four overarching themes for Chad’s four volumes, including this one at number four: “The speech was not written as well as it could have been.”. But really I think there is one theme running through Chad litany of criticisms. Obama could not have listened to Reverend Wright for twenty years without being influenced by him, without having developed a hatred of the white man as deep as the Reverend’s. By which Chad is saying that the Civil Rights movement is over, should be declared dead. Any further progress needed by anyone is the responsibility of that person. Dress neatly, pay attention in school, read books, speak clearly and without colloquialism. In other words, behave like a white person. Take responsibility. It’s not that there is institutionalized racism, it’s that white people don’t hire African American’s who act black. So as long as you have children out of wedlock and don’t have a proper family structure, you are responsible for your own situation and should not ask white people for help (much less demand it).
But as I say, Chad seems to believe Obama is a fraud because he won’t take a side and either say Wright is absolutely wrong or say that Wright is in fact right. In other words, Chad is angry at Obama because Obama won’t end his own candidacy. Obama is the first African American to be the front runner in a presidential primary. To reach that position, Obama must have constituencies in both the African American and the white communities. And he can’t let either constituency stare at the other one too long, think too hard about how much that different skin tone next to you has a different life. But Chad seems to want Obama to either say to the black faces in the crowd to grow up and take responsibility or to say to the white faces that its their fault so many blacks are poor. Instead, Obama makes a speech that hints at both, but lets both sides off the hook too. Because that’s what you do in a presidential campaign, you talk, and you try to make it sound fresh and new (like it’s the first time an African American has been the front runner in a presidential primary).
Whatever Obama's personal beliefs on race are, he seems to want to project a balanced view, allowing for the views of both African-Americans and whites. I actually disagree with Obama that the United States has made great progress towards equal rights, I think a fair amount of segregation has simply transformed into ossified ghettos. But regardless, to accept Chad's position that Obamais a fraud, we have to agree that his mind is so weak as to be influenced by twenty years of Sundays with Reverend Wright. My feeling on that is that Obama has been African American all his life, he almost certainly developed some ideas before moving to Chicago (albeit in Hawaii, Indonesia, Los Angeles, New York and Cambridge). Just like many, many undergraduates have read Marx and Lenin and only a few have become radicals, so too Mr Obama could listen to the Reverend Wright (whom I believe is only occasionally as dramatic as Youtube would have us believe) and not be turned into foaming at the mouth bomb thrower.