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March 21, 2008

The Importance of Being Obama

Steven R. Berryman

The media fanfare trumpeted the coming of candidate Barack Obama’s urgent speech on race relations. Surely he could turn the audacious comments of his own Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright to make political hay, or at least defray the intense criticism of him and mitigate the close connection.


Senator Obama, “the everyman,” had his day and his say. Some say it was a brilliant speech, and it was. But to what seriousness do we ascribe a speech made under the tremendous duress of this circumstance? As with torture for example, is not a confession made under such duress non-admissible as testimony?


But the Reverend Wright was more than a pastor: he was Senator Obama’s claimed mentor and his spiritual advisor, who married him and christened his children. The title “Audacity of Hope” was borrowed from a Wright sermon by the senator for his own book. This is much more than a “crazy uncle,” which was the excuse du jour he used in the first attempt to gain distance from scandal.


The airwaves sizzled for three days with ugly recordings of the Reverend Wright, pastor of the Chicago church Senator Obama has called his own for 20 years. “It’s not God bless the USA, it’s God damn the USA,” the Reverend Wrights preached, along with accusations that whites are the ones keeping blacks down.


These outbursts were no anomaly, but were apparently in character. The church even sells recordings of its pastor’s sermons to raise extra cash, and was thus spreading the message far and wide like a disease. I cannot help but be reminded of the militant Islamists spreading their own brand of rage in the same exact way in order to gather followers and focus their energy.


We are then reminded in Obama’s speech that this is a typical bias for black churches, and that the anger is excusable due to the sins of the past. Senator Obama observed that it’s not discussed in polite company. What is “polite company?” Is it when the races are talking to each other?


But I don’t buy that. It must be the exception rather than the rule.


We have come too far since 1968 when we lost Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy in an awful crescendo to the civil rights movement. I was 10 years old at the time, and already had fond memories of colored friends in nursery school who were invited to my birthday parties by my parents. Later in life I have black and multi-ethnic friends and do not see their “color.” Bosses and teammates became friends at all of my workplaces. And we don’t let race hold us back.


I’m not saying that racism does not exist: seen it first hand working east of the Anacostia in D.C., in Boston and in Chicago at the Cabrini Greens project. But to fight it, you must overcome it, not relive it.


Back to the present.


Talk show host Oprah Winfrey had reportedly quit the same church in question here years ago. Why has she been silent as this firestorm rages?


Why had Barack Obama stayed as a parishioner and not confronted the Reverend Wright on the occasion of his racist remarks? Had he raised any objections even in private conversations? Sure! Senator Obama asks us to suspend reality here.


Why does Senator Obama the candidate seek to claim the mantle of leadership when he does not confront such obvious evil until the facts come to public light? That the pastor brought him to Jesus is not excuse enough. This makes the sin all the more egregious!


Senator Obama excuses anger in the white community as being a reasonable reaction to affirmative action and bussing to achieve racial equality. Do we need permission to feel the way we do? Why does the messianic candidate think he knows what is in the mind of others? Audaciously in that he, by his own admission, did not confront his own demons at the time when it was most appropriate to do so.


White apologists will no doubt love the speech, because they want the hope it entails. Does the phrase “Can we all just get along?” ring any bells? That phrase is just about as effective as “just say no” was to the war on drugs.


Now how about solutions as opposed to hope. How about conducting our lives in a colorblind fashion instead of looking for the feel-good approaches espoused while in political expediency mode?


It’s not just odd churches. We must examine institutions constructed ostensibly to promote equality that actually do the reverse.


Does the NAACP help or hurt racism in our time? When Guy Djoken plays the race card regarding the ICE-Illegal Alien detention program in conjunction with the Frederick County sheriff, is he really worried about “profiling?” No! It’s just another obstructionist ruse to get attention to a cause that amounts to keeping the races apart. The truth is that correct police profiling is an essential police tool used to protect us all.


It’s about time to deal with real issues and behaviors.


The Most Earnest Barack Obama cannot avoid the divisive issues of our day until they explode in his face if he aspires to be the leader of the free world.


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