Obama’s speech was simply brilliant. He said exactly what needed to be said about race and religion in America. Drawing on his half-black, half-white roots, Obama urged Americans to break “a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years.”
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.
Obama said sermons delivered by his longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, “rightly offend white and black alike.” While Obama rejected what Wright said, he also embraced the man who inspired his Christian faith, officiated at his wedding, baptized his two daughters and has been his spiritual guide for nearly 20 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.
Obama said he came to Wright’s church because he was inspired by Wright’s message of hope and his inspiration to rebuild the black community.
Obama said Wright’s comments have sparked a discussion that reflect complexities of race in the United States that its people have never really resolved.
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.
Obama said anger over those injustices often find voice in black churches on Sunday mornings.
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.
Obama argued that the anger often distracts from solving real problems and bringing change. But he said it also exists in some segments of the white community that feels blacks are often given an unfair advantage through affirmative action.
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.
We can play Reverend Wrightâs 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 sheâs 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, weâll 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, âNot this time.â?