Friday, March 28, 2008

Obama's speech about his minister

On 03-18-08 Barack Obama gave one of the, in my opinion, most important speeches about the state of race in America. If you haven’t seen in it I recommend that you do so. This speech was made in response to the criticism that he received for associating himself with the former reverend Jeremiah Wright. What one can typically expect in such a speech is a “running away” from such persons, from their remarks. In this case Barack Obama chose to address the race issue, that has become a central part of the primary race, and not only put it center stage but to shine the brightest light imaginable.

Jeremiah Wright, in the video in question, gave a fire and brimstone sermon that was filled with hate and anger, “unpatriotic” even. These offensive, divisive words that he used in this sermon were words of anger that were a reflection how people feel in the U.S. Who has not been angry about the war(s)? Who has not been angry about poverty? Who has not been angry about crime? Who has not been angry about racism? Who has not been angry at this country for its treatment of minorities, immigrants that live within its boundaries? Is his anger unjustified?

Although his statements were controversial, perhaps they were also plausible. Reverend Wright unveiled the kind of America nobody wants to acknowledge. People don’t want to accept the truth that there is still inequality in America and that our self-serving policies abroad have backfired. His attackers would rather sweep it under the rug than address the issues. The reality is that racism, both on an individual and institutional level, and white privilege remain in place. Non-white groups in America are treated as second-hand citizens. The African-American community is one of the most disadvantaged and underrepresented groups in the country that face the daily humiliation of living in a society whose structures disproportionately keep them at the bottom. It seems as though Hilary Clinton and any other white candidate don’t have to worry about their race or racism because their skin color is the norm. In academia, we’ve learned that whiteness is not seen as a race, but rather as a standard that goes unmarked and becomes invisible while the non-white groups are regarded as the other. This is built into our consciousness, racial policies, politics, and structures in general. Since it involves a form of discrimination, privilege is maintained. Another reality is that the United States has encouraged policies that often reflect its bias and do not represent the interests of the people in a given country. Take a look at our foreign policy towards the Middle East and the repercussions that it gave rise to. The fact that the commentators, on the one hand, did not try to understand the context of his statements and were quick to label him as anti-American and racist, while on the other hand, attempted to characterize the minister's entire 40 year career as a pastor by his statements is both an unfair assessment and misleading.

To clear up the air, Sen. Barack Obama said on an interview scheduled to air on Friday that he would have left his church if his pastor had not retired and had not acknowledged making comments that “deeply offended people.” Wright retired earlier this year before the events blew up. "I think he's saddened by what's happened, and I told him I feel badly that he has been characterized just in this one way and people haven't seen the broader aspect of him," Obama said.

Contributors: Adelma, Miguel and Shahzeen


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