Obama Addresses Our National “Racial Stalemate”
(March 18, Philadelphia, PA) If democratic presidential hopeful, Barak Obama’s speech given here earlier today has any longevity beyond the 37 minutes it took to deliver it and the hours since spent analyzing it, is largely irrelevant. Virtually forced to speak about race relations in America after his pastor, Jeremiah Wright’s controversial remarks entered the public domain, the Illinois Senator’s speech was political, personal and extremely important. It was a speech that only he could give.
As the product of a mixed race, broken home, the Harvard educated lawyer is poised to become the first African-American presidential candidate. Currently engaged in a bitter, often hostile, contentious battle with his opponent, New York Senator, Hillary Clinton, their contest is as historic as it has been divisive. Issues long simmering throughout our society, matters anchored to the thick, gnarled roots of history, have emerged in all their ugliness demanding attention.
Obama, as the first viable black presidential candidate obviously injects an overdose of race into the contest while the infusion of gender stares out at us as Mrs. Clinton seeks to be our Commander-in-Chief. Race and gender; two long time, hot-button issues not only in politics but in society as a whole. As each issue is possessed of its own complexity, history and legacy, they are not of equal weight in the collective conscious nor in reality. The differentiation between them is obvious and apparent. To equate the struggle of women to vote and for equal rights in the workplace is to put it on par with one of the most sordid, tragic, cancerous chapters in our nation’s history.
Obama deftly presented his thoughts on the state of race relations today and yesterday emphasizing the “generational” differences in the black populace. Collective memory is as long as is the history that shaped it. Anger bred from centuries of inhumanity once condoned by the US Constitution does not easily diminish. When the ramifications of that history reverberate throughout every aspect of our culture to this day, minds must be opened or, if not opened, at least exposed to some simple yet profound truths.
The primary fight between Clinton and Obama has been hardcore, sometimes counterintuitive but, in many ways, played out predictably. The demographics of the votes cast reflect the inherent divisions within our society despite evidence that significant numbers of voters have not aligned with race or gender. It has all been confusing, to a degree surprising and sadly, virtually preordained to have devolved to the place it has.
Senator Obama, no matter his true motivations, reasons or purposes did, in fact, across the street from where our Constitution was written, stepped into the breach having taken ownership of the podium exposed by this devolution of discourse. Attitudes and opinions were not necessarily Obama’s targets; after all, they are notoriously difficult to change. It appeared that he was after our nuanced neural processes, that mysterious, infinitely complex apparatus from which our attitudes and opinions form and reside. It was if we were all being asked just to “think” about this, just to try to imagine the other side of the coin be it black and white, male or female, us or them. For all our technical sophistication and digitally enhanced awareness, we should be challenged to think.
Maybe time does heal all wounds, a lot of time. Perhaps after the last of the generations that remember America before women could vote, the Civil Rights movement and subsequent legislation, Jim Crow, forced bussing, race riots, water hoses as crowd control, boycotts, marches, the Equal Rights Amendments fight, the 1940’s, ‘50’s, ‘60’s and 70’s have passed on, race and gender will exist less conspicuously in the fabric of that society, those future days and times.
We know that thus far time has not promoted much healing; actually, time has been an enemy in the sense that we have allowed far too much to elapse before being asked to think about the things we need to think about. That time elapsed saw many well intentioned but inherently flawed attempts to reconcile the past with the present. They are far too numerous to mention. Most did more harm than good and what good did manage to see the light of day was usually tainted and blemished from the fires that forged it.
Possibly we are moving to a better place. The issue of “race” as a black and white history, of one intimately and monogamously related to our Civil War is morphing into the multicultural spectrum that defines more and more of us. The evolution of our nation has been in a new phase for many years with the influx of non-eastern Europeans; Hispanics, Asians and mixed race people of every combination are more numerous now than Caucasians. This should not be viewed with fear or associated as a cause for any of our many social problems. It is what it is, we are who we are.
The question of whether or not having a black man as the President of the United States will or will not promote any kind of “healing”, whatever that means, should not be asked at all. It is unanswerable on its face. A more appropriate question and one with far broader ramifications for our future as a united country might be, can this man make us think and are we willing to think about what we need to?
To be continued…sometime later this year.
Copyright © 2008 TBC All Rights Reserved
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