Through The Static

March 19, 2008

Some thoughts on Obama’s speech

Filed under: Musings,Politics,Race — disciplepete @ 12:30 pm

Although this blog mostly posts news stories, I thought I would put down a few of my thoughts about Obama’s speech yesterday.

First, I thought it was interesting that the speech focused almost exclusively on race, given that the speech was delivered to mitigate the effects of Obama’s pastors comments, which touched not only on race but also attacked the U.S. Govt. and it’s actions throughout history. It seemed to me that Obama went all out to address White America’s discomfort with his pastor’s racial comments, but devoted minimal time to address the pastor’s “anti-American” comments. Shouldn’t those comments be accorded at least as much attention and explanation by Obama, considering he’s running for President? I think his failure to address those issues may give more fuel to his opponents at Faux News and elsewhere.

Also, the fact that Obama was a long time member of this church really surprises me. He’s a politician, and seems pretty intelligent, so couldn’t he foresee that his affiliation with this Church would give him political problems? The logical conclusion (in my view) would be that he agreed with his pastor to some extent on these issues, which is pretty surprising to me; he definitely never struck me as a radical. I might be wrong though; maybe there were other aspects of this church that were so valuable that Obama could overlook the politics.

I think it’s really cool though that Obama didn’t disown his pastor for political expediency, and gave a substantial speech on race. I’m sure, sadly, that many White Americans have never heard anything quite like his speech before; when the media run stories on Black anger or opinions about racism, it’s usually more radical guys like Farrakhan that are shown, who are easy targets for those trying to discredit them. Obama, on the other hand, came off as a reasonable person.

I guess time will tell the ultimate impact of this speech on Obama’s candidacy and on our country.

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2 Comments »

  1. “He’s a politician, and seems pretty intelligent, so couldn’t he foresee that his affiliation with this Church would give him political problems?”

    Hmmm… While I’m not an expert on Black churches in America, this matter is a bit more complicated because of race and, in particular, the history of Black churches’ roles as community centers and places in which to organize against issues such as lynching and segregation. The roots in fighting racism in America have its origins in the church, especially in Black America, and so to completely distance oneself as a Black community organizer from the church isn’t as simple or practical as it sounds.

    And then there’s the matter of Obama’s spirituality. Perhaps he did find some kind of spiritual peace or fulfillment in the church — whether or not he did, when looking at the larger scope of American history, when was the last time we elected a non-Christian into the oval office? There was even some controversy over electing JFK into office due to his Catholic faith.

    Though I am not a regular church-goer and am comfortable with my own spiritual ambiguity, I do recognize the importance of the Korean American church in American, especially in California. For over a century, it has be a site for organizing against Japanese colonialism, job placement, English classes, shelter, and community-building. While I am no fan of the political drama the perpetually appears to erupt between KA churches, the evangelism, or even political indoctrination of some/many of the congregations, if I ever did organize in the KA community or wanted to be perceived as in solidarity with the KA community, to completely cut ties with, reject, or divest myself from the KA church would be disingenuous and would be communicating a message that I wasn’t truly open to working with or on behalf of most of Korean America.

    Therefore, Obama’s affiliation with the church, as someone who appears to wish to be perceived as in solidarity with people of color, and especially Black America, is actually a complicated, but intelligent decision. Difficult to navigate, true, but not unintelligent.

    Obama’s speech was by no means perfect, and I’ll be the first to say so — especially in terms of the ideological placating he’s engaged with in talking about such sensitive issues. BUT, I do think his minimal addressing of the “anti-American” comments was strategic in that he didn’t want to go on the defensive. He didn’t want to go on the offensive. I think he wanted to go beyond the binaries of rhetoric and earnestly attempt to engage in a type of dialogue on race while trying to convey the message of: “Wake up! Why are we distracting ourselves from what should be the central issues of this campaign! Okay, if you want to talk about race, then let’s take race seriously.”

    Imperfect speech on the dream of a more perfect union. And even with my political cynicism, I was blown away by his audacity to not only address these issues, but the way in which he brought them to the table. And the fact that we’re still talking about it speaks to the weight of its importance.

    Hopefully we’ll continue to speak on it after this week, or even this month. There were so many complex nuances and ways in which he tried to navigate a way to speak on certain things that it’s the type of speech that deserves study, on not just its ideological content, but the kind of strategies Obama himself are negotiating in order to make sure that the heart of the matter is able to be communicated to a majority of his audience.

    Comment by Aliiiiiiice — March 20, 2008 @ 6:32 am | Reply

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful reply. You’re dead on about the Black church’s important historic role in battling injustice. Your reference to the Korean church is interesting too, I was aware that early Korean immigrants were activists re:Japanese colonialism and other issues, didn’t know that the activity centered around the church though until you mentioned it.

    I totally understand Obama’s affiliation with the Black church, I am just surprised that he would choose a church with a pastor such as Jeremiah Wright. I guess I am so cynical that it’s hard for me to even imagine a politician keeping it real, I would just assume that he would find as non-controversial of a Black Church as possible. The question is, do all Black Churches feature preachers with similar rhetoric as Wright? I’d believe that there are plenty that do, but even with my lack of experience with Black Churches, I think it’s reasonable to believe that there are Black Churches that do not feature Wright-esque rhetoric. And I’m surprised that Barackstar didn’t join one of those. But I do give him props for staying in that church and not throwing Wright under the bus, good for him to be unpolitican-like and have some integrity.

    I agree, it was pretty bold for him to make the speech. It was in the league of Malcolm X by politician standards. He dropped some serious knowledge that I didn’t learn until college Black Studies classes (such as the incorporation of slavery into the Constitution for 20yrs, FHA loans, analysis of Jim Crow effects, etc.) Now if it took a college Black studies class to make me aware of the stuff Obama was talking about when describing racial inequality and it’s history in the U.S., I’m pretty sure many Americans had never heard anything like it, sadly. Definitely a great speech by a great speaker.

    Comment by disciplepete — March 20, 2008 @ 3:15 pm | Reply


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