The real meaning of Obama’s race speech
I had read Obama’s speech when he gave it on March 18, and we had a big discussion about it at the time. But it was not until the beginning of this week that I listened to the whole thing on YouTube, and I have to say again what a high-toned leftist b.s artist this man is. He’s smart, and he’s got all the moves and personal and intellectual qualities to wow liberals, and he also impresses many conservatives by going beyond the usual black resentments—such as writing with real sensitivity and eloquence about the mixture of good and bad in his own church and in any community, such as calling America a great and good country, such as acknowledging that whites have a grievance about racial preferences (though he doesn’t actually say it’s a legitimate grievance), such as criticizing Jeremiah Wright for having a static view of race relations and not seeing the progress that has occurred.
But now stop for a moment and think of that: white conservatives are impressed with Obama because he acknowledges that there has been racial progress in this country. Because he’s not a complete nut like Wright who denies that there’s been any progress, therefore Obama deserves credit as representing something new and wonderful in black America. Sounds like the soft bigotry of low expectations to me.
A correspondent of mine couldn’t get over the fact that a black politician had made these positive statements about America and had showed that he understood the white side of the argument. But—and here is the core of Obama’s deceptive technique—because my correspondent was so taken with the seemingly nice and large-minded aspects of the speech, she missed the conceptual core of it, which undercuts all the positive parts. Obama, while criticizing individual (though mostly unspecified) statements by Jeremiah Wright, nevertheless excuses Wright’s hatred as a product of white discrimination. Further, Obama says, with maximum clarity, that it is whites’ responsibility to close the racial divide, which they must do by acknowledging that white discrimination is the past and present cause of black inequality and black anger, and by taking all steps that are needed to equalize the races. Underneath the uplifting tone and folderol, underneath the warm patriotic sounds, underneath the genuine sensitivity to human complexity, the speech represents a cartoonish, leftist-black assault on America. We are a racist country, and we deserve the demented accusations of the Rev. Wrights of the world, until, through the socialist reconstruction of our country, true racial equality is achieved.
To which I add: but since such racial equality cannot be achieved, we are a racist guilty country forever.
What we have in this speech, then, is what I described in 1994 as “the war against white America.” But people do not realize that it is a war because it is expressed in polite tones and eloquent phrases.
Here are the passages within the speech, which—though mixed with other passages saying things that conservatives swooned over, such as acknowledging the point of view of whites—form a coherent argument that makes a lie out of the nice parts. In the below excerpts, I’ve bolded the key phrases and bolded, in red, my own bracketed comment:
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. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger [of Rev. Wright] 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….To sum up Obama’s points along with my gloss on them:
(1) Wright’s anger is real, it’s caused by real racial injustice.
(2) The country can move beyond this anger.
(3) To go beyond the anger, both blacks and whites must do something.
(4) Blacks for their part must “insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life.” Two things are to be noticed here: (a) justice, i.e., equality of results, is currently being denied blacks, just as Wright says, and this continuing denial of “justice” justifies Wright’s incendiary anger; and (b) blacks don’t actually have to do anything; they just have to demand “justice,” i.e. equality of results. From whom? From the whites. But the absurdity of what Obama is saying here is even more primary than that. He’s telling blacks that to get over their own anger, they must continue to demand that whites give them everything they want. Blacks must insist on full equality of results in every aspect of American life. But, of course, since anger results from not getting what one wants, and since equality of results is not possible, following Obama’s advice can only make blacks angrier than they already are.
(5) Whites for their part must recognize that the black anger is a real and appropriate response to the ills of blacks (i.e., the inequality of black results as compared with white results) that are caused by past and present anti-black discrimination.
(6). Finally and most importantly, whites must, through their own actions, wipe out the consequence of discrimination. What this means is that whites must equalize the condition of blacks in every area of American life. Which means, as I said above, that until the black condition is equalized with that of whites, Rev. Wright-style hatred of America and of whites will continue to be justified.
(7) As a coda to all this, in order to end the anger,”we” must become our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers—meaning of course that whites must become blacks’ keepers and make blacks one with themselves. Until this brotherly merging and equalization occur, the black anger will continue to be justified.
Larry S. writes:
The irony is beyond belief. I am sending you this email from my office at a public school in California. When I tried to access your 1994 comments, I couldn’t because it was blocked by the district blocking software. Apparently, it was a link to American Renaissance, and a white racialist organization is not to be tolerated. However, I am able to access the Nation of Islam website without a problem—hence, the irony. And just for good measure I could have joined the Communist Party while sitting at my desk!Adela Gereth writes:
You write: “To which I add: but since such racial equality cannot be achieved, we are a racist guilty country forever.”E. writes:
Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 27, 2008 01:30 PM | Send