I may be the only person who’s not become worshipful of Obama’s speech on race and religion and who finds it more disturbing the more I think about it. But then, I am.
At its core, his speech is more not less divisive. For his real message about Jeremiah Wright and his words was: It’s a black thing; you wouldn’t understand.
By putting himself in the position of explaining and justifying Wright and thus his association with him, Obama may have repudiated Wright’s worst words but he explained them as the product of a racial experience rather than racism.
Then he tried to dig himself out of the hole he dug for his white grandmother by calling her “a typical white person” and, worse, by saying that such typical white people are scared of black people. His spokesman made it no better when he said to Huffington Post that “her fears were understandable and typical of those often shared by her generation.” So now the Obama campaign finds itself in a position of not only explaining and justifying Wright’s racism but also whites’ racism and calling it understandable. Now it’s a white thing; you wouldn’t understand.
This is not ending separation. And the pity of that is that Obama could have done the opposite, which is what I wished for in my post the other day. He could have declared himself an American of every race, thus no race. That was his promise when he emerged on the national scene in his Democratic convention speech. Nick Kristof reminded me of it yesterday:
In that speech, Mr. Obama declared that “there is not a black America and a white America… . There’s the United States of America.” That’s a beautiful aspiration, and we’re making progress toward it. But this last week has underscored that we’re not nearly there yet.
Nor is Obama.
The discussion is reaching an absurd level as the Obama campaign gives The New York Times a picture of Bill Clinton meeting Jeremiah Wright in the White House, as if a meeting is an endorsement and mind meld. This morning, Matt Lauer on today gasped that this came on 9/11 — but not that 9/11; it was a few years earlier — and in the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Then Joe Scarborough said that it’s rather ridiculous to attack your opponent because her husband once met with the minister you’re defending.
I know the popular thing to do is to gush over Obama’s speech. I’m hearing no criticism and little analysis of it in media or conversation. So maybe it’s just me. I wouldn’t understand.