Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Negative Side Of "The Speech"

There were a few aspects of Barack Obama's speech about race in American society which I found really disappointing. These were:

1) This time, we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

The cause of job losses in the United States are many. Among them are "the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit." But also involved is "that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job." And the issue, though Obama implies otherwise here ("that someone who doesn't look like you"), is not racism. It is that someone is taking your job. At a lower wage. And, oh, perhaps someone who isn't in this country legally. Our concern about the corporation interested only in profits and the government that aids and abets it must not blind us to the reality that the same private sector is happy to lobby that same government for policies increasing the labor pool (with legal or illegal workers) and thereby drive wages down.

2) I can no more disown him than I can disown my white grandmother — a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed her by on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

That was a long time ago, Senator, in a land now barely recognizable. It is a cheap shot against your own mother.

3) I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community.

This speech was given in response to the controversy over Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Ultimately, though it was clever to pose the issue as to "disown" an individual (no one could be for that- in fact, Pat Buchanan commended Obama for standing by his man!), there is still the matter of an adult sitting week after week (if in fact he did attend church regularly), year after year, insufficiently concerned about the rantings of an irrational man to raise an objection.

Looking back over the last two postings, the positive and the negative, I can't avoid the conclusion that it was a very good speech, dealing as it was with two very difficult issues- Reverend Wright and race- in nearly as effective a way as possible. However, the major purpose, understandably, of the address was to enhance Obama's bid to gain the presidential nomination and I can't figure how that will play out.

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