For months this primary election has been clouded in the muddy waters of race and gender. It has been reduced to thirty second sound bites that self-proclaimed experts debate to the point that any semblance of practical meaning has been removed. And furthermore these issues which should be used to unify have only been used to further polarize us.
Tuesday Barack Obama transcended all of it. In a brief speech lasting just over thirty minutes Obama did more to take the issue of race off the back burner and into American living rooms than anyone has in the last 20 years. He was eloquent, direct, personal and effective and without a modicum of fear broke down the issue of race not just from a black perspective, but from an American perspective.
In the midst of brutal character attacks for the volatile anti-American words of his pastor Jeremiah Wright, Obama has been pressured from both sides to renounce Wright and cut all ties with the man who married him and baptized his children. In his speech he addressed this issue head on and in typical fashion without avoidance or even an undertone of politics he transcended this too.
Obama stated about Wright, “I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can 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 by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.”
Obama recognized that the current racial culture in this country is to ignore completely those things that divide us. While in his opinion perhaps we should celebrate these things not as divisive, but as the very characteristics that make us who we are. Obama displayed poise as he described the dilemma Black Americans face in the wake of so much past hardship. Then seamlessly went into described the feeling of resentment among white Americans toward well intentioned, but perhaps misguided attempts to level the playing field such as affirmative action.
John McCain has had a spiritual advisor named Rod Parsley who has said in no uncertain terms that he supports the complete eradication of Islam. Parsley even goes as far as to call Islam a “false religion.” He said in 2006, “A spiritual invasion is taking place.man your battle stations, ready your weapons lock and load.”
One would think that if Obama gets berated for his affiliation with Reverend Wright it is only fair that McCain to should face the same scrutiny. Or maybe the American people are more willing to crucify Reverend Wright for suggesting we have made mistakes than to go after Rod Parsley for saying we should eliminate an entire religion. I would like to think that we are not that stupid, but I suppose time will tell.