Obama on race

If you haven’t seen or read Obama’s speech on the Reverend White, you should.  Or if you’re stretched for time, Clive Crook edits it down to the best bits – which are still pretty extensive. He really isn’t just a pretty face.

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wilful
wilful
13 years ago

It was pretty good, I have to say.

Maybe a sign of the deep partisan divides in the US (and here I guess) that it probably wont make any difference.

Ken Parish
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Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
13 years ago

The YouTube video of the whole thing is embedded in Thursday’s Missing Link, which also links to a roundup of MSM critical analyses of the speech.

Alastair
Alastair
13 years ago

It was a very fine speech!

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
13 years ago

Is this the throw grandma under the train speech?

M

Kevin Rennie
13 years ago

Great debate about whether this episode is a positive or negative for Barack. Hillary is currently well ahead in Pennsylvania. By the way it’s the Reverend Wright. White is a colourful slip though.

John Greenfield
John Greenfield
13 years ago

His explicit embrace of Israel and blaming “radical Islam” for conflict in the middle east – both in the same sentence – was extraordinary. Good on him!

Ken Parish
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Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
13 years ago

Re Jason at #4. I was going to say that this incident just shows that Obama is no different from any other amoral politician prepared to do whatever it takes to win. But then, I can’t immediately bring to mind one who has been prepared to slander his own grandmother to win.

Moreover, although I don’t buy the more extreme attempts to associate Obama with Rev Wright, it really is difficult to credit that he could have attended this church regularly for 20 years and not ever become aware of Wright’s hateful black power brand of oratory.

Then again, Clinton’s current stance of dragging down Obama at all costs notwithstanding that she simply can’t win except by dividing the Democratic Party in a manner that might well cripple it semi-permanently makes her unfit to govern IMO, and John McCain with his simplistic Bush-style rhetoric on Iraq is an even more depressing prospect. God help the rest of the world with any one of them as President. The only thing that makes it tolerable is that any one of the three will probably be a marginal improvement on Bush, but that’s a very small consolation.

Ken Parish
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Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
13 years ago

Indeed Hillary’s no slouch in the complete bullshit stakes either. I’m glad I don’t have to decide which one of these shysters to vote for.

Tim Lambert
13 years ago

Charles Murray:
Murray just has hurt feelings about The Bell Curve, I hear from the bleachers. Well, yeah. But the problem generalizes to everyone who tries to be honest about race, and now it has happened to Barack Obama. Take, for example, the treatment of his reference to his white grandmother. Of course you can go after him in all the ways that people have gone after himif what you want to do is go after him. But suppose you approach Obamas text under the twin assumptions that (a) he is trying to communicate with you, and, (b) your obligation is to make a good-faith effort to understand his meaning. I read what he said about his grandmother, and his words left me in no doubt about two things: He really loves his grandmother, and he was saying something important about race that I recognized from my own experience. I bet many of the people who have slammed him recognize it from their own experience too. The guy was being honest, and he was being right. What the hell more do you want?

Ah, but he was trashing his grandmother for political purposes, he was equating what she said with the much more terrible things that Rev. Wright said, blah, blah, blah. Yesif you insist on interpreting what he said purely as an exercise in political positioning. No, if you go to his text with the intention of trying to understand what Obama thinks about race.

James Farrell
James Farrell
13 years ago

Glenn Greenwald at Salon points out the double standard that makes Obama accountable for Wright’s comments while not raising an eyebrow when any number of Republican candidates snuggle up to white preachers whose comments are at least twice as odious as Wright’s. Yet the sentiments that candidates seem to endorse is in principle a more important issue than how personally close they are to the people expressing those sentiments.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
13 years ago

I couldn’t care less what church Obama went to. If he subscribed to all the wild opinions of his preacher, we would have known by now. What has made me reassess my opinion of him as a decent fellow is that he had to drag his still living grandmother into the dirt over this.

King Tut
King Tut
13 years ago

Perhaps people need to view or read the speech.

It is possibly the best speech I have ever heard.

It perhaps would have been helpful for Jason to be given english lessons before entering Australia, ken on the other hand has no excuse

Tim Lambert
13 years ago

I note further that Steve Sailer (jason’s link) pretends that Obama was writing about the same incident in his book, even though the details don’t match. How does Sailer explain the discrepency? By arguing that Obama was lying. Talk about your bad faith interpretations.

Ken Parish
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Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
13 years ago

I think I’ll leave comment #12 in place to provide others with some idea of the calibre of halfwitted racist nonsense that “King Tut” obviously sees as an intelligent comment.

Ken Parish
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Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
13 years ago

And on James’ comment, I certainly don’t assume (ot even believe) that Obama subscribes to the racist, hateful views of Rev Wright. However, nor do I believe that he knew nothing of them, any more than I would believe the claims of complete lack of knowledge of the racist tendencies of Rev Enoch Powell or Jerry Falwell by a white politician who had attended their church regularly for the last twenty years.

As for Obama’s use of his grandmother as an example, I would feel minded to excuse it only if he had cleared it with her (she’s still alive) in advance and been given express permission to use her as an example of the everyday unthinking fearful racism of whitefellas. In the absence of permission it’s a repugnant act.

Finally, I appreciate that many people, including Nicholas Gruen whose judgment I greatly respect, are deeply impressed by Obama’s oratory. That isn’t my reaction. I’ve listened to quite a few of his speeches now, including the so-called masterpiece on racism, but my own reaction is that he’s just a glib, clever bullshitter who’ll say and do just about anything to win.

Tim Lambert
13 years ago

Sorry Ken, but if it’s repugnant to talk about unthinking racist views, how he is he supposed to gave a speech about race?

King Tut
King Tut
13 years ago

oh dear now Ken has his nickers in a knot.

Show us the racism Ken, i am happy to be with Nicholas in believing it to be a fine speech. Only a lawyer could think his speech invoked racism.

He traversed one of the hardest topics in society and did it in a way which showed he is no show pony.

time to think Ken!

trackback

[…] post began as a comment on my previous Obama post which consisted of a trivial post by me followed by some great content from commenters. I was […]

Ken Parish
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Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
13 years ago

So you don’t think “It perhaps would have been helpful for Jason to be given english lessons before entering Australia” is racist? Any further comments will be deleted.

And Tim, if you read my comment rather than comment on what you imagine I said, you’ll see that I didn’t suggest that it was in any sense repugnant for Obama to talk about unthinking racist views. What is repugnant is to use his own grandmother as an example of it without her fully informed voluntary consent. If you don’t understand that, then all I can say is that I’m glad you’re not a close family member of mine.

Tal
Tal
13 years ago

King Tut,what you said about Jason was just plain nasty.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
13 years ago

The fact that Obama brought his grandma into the speech and compared her mild fears to the loony beliefs of the Reverend Wright is a perfectly reasonable interpretation of the speech.

That Obama doesn’t agree with Rev Wright’s loonier beliefs isn’t at issue. Whether the details in Obama’s book and in the speech exactly match isn’t relevant either. Rev Wright believes the AIDS virus was a white conspiracy to kill blacks. Obama’s grandma made some remark about a scary black man. Obama attempted to draw a moral equivalency between the two to protect the reverend.

And for Tim to ignore all this while quoting Charles Murray is rich – under any other circumstances he’d be writing a blogpost about how Charles Murray is indirectly funded by Exxon and Pfizer and therefore everything he says should be discounted.

Tim Lambert
13 years ago

Obama did not attempt to draw a moral equivalency between his grandma and Wright. This is just bad faith on Jason’s part. To which he adds more of his dishonesty about me.

King Tut
King Tut
13 years ago

Jason he didn’t compare it all! Therte was no moral equivalency at all.

Perhaps I wasn’t strong enough in my criticism of Jason. This is quite a ridiculous criticism of Obama. Criticise his economics Jason or learn about moral equivalency.
He wasn’t saying they were the same at all. look at it again

Ken, racism is about a person’s colour not whether they understand the english language even in the Northern Territory. you have such a thin skin.

Jc
Jc
13 years ago

ason he didnt compare it all! Therte was no moral equivalency at all.

Yes he did. Not in ordered sentences but he brought up his grandma’s so-called racism and let the listener/reader reach the conclusion that it was not better than that idiot preacher he seems to have so much respect for. He couldn’t get another grandma, but he sure could have chosen another preacher who wasn’t as racist and just as charitable.

—————————-

Tim’s now a Charles Murray fan. Who’d would thought that. Not judging from this:

http://timlambert.org/index.php?s=charles+murray&submit=Search

Jc
Jc
13 years ago

Nic

He hung around with this deadender for well over 10 years. It would have too hard to find another church? Oh i get it, he didn’t know the geographical layout of Chicago and would have known how to get home?

Obama should have given a speech about another preacher.

At the moment the focus is on the one that preached white peaple descend from monkeys.

I have noticed often enough you talking about Howard’s soft racism and how it offends you. This preacher doesn’t? A guy who hung around him is ok too?

Futhermore what exactly are Christian virtues if not to preach the opposite of what Wright was doing in the that church.

Then he could have talked about someone elses grandmother.

His grandmother was brought to offer up the idea that whitey is just as bad anyway. In other words he used her for a cover. Its moral cowardice.

King Tut
King Tut
13 years ago

Nicholas has said it all.

There isn’t moral equivalency here at all more different attitudes of a different age. Moral equivalency is making the two things the same. He didn’t do that all which I criticised both Jason and Ken and then got hit with a left wing accusation of racism

I knew a man in a country town in the Central West and he went to a Uniting church. I pressed him on the fact that heresy was being preached there and he should leave to go to another church.

He replied his friends were there and he could distinguish between heresy and truth.

Obama’s message is bringing people together and hope. This is completely the antithesis of the ‘preacher’. It seems to me he could distinguish between the two pretty well.

jc
jc
13 years ago

It seems to me he could distinguish between the two pretty well.

How exactly do you know that?
Of course. It has nothing to do with the desire to being elected.

Would you still have cut your friend some slack if the minister was preaching racist hate at your friends church?

King Tut
King Tut
13 years ago

Sir,

If you wanted to be elected then you would put him out and hang and dry him. He didn’t do that. He criticised his views but said he was a friend and would remain a friend. This can happen.

What is his policy platform and what is his experience as a politician?

in essence both reflect what he is saying now.

Criticize him for his economic platform , for his health care policy but this speech was something special. Only the ill educated would criticise for it.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
13 years ago

Umm what possible reason is there for me to have a bad faith interpretation of what Obama said? I have been writing words in support of him both as blog posts and comments. I have thought he was a lesser evil than the other two possibilities. It’s not a bad faith interpretation, it’s a plausible one – Steve Edwards puts it even more strongly than i do but there is sense in what he says:

http://catallaxyfiles.com/?p=3486#comment-87483

If Obama was truly making a point about the relative personal importance of his grandmother versus his pastor, then he is on no firmer ground than he would have been if instead he was stating (as I read it) that his grandmother was no better than Pastor Wright in terms of what both have actually said – Obama did not choose his grandmother, who, frankly, had to save his ass from destitution after his father and mother went AWOL; on the other hand, he most certainly DID, despite knowing the extraordinary baggage entailed, choose Pastor Wright as something of a father-figure and personal mentor to him. Indeed, Obama was quite happy to subject his wife and children to Wrights extreme anti-American sermons for many years. Obviously, if Obama thinks that both individuals are and should remain on equal terms in personal importance and INFLUENCE on his life, its scarcely different in practice to stating that he finds their essential attitudes to be morally equivalent.

And Homer, cut the pretense. It’s obvious that’s you :-)

Jc
Jc
13 years ago

Tut,
if he holds a long term friendship with a racist deadender and puts up his gran up as whitebait voters are entitled to judge him on these issues.

if David Duke ran on universal healthcare you would support him?

Jc
Jc
13 years ago

Is that homer, Jase..?

how funny.

You’re right it is the homster dressed like an Egyption Pharaoh.

Damn and I thought he would be a worthy opponent. Now I find out it’s only homester.

Jc
Jc
13 years ago

This is what gives it away homester, you old Egyptian god you.

Perhaps people need to view or read the speech.

Homes has probably read every unimportant speech ever given, so he wouldn’t know a good speech.

It perhaps would have been helpful for Jason to be given english lessons before entering Australia, ken on the other hand has no excuse

Normally hes telling me I need English lessons.

Ken, racism is about a persons colour not whether they understand the english language even in the Northern Territory. you have such a thin skin.

Now hes telling Ken P he needs English lessons. Homer has the worst syntax of anyone I know.

Only the ill educated would criticise for it.

Another dead giveaway

Therte was no moral equivalency at all.

And is lazier than I am running spell check.

Ken Parish
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Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
13 years ago

Which is saying something.

Ken Parish
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Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
13 years ago

I am quite bemused by the people who deny that Obama was attempting to exculpate or at at least excuse himself by employing the “grandma’s a racist” gambit. It’s impossible to draw any other conclusion from the logical construction of his speech. Here’s my blunt summary of the relevant part:

People say I should have disassociated myself from Rev Wright for his racist, inflammatory statements. But nearly everyone’s a racist, why even my own dear grandmother has racist tendencies. You wouldn’t ask me to disown her would you? She loved me and brought me up. Rev Wright is also dear to me. He married me and baptised my kids. It should be enough that I forthrightly condemned his words.

It’s true that Obama goes on to make wider (and to an extent valid) points about racism. It springs from an instinctive unthinking fear of the unknown other, and that factor may well have been present in his grandmother just as in Rev Wright. But fear of the other is a necessary but not sufficient condition for overt and sustained acts of racial hatred, discrimination and even more extreme manifestations like rape and genocidal murder. These more public and extreme manifestations require fear of other to be mixed with rejection, humiliation, and years of frustration leading to a festering outpouring of public hatred. There is no indication that those factors were present in Obama’s grandmother, whereas they were certainly present in Rev Wright. They required a much more prompt and forthright rejection than Obama managed (he did very little until political necessity forced his hand).

Moreover, equating the two situations rhetorically (and opportunistically as Obama did) is actually counter-productive to understanding and countering racism. Obama (sort of) acknowledges that racism is more than just a momentary private expression of fear of other like his grandmother manifested; that it takes rejection, resentment, humiliation and so on before real racist hatred is fomented. But he fails to explore the implications of that distinction, in part I suggest because his own immediate political self-interest required him to blur the distinction. Fear of other without more is just a rational self-preservation response. Until we learn whether “the other” in fact threatens us (as some actually do), we’d by mugs not to be nervous. Racial hatred is a long way beyond that point, and Obama’s use of the supposed example of his grandmother simply obscures that vital distinction.

Instead, as he almost always does in any speech I’ve read of his, Obama falls back on glib, emotive oversimplifications. Racist resentments are caused by evil corporate America:

Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle-class squeeze — a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many.

There are truths contained in there, but they’re obscured by cheap opportunistic shots as with all Obama’s rhetoric. One can see why the lefties increasingly love Obama, he is channeling their prejudices. Whether he’s channeling the beliefs of mainstream American remains to be seen. Somehow I doubt it. I suspect that he’s just the sort of opportunistic spiv who will let a discredited Bush clone like McCain sneak into office against all odds.

Patrick
Patrick
13 years ago

against all odds

er, not against the odds at all!

King Tut
King Tut
13 years ago

Dear sirs,

I thank you for your interest however I am both retired and a grandfather.

I have time to do things such as view speeches on youtube. this one was a beauty.

I would add some more here but given the other thread I see I do not have to.

Thanks, my son tells me He is most certainly going to be the next Democratic candidate so we shall see.

Ken Parish
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Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
13 years ago

I wasn’t aware you were an American, Homer.