23 March 2008

Musings of a typical white person

I was troubled by Barack Obama's speech in Philadelphia last week, which he was forced to give in light of the Jeremiah Wright controversy.

My first concern was the constant equivocations. His white grandmother having used a racial or ethnic slur is not the same thing as Reverend Wright's over-the-top rhetoric. Neither were Geraldine Ferraro's comments. In fact Ferraro was accurate; she correctly pointed out that Obama has benefited from being black in just the same way she benefited from being a woman in 1984.

I am not actually troubled by most of what Reverend Wright has to say is a few clips that I have seen. There is a long history of prophetic preaching which condemns the nation the preacher lives in; there are many things about America to condemn. Wright's claims that the US government created AIDS to kill black people is not one of them. In fact, much of what Wright says seems attuned to his audience. Rather than proper Christian preaching, as I understand it, which calls the listener to repentance, Reverend Wright, at least in in the few clips I have seen calls not on his listeners to repent, but tells them they are victims because white people need to repent.

I am deeply troubled by Obama's dissembling about Reverend Wright up until the Philadelphia speech. I am also troubled that in the Philadelphia speech, he made only passing reference to personal responsibility within the black community.
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.
Then Obama goes on a radio show a couple days later and drops this egg.
"The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity, but that she is a typical white person. If she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know - there's a reaction in her that's been bred into our experiences that don't go away and sometimes come out in the wrong way and that's just the nature of race in our society. We have to break through it. What makes me optimistic is you see each generation feeling less like that. And that's pretty powerful stuff"

I am thinking to myself , what the heck is a typical white person? That sounds like a racial slur to me. And then I remembered a quote from sometime back:
Even Jesse Jackson said a few years ago, "There is nothing more painful to me ... than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved."
So now I get it. Jesse Jackson is a typical white person.

But now I am all confused.

Hat tip to Mark Finkelstein at Newsbusters, who had the quote first, and a somewhat more fun take on it than I did.

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