I know that I may be pigeonholing myself with all these political-race-related-blogs but I have to write this.
I think Obama’s speech on race may have been one of the most accurate and textured statements on the complexities of race relations in this country’s history...and there’s part of me that wishes he wasn’t the one to give it.
An Inconvenient Truth would have been received quite differently if Al Gore had released it while he was running for office. Those who didn’t want to vote for him, Bush and Nader fans alike, would have dismissed it as a politically motivated piece that didn’t have any real validity. The pundits would have torn it apart looking for inconsistencies between the film and Gore’s voting record and everybody would have missed the point.
Sometimes it’s okay to focus on the message and not the speaker. People always credit the American and French revolution as being the inspiration for the spread of democracy throughout the rest of Europe but the person who probably deserves the most credit is Napoleon. A fascist in the guise of a democratic figure, Napoleon sent his troops out to conquer the world all the while instructing them that they were to tell the conquered that the French aggression was in the name of liberté, equalité, and fraternité (that would be liberty, equality and fraternity to you and me). The peasants of Italy, Austria, Spain and the rest didn’t have access to newspapers that had detailed the people’s revolutions that had been the precursor to Napoleon’s reign. These words, these ideas, were completely new to them. Don’t get me wrong, they knew that Napoleon was a royal schmuck and his defeat was a victory for justice. But he didn’t just leave destruction in his wake. He left behind ideas as well and the people started asking themselves: What if all that stuff about equality wasn’t just used as empty rhetoric? What if we actually demanded liberty? What would happen if we insisted on being treated as equals?
The people who asked those questions were able to separate the words from the man who said them.
So whether you think Obama is following in the footsteps of Kennedy, Gore, Napoleon or the Easter Bunny, I urge you to separate yourself from the feelings you have about the man and read that speech and only focus on the words. We need those words. We need those ideas because if we discard them, if we treat them like the empty rhetoric of a politician we will lose an incredible opportunity to understand. Understand why the anger is so prevalent in certain portions of the Black community. Understand why working class Whites rail against affirmative action. Understand that the grievances on both sides are understandable and justified and most of all understand how we can heal.
Read the whole transcript of the speech but don’t visualize Obama’s face when you read it. Just read the words
Bestselling Author of:
SEX, MURDER AND A DOUBLE LATTE,
PASSION, BETRAYAL AND KILLER HIGHLIGHTS,
OBSESSION, DECEIT AND REALLY DARK CHOCOLATE
SO MUCH FOR MY HAPPY ENDING