Obama on Bigotry

Let’s just admit that on Obama I am fluctuating back and forth.  On the one hand, I see a mushy centrist.  On the other, a man who is willing to take risks and speak the unspeakable discourse.  So when I saw this, it really cheered me up.  (Pam, Pandagon):

Today Barack Obama zeroed in on equal opportunity bigotry — and why everyone should strive to not only elevate the political discourse, but to be honest about the base instincts, words and deeds that divide, not unite.

He delivered this message at the house of worship where Dr. Martin Luther King preached, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. It was a pointed statement to black parishioners in the pews — people well-aware of racial politics being played in this political cycle — but who are also are part of a faith community that has long had a blind spot toward other oppressed groups. He did not hold back:

For most of this country’s history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man’s inhumanity to man. And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays – on the job, in the schools, in our health care system, and in our criminal justice system.And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King’s vision of a beloved community.

We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.

Every day, our politics fuels and exploits this kind of division across all races and regions; across gender and party. It is played out on television. It is sensationalized by the media. And last week, it even crept into the campaign for President, with charges and counter-charges that served to obscure the issues instead of illuminating the critical choices we face as a nation.

These words are so necessary, but you can best believe he is the only candidate delivering speeches in honor of Dr. King who is willing to say it directly to members of the black community. This topic has always been a perceived as a third rail topic for the other leading Dem candidates, Clinton or Edwards — they are, like many whites, particularly if they see themselves as allies, dread being seen as pointing out the evils and hypocrisy of such bigotry in the black faith community, even as wrong and tragic as it is on its face.

Bigotry is bigotry wherever it is.  For a candidate in a close contest to risk support by criticizing an audience directly is a risky and brave act.  One of the gravest concerns raised against Obama in support of candidates like Edwards is that Barak simply lacks the courage necessary to stand and fight.  If he is willing to take a risk like this, then his speeches stating he will “stand up to” and fight lobbyists and the standard power brokers in DC carry more weight.  Its heartening, and it greatly eases my doubt about one of the front runners for the Democratic nomination.

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