Right Time, Wrong Candidate – Part 2
Friday, March 21, 2008
“Senator Obama’s repudiations notwithstanding, maybe he really was paying attention all those Sundays in The Church of Outdated Ideas.”
This piece is a sequel to an article entitled “Right time, wrong candidate.” which I posted on Wednesday. I hadn’t intended to write a sequel, but then I didn’t anticipate that Senator Obama would make the comment he made yesterday on ESPN radio which clearly suggested that white people – not just a few or some white people, but white people in general – react with apprehension, and sometimes fear, when they encounter Black Americans. To quote Senator Obama who was attempting to clarify what he said in his speech about race:
The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity, but 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 doesn’t go away and it comes out in the wrong way.*
Senator Obama’s remark is too politically stupid for someone of his obvious intelligence not to actually reflect what he believes. As such, it gives us extraordinary insight into the personality of someone who boasts of his ability to bring us together – all of us, Americans of course, but also nationals of other countries in the management of our foreign policy.
I don’t pretend for a moment to speak for anyone other than myself, nor do I believe that Barack Obama speaks for Black Americans other than himself. What I am is a student of behavior, my own, and others I observe.
I was in New York, yesterday, on business. It was a long day, including time on trains, taxis, and walking crowded streets. It was, as always, an ethnically mixed experience of the highest order, covering the full spectrum of incomes and occupations. I saw no fear in the faces of the white or other people who found themselves in the company of their Black countrymen. Nor have I in the faces and behavior I have observed in any other context, in any other city, large or small, sophisticated cosmopolitan or working class rural, grocery store, mall or schoolyard. What I see is people of all colors and hues, working, living and playing together.
No doubt there are still people out there, white and black, who harbor latent and even conscious fears of the other color, but if these fears are commonplace, if they are the norm, then I have completely missed it.
One of us – Senator Obama or me – holds the more correct view of how black and white people, Hispanics and other ethnic groups, have come to relate to each other. I believe we are a nation that has gone from open prejudice to accommodation, to understanding, to acceptance, to “Who cares?” in my own lifetime, and I am impressed by, and proud of my country. It’s breathtaking, the speed at which we have reaffirmed and extended the principles upon which our nation was founded.
If I’m wrong about how people feel toward each other, then I stand to be corrected, and will humbly return to my job and blog, the wiser for what I have learned. If, on the other hand, Barack Obama is wrong, he can’t be allowed to be President because his point of view will adversely affect his ability to govern, to formulate and implement domestic and foreign policy.
From what age, from what era in all this progress we have made does Barack Obama originate his sense of the “typical white person”? He tells us he is about the future, when he clearly lives in the past. The Senator is 46 now, and for the past 20 years, since he was twenty-something, has considered the Reverend Pastor Jeremiah Wright to be his friend and spiritual advisor. Senator Obama’s repudiations notwithstanding, maybe he really was paying attention all those Sundays in The Church of Outdated Ideas.
*From a telephone interview, yesterday morning on 610 WIP. See the full text at http://www.philly.com/philly/hp/news_update/16849076.html.