Category Archives: Jeremiah Wright

Quote of the Day: “Is Obama ready for America?”

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The following is a commentary by Dr. Walter E. Williams, a Professor of Economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C.  It appeared today on page 19 of The Examiner (www.examiner.com), a  Baltimore newspaper.

Commentary – Walter E. Williams: Is Obama ready for America?

Mar 27, 2008 by Walter E. Williams, The Examiner

BALTIMORESome pundits ask whether America is ready for Obama. The much more important question is whether Obama is ready for America, and even more important is whether black people can afford Obama. Let’s look at it in the context of a historical tidbit.

In 1947, Jackie Robinson, signing a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers, broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. He encountered open racist taunts and slurs from fans, opposing team players and even some players on his own team. Despite that, his first-year batting average was .297. He led the National League in stolen bases and won the first-ever Rookie of the Year Award. Without question, Jackie Robinson was an exceptional player. There’s no sense of justice that should require that a player be as good as Jackie Robinson in order to be a rookie in the major leagues, but the hard fact of the matter was, as the first black player, he had to be.

In 1947, black people could not afford a bum baseball player. By contrast, today black people can afford bum black baseball players. The simple reason is that as a result of the excellence of Jackie Robinson, as well as those who immediately followed him such as Satchel Paige, Don Newcombe, Larry Doby and Roy Campanella, there’s no one in his right mind who might watch the incompetence of a particular black player and say, “Those blacks can’t play baseball.” Whether we like it or not, whether for good reason or bad reason, people make stereotypes, and stereotypes can have effects.

For the nation and for black people, the first black president should be the caliber of a Jackie Robinson, and Barack Obama is not. Barack Obama has charisma and charm, but in terms of character, values and understanding, he is no Jackie Robinson. By now, many Americans have heard the racist and anti-American tirades of Obama’s minister and spiritual counselor. There’s no way that Obama could have been a 20-year member of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church and not been aware of his statements.

Wright’s racist and anti-American ideas are by no means unique. They are the ideas of many leftist professors and taught to our young people. The basic difference among Sen. Obama, Wright and leftist professors is simply a matter of style and language. His Philadelphia speech demonstrated his clever style where he merely changed the subject. The controversy was not about race. It was about his longtime association with such a hatemonger and whether he shared the reverend’s vision.

Obama’s success is truly a remarkable commentary on the goodness of Americans and how far we’ve come in resolving matters of race.  I’m 72 years old. For almost all of my life, a black having a real chance at becoming the president of the United States was at best a pipe dream. Obama has convincingly won primaries in states with insignificant black populations. As such, it further confirms what I’ve often said: The civil rights struggle in America is over, and it’s won.

At one time black Americans did not have the constitutional guarantees enjoyed by white Americans; now we do. The fact that the civil rights struggle is over and won does not mean that there are not major problems confronting many members of the black community, but they are not civil rights problems and have little or nothing to do with racial discrimination.

While not every single vestige of racial discrimination has disappeared, Obama and the Rev. Wright are absolutely wrong in suggesting that racial discrimination is anywhere near the major problem confronting a large segment of the black community. The major problems are: family breakdown, illegitimacy, fraudulent education and a high rate of criminality. To confront these problems requires political courage, and that’s an attribute that Obama and most other politicians lack.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.


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Barack Obama: The Presumption of Prejudice

Thursday, March 27, 2008

“Prejudice and discrimination have a certain ghostly momentum that continues for years after their demise.”

Barack Obama, more than anyone this election, has raised the issue of race and kept it in the headlines.  At first, it was a reasonable strategy akin to the way John Kennedy handled the potential of his becoming the first Catholic President in 1960.  The candidate tells everyone that it shouldn’t be an issue, the implication being that it is.  Many non-Catholics then, or white voters now will feel compelled to deny the implicit charge of prejudice and will support your candidacy to prove their point.  At the same time, Catholic and Black voters will be galvanized into voting for one of their own.  It worked for Kennedy, and has worked for Senator Obama – up to a point.  The  Pastor Wright controversy and Senator Obama’s speech on the subject of race are on the verge of casting the Senator as a Black candidate, rather than simply a candidate who happens to be Black.  The latter works for his candidacy, the former might not.  We’ll see.  (See “Channeling JFK,” posted March 14th here on WordFeeder.)

The explicit message of the Senator’s comments on the subject has been to describe Black and white Americans as racially sensitive.  The typical white person, he tells us, is still apprehensive, if not outright fearful in his or her contacts with Black Americans who still feel resentment for inequities against which they have long struggled.  Senator Obama pretends to be enlightening the American voter by bringing all this to our attention.  Others no doubt think he’s stirring the pot.  My feeling is that he’s a throwback to another era, not all that many years ago, but another time nonetheless, and that bothers me.

He can’t be forward looking, and backward thinking at the same time.  He can’t bring us together, if he doesn’t appreciate how much progress we have made on our own toward precisely that objective.  I don’t particularly like the way he claims to speak for all Black people, and to understand the race-related anxieties of whites.  He may be bi-racial personally, experienced and well read, but that doesn’t make his interpretations of Black and white behavior universally or even generally correct.

Some time ago I worked with a gentleman, a quality individual in all respects, but somewhat odd in appearance and behavior, who is a member of a small, but prominent ethnic group.  He had one of those last names that could easily be mispronounced by people who didn’t know him.  To make matters worse, the common mispronunciation was a real word with unattractive implications.  I won’t give you his actual name which would be unkind, but will defer, by way of example, to a commercial which ran some months ago.

The ad featured a young man toward the end of an important interview which appeared to be going very well, when he rises to his feet, extends his hand to the interviewer and says, “Thank you, Mr. Dum-ass,” to which the interviewer, his displeasure obvious, responds by saying, “It’s ‘Doo-mahsss.’”  Needless to say, the real individual I’m talking about was the subject of considerable kidding, and suffered a daily struggle to feel good about himself.  As I remember, he often complained about how he was treated under various circumstances, attributing his lack of personal and professional success to his ethnicity.  In fact, as one colleague eventually told him, ethnicity had nothing to do with it.

Prejudice and discrimination have a certain ghostly momentum that continues for years after their demise.

For those who have been on the receiving end, they, like the rest of us, are prone to make assumptions which attribute the adverse aspects of their experience to factors other than their own behavior and capabilities.  Unfortunately, excuses, race-related or other, tend to distract from root causes, and delay the progress a clearer vision might accomplish.

For all of those who have reacted in a way conditioned by the habits of prejudice and discrimination against others, there are doubtlessly remnant feelings that persist without reason.  They can be hurtful, and die a slow death I’m not sure any politician can hasten.

Is all this worth talking about on the evening news?  I don’t know, except that exposure in the media tends to exaggerate the prevalence of any problem.  Blowing things out of proportion is an unavoidable byproduct and favorite pastime in the world of “Breaking News” and 24 hour coverage.

I wonder how much of what Senator Obama and his spiritual advisor, Pastor Wright, cite of the Black experience is still valid, or the vestigial mindset of another generation’s reality?  It’s a reasonable, although difficult question for someone to ask another of a different color, but Senator Obama raised the issue in public, and that gives all of us the right.  Senator Obama, how much of the reaction of typical whites to Black Americans which you describe is real, how much of it imagined, and how much of it the confused, outdated and inherently prejudicial teachings of 20 years of Sundays in the wrong place?

How much of the problems which still plague Black America are attributable to race, or to color-independent economic and other factors to which your attention and our country’s resources might be better directed?


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Question of the Day: Barack Obama’s Interview with ESPN Radio

Friday, March 21, 2008

(To understand the context of this Question of the Day, please see today’s earlier posting, “The Influence of Pastor Jeremiah Wright?”)

Given that Senator Obama is half black and half “typical white,” does he sometimes scare himself when he looks in the mirror?


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Barack Obama: The influence of Pastor Jeremiah Wright?

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.


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