Beyond Race Politics

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[Black Star News Editorial]

All open minded Americans --Blacks, whites, Latinos and Asians-- should welcome Senator Barack Obama’s historic speech on race relations and his vision to help move this country forward.

The nation owes Senator Hillary Clinton a “thank you” as well.

Had it not been for her campaign’s race-baiting and religious bigotry directed against Obama to drive away white voters, the video of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Senator Obama’s former pastor, would never have gained wide currency on youtube.  Hopefully, the value of the tape, and race politics, will diminish as a result of Obama’s Philadelphia speech.

The furor that followed Rev. Wright’s comments had left Senator Obama on the defensive. Many white people started questioning why he would associate with the minister, let alone attend his church for more than 20 years. Maybe he was not the unifier he claimed to be?

In the calculation of the Clinton machine, Obama’s prospects seemed doomed. But the Clintons are accustomed to playing in the minor leagues. This brilliant man, Barack Obama, embodies the best qualities that can only be produced by a country with a tortured and gallant history, as these United States.

Why stop at just discussing the caricatured version of Rev. Wright on youtube, Obama asked. Why not have a frank, serious and honest discussion on race, rage, and the history and legacy of discrimination?

The senator from Illinois delivered.

He conceded that Black people and white people don’t have civilized conversations about race, whether in the classrooms, work places, or in recreational or social gatherings.

Obama recalled the ugly history of Slavery and the founding of the Republic, with the provision that the Union would be “perfected” by subsequent generations.

This is our generation.

The legacy of historical discrimination against Black people still impacts the workplace; the schools; the healthcare delivery system; the criminal justice system; and, even social interactions.

Yet Obama also pointed out that it’s hard to expect white blue collar workers and those in the middle class, living in communities that are now struggling with massive job losses, to have much sympathy for people that still blame slavery for their current woes.

Places like Michigan and Ohio have a combined job loss approaching 500,000 over the last few years; workers there will not want to hear about slavery’s legacy.

Resentment towards perceived Black entitlement helped propel Ronald Reagan to the
White House, promoted by conservative social commentators. 

Obama pointed out that workers --Black, white, Latinos and Asians-- often direct their anger and resentment at the wrong parties.

The captains of industry, corporate chiefs, reward themselves extraordinarily outrageous compensation, while engaging in shady business practices, costing hundreds of thousands of people their livelihood, and even their pensions.

So, where do we go from here? What is to be done?

There is really no choice, as Obama noted. White people must recognize that the legacy of slavery, discrimination and Jim Crow are real. Black should recognize that not all white people are rich, or hostile to Black advancement.

Yet, if traditional politicians are allowed to continue peddling there divisive politics, then come the next election cycle, we will be exactly where we are today.

Stuck on neutral----stalemate.

“And if we walk away," Obama said, of the consequences of not confronting race matters head-on, "if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like healthcare, or education, or need to find good jobs for every American."

Today Senator Obama started that conversation that Americans should have been having since the end of slavery. That conversation, and working towards beneficial alliances, can be our contribution towards a more perfect union.

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