one more bit on the speech

A meme already forming (mostly on the political right) is that Obama threw his grandmama under the bus.  An example of that interpretation here and here as well.

Here is the paragraph in question–the paragraph that is usually the only cited to then make the point Obama wronged his grandmother by bringing her into the conversation:

I can no more disown him [Jeremiah Wright] than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

So his grandmother, (so they will say) is no different than this wacko black bigot.  And he’s used his grandmother to score a political point.

Except, check the paragraph before this one, which sets the context:

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

So if you say he has thrown his white grandmother under the bus then you should at least admit he has thrown his black uncle under the bus as well.  If you think he should not talk about his family at all publicly then Jeremiah Wright is part of his family.

Or see it more the way I tend to see it.  They are both his family.  Notice the brilliant comparison between the public bombacity of Wright who never in private with Obama said a derogatory thing and the public side of his grandmother versus her private stereotypes.

It is because his pastor as well as his church contains both the good and the bad within the black community, just like his wonderful grandmother contains the good and the bad within the white community, just as all of them contain both the good and the bad within the American community, that he can not disown any of them.

And that he chooses to be in relationship with his family though he disagrees with their views on race and their politics on many occasions.  For that I admire the guy quite a bit.

I believed the right thing for Obama to do was criticize the views he disagrees with and yet stay loyal to a man to whom he owes a great deal.  He certainly did that and more in the speech.

And on the Newt Gingrich notion that Obama was not courageous and is a really a sham politician like any of the rest, consider the following from John McWhorter:

He pegged Wright’s recreational alienation as wrong, as stereotyping, as a “profound mistake,” as founded upon a canard that America has made no progress on race.

It must be understood what a maverick statement this is from a 40-something black politician. In the black community one does not sass one’s elders. One is expected to show a particular deference, understandably, to the generation who fought on the barricades of the Civil Rights movement. That is, to people of Jeremiah Wright’s vintage.

For a light-skinned half-white Ivy League-educated black man to repudiate, in clear language and repeatedly, the take on race of people like Julian Bond and Nikki Giovanni is not only honest but truly bold.

Obama also (as McWhorter correctly points out) “softens the blow” appropriately.  Something even Mike Huckabee understands apparently.

But the key point is that action was courageous–or at the very least ballsy.  I see it as sticking to a line that he is of the Joshua Generation and he admires the Moses Generation (of which Wright is an outstanding figure) but he does not share all their views and their day is past.

Sidenote:  It’s a particularly rich lecture from Speaker Gingrich given that you know he got religion when it was politically expedient for him to do so.  Something about people in glass houses….
Exit Question:  Can anyone think of any courageous criticizing the congregation (as Obama did on his MLK speech in Atlanta in the black church) that Mr. Gingrich has ever given?  I can’t.

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Published in: on March 19, 2008 at 7:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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