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Barack Obama's Speech on Race

Barack Obama Speaks on Black and Wright Issues

Barack Obama has just delivered a speech addressing the spiraling recurrence of questions and debate surrounding remarks made by Obama's pastor Jeremiah Wright. The inflammatory statement made by Obama's spiritual adviser led to poll results released yesterday showing that 56 percent of voters would be less likely to vote for Obama given the remarks. Acknowledging that the subject of race has also become unavoidably prominent, Obama boldly and powerfully addressed the effect of both on his candidacy saying,

On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

He then unflinchingly tackled the issue of race, acknowledging that "anger" and "resentment" have built over time on all sides of racial divides. He said by addressing the issue honestly, therein lies the only path to growth.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle — as we did in the OJ trial — or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina — or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day, and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

Did these words move you? Is this the path to change? Do you think that a bold and inclusive statement like this speech will satisfy those who disagree with Obama's relationship to Wright, or who may be considering the issue of race? Did he succeed in both silencing the Wright controversy, and addressing the broader issue of race in this country? Is this the appropriate time to make this statement?

Did he sound presidential to you?

To read the most personal explanation of both his relationship to Wright and his race,


I can no more disown him [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. These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Yes We Can?


Join The Conversation
remedios remedios 9 years
We could talk about tears.. I mean.. Reagan's were real, but I bet Hillary bought hers at a yard sale.
remedios remedios 9 years
but who wants to miss this opportunity? I mean.. diverting attention from something else? What else is there?!
remedios remedios 9 years
well I missed this debate...
mlmoreno47 mlmoreno47 9 years
If John McCain sat in church listening to a guy preach hate speech against non white races he would never get away with it. Why should we let Obama off the hook? Go Hil!
laceykk23 laceykk23 9 years
i also wanted to add that mike huckabee isnt justifying what wright said he is just putting into context. okay im done just wanted to clarify that!!
laceykk23 laceykk23 9 years
*now i understand that pat robertson and jerry falwell didnt have a personal relationship(as far as i know) that obama did with wright but one side of the argument shouldnt be the only one presented.
laceykk23 laceykk23 9 years
if you want to see someone on the conservative right actually defend rev. wright here is the link.... i cant comend mike huckabee enough for actually comming out and saying this. mike huckabee along with john mccain get major kudos from me(even if i dont agree with most things they stand for) for comming to obamas side on this ridiculous 'scandal' if that even what you want to call it. you know what it really says alot about hillary that she couldnt have at least defended her fellow senator, whatever she is so.....i dont even know the word for it. ill say it again if the media is going to bring in rev. wright why dont they bring in jerry falwell, pat robertson and all the other religious leaders who have said inflammatory things about 9/11 and homosexuals? the double standard here is truly mind blowing.
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
FYI: Even though the Civil Rights Movement happened 40+ years ago, does not mean that people are not called the n world or a n lover, harassed or beaten because of who they are. I am in my late 20s and throughout HS I dealt with this type of hatred.
LeChatonNoir LeChatonNoir 9 years
When you speak from your heart and you don't use your intellect to support and refine it, your pure emotion can hurt others. This is why a balance of the two has the most potency. I think Obama has that balance. I thought his speech was intellectually and emotionally present and thoughtful. He took some time to formulate a response that would have that insight. That's really the fault of Wright - he's a fiery and passionate person who probably doesn't always edit his words, and in this case, sounded extremely close-minded. But I don't think those few statements should represent the whole of Wright, nor the whole of the church. Everyone has said irrational or unintentionally hurtful things in a moment of passion. As I said before, his intention was to share the anger and resentment that his parish feels about their community's predicament, and connect with them that way. To address those that thought Obama's speech was rhetoric - a good speech - and not much else, I have to say that I disagree. I have not seen any other candidate, nor any president, speak so frankly about his opinions and his understanding of the current and past situations of issues that are so painful to speak about. Not only was he upfront, and candid, but he was warm, positive and hopeful, while still being highly aware of the obstacles that stand in the way, as well as where the root of those problems stemmed in history. I think his speech was indicative of who he is as a human being, and not just as a politician. There is truth behind his words, because he believes them, and this belief is not framed by an agenda, but by a personal doctrine that he has LIVED by. One more thought about Obama: there are those who question his readiness to lead the country and when asked why, most point out that he has "never really stated specific plans for the future" on any of the issues. Bush's campaign in 2000 got him elected, because he had a lot of good ideas - however - they weren't ideas he truly believed in, and when 9/11 happened, which he didn't anticipate (which is also partly the fault of the previous administration) he began to fall back on his own personal understanding of how to deal with the issues America now faced. In a presidency, one always goes back to his upbringing and his personal philosophy. This is where Obama's strength lies, because not only are his ideas about America and the world intact and aware and wise, but he's built his campaign on just that - not an agenda, but his own belief. In that sense, he to me is the most credible, trustworthy and accountable candidate. I simply can't vote for a woman (or man, for that matter) who voted for the War and the Patriot Act (twice), even if it was to "play the right cards" and "stay in the game". That shows lack of moral fiber and frankly, lack of quality in character.
jenintx jenintx 9 years
i don't necessarily consider what wright said racist. inflamatory and slightly offensive, sure. but, again, i try not to give those kinds of sentiments any more attention than i have to b/c i feel by acknowledging it, we're giving it credibility. i say let people feel the way they want to feel. if they're racist, so what! as long as their racism/homophobia/sexism doesn't hurt anyone physically, they're only proving their own ignorance. that said, i do not want play down the experiences wright has had in his life. i may not know what it's like to be called an "n" word, but i do know what it's like to be called a b!tch. i realize those experiences make him the person he is and give him the opinions he has. people seem to forget that the civil rights movement happened in the 60s, only 40-something years ago. that is not a long time. some people (maybe wright included b/c i don't know how old he is) lived through that time and are still alive knowing how people treated them and what the struggle was like. it's personal. the same can be said for the women's movement. and again, i feel like people are taking what are probably a handful of instances and judging this man's whole life on it. i don't necessarily think that's fair. i think if we weighed the good he's done in his life against the "bad" statements he's made, we would find that he's no worse than any of the rest of us. he just happens to be in the forefront b/c he is friends with the man running for president.
indielove indielove 9 years
* cut off* Ok so...going back to the whole 'racism' debate. Last night, in my English class, we were discussing an article which subtly put forth the idea that Latinos were being slowly pushed out of their pushcart business in downtown LA due to gentrification and as a sidenote, my professor said "There are people who say they are not racist yet spout racist ideas and also claim that America has moved past racism and that it is no longer an issue but, that is not true. Racism is very much alive and well in America". When she said that(*note* that she is white, in her late 20s), I thought that she could not have made that statement at a better time, considering all the drama surrounding Rev. Wright and Obama and what some people have been saying around here on that topic. I've seen comments accusing Wright of being racist and staunchly dismissing his experiences as a black man in America then at the end of their rant they say "but I'm not racist!" Isn't the fact that you have to end on that note, that that is in the back of your mind when you're stating your opinion, say something? The American public needs to come to grips with the fact that they haven't progressed as much as they would like to believe when it comes to the issue of the racial divide in this country. We've still got a LONG way to go.
indielove indielove 9 years
Just something I wanted to mention...I
phatE phatE 9 years
Jill, you asked: Do the people who are most offended by this REALLY think that Obama shares the offensive views with this man, and has been doing a massive cover up of his true beliefs? I wouldn't go as far to say that I believe he's been doing a massive cover up against his true beliefs, because I in no way think that. However, I don't see how someone with such direct, and personal influence couldn't have some sort of impact on his views.
phatE phatE 9 years
lizadilly - I am really sick of people fearing that he's Muslim (he's not... but if he was, who cares?) or questioning whether he loves American enough. Um, hello he's running for president. - Obama is NOT Muslim, and so I agree that people going on and on about that is getting really old. But,considering Muslim beliefs, I would be concerned if he was.. - As for Obama loving America, I definitely believe he does, but I also think people are valid for questioning, because you can't automatically assume these days. Here is where I really take issue to what you said: And I'm REALLY sick of white people getting all up-in-arms about black people discussing their struggles or decrying the injustices against them and their families for generations. I think that if a country kidnaps, enslaves, rapes, sells, segregates, disenfranchizes, lynches, oppresses, imprisons, marginalizes, alienates, parodies, humiliates, and neglects a group of people for hundreds of years, the LEAST they can do is not get offended when the victimized group complains. Suck it UP, white America. How are we EVER going to move forward with attitudes like this. Do you not hear your tone? It automatically is about race saying "you white people" , or "white america" , but on the other hand it if anyone says ANYTHING regarding other cultures or ethnicities, it's considered racist and wrong. I don't agree with people wanting to skirt the past under the rug, and so don't get me wrong on that. But if you want progress in this area, it's not going to happen w/ statements like that. You have automatically assumed that the people who posted opinions here are "white" and haven't experienced any sort of discrimination, or racism themself. How many Jewish people amy be posting here? There are unfortuantely many groups who have have been the victim of human ignorance and hate. I am not here to weigh them on a scale, or say which is worse, but to say why not focus on the common bond instead of seperating yourself and making it about us vs them. Reading posts like this make it seem impossible that we'll ever get anywhere. I feel like I have to walk on eggshells and this topic can't be discussed without me automatically being racist, or out of line. I feel like I have to put a disclaimer saying, I am not lessening what you and your culture went through, and I don't in ANY way support, agree, or approve of it before I say anything. Because if I don't, it will automatically be assumed that's where I am going with it. Your attitude in this is the EXACT opposite of what Obama spoke yesterday regarding this. You are right, you have every right to complain, and speak with anger, but you will never see progress, and we as a culture will never move forward. Maybe it's time to step back and realize that other ethnicities aren't the enemy anymore, and give them an actual chance to redeem themself.
Jillness Jillness 9 years
nicachica, your candor and sharing is really very powerful. Thank you!
Jillness Jillness 9 years
"Would you walk away from a good cause, say, an Animal Shelter, or a Homeless Shelter, simply because you disagreed with the political views of the person running it?" Great point! "Just because someone takes issue to what was said, doesn't mean they are trying to derail him or his campaign, and it also doesn't mean that person isn't for change, or growth in this area." Another good point. ;) Here is my question (not to anyone specific): Do the people who are most offended by this REALLY think that Obama shares the offensive views with this man, and has been doing a massive cover up of his true beliefs? Or do you think that it was a big no-no, and in this political game, there is no choice other than to doc him points for being associated with someone like this?
nicachica nicachica 9 years
lizadilly, i BOW to that statement. beautifully put! however, i want to point out earlier comments by some posters (can't remember who after reading 282 comments!) about feeling that they are not "Racist" at all. while someone might not be what you traditionally consider "racist" (i.e. holding lynching parties or attending a Klan rally), EVERYONE is prejudice against someone else, even people of color. i used to think that because i was Latina and understood what it meant to be discriminated against, that i was not prejudiced in my thinking. i mean, why the heck would i think badly about someone else or another group when i've been a victim myself? then i realized subtle ways i looked at people differently, how i mistrusted a group of Arab men on a recent flight or how i've crossed the street to avoid a group of young black teenagers and how i've refused to take the bus to avoid the stares and leers of my fellow Central American immigrants? I think we ALL need to take honest looks at ourselves and realize that we are all flawed human beings with our own prejudices against certain people. We will not get ANYWHERE in our discussions about race relations in this country until we are brutally honest about our own flaws and failings. Really, that's why i absolutely loved Obama's speech. He was honest about the difficulties we face in discussing race and it reminded me of these flaws in myself. just a thought...
lizadilly lizadilly 9 years
I resisted Obama before this but I have been so impressed by his willingness to get into this issue rather than take the easy way out and just distance himself from Wright and the race controversy. I am really sick of people fearing that he's Muslim (he's not... but if he was, who cares?) or questioning whether he loves American enough. Um, hello he's running for president. And I'm REALLY sick of white people getting all up-in-arms about black people discussing their struggles or decrying the injustices against them and their families for generations. I think that if a country kidnaps, enslaves, rapes, sells, segregates, disenfranchizes, lynches, oppresses, imprisons, marginalizes, alienates, parodies, humiliates, and neglects a group of people for hundreds of years, the LEAST they can do is not get offended when the victimized group complains. Suck it UP, white America.
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
Cool Thank you
phatE phatE 9 years
glad you figured it out.. you can use a U for underline, and I for italics..
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
Wow that took me a long time to do. LMAO
phatE phatE 9 years
To bold you put <.b> whatever you want to say <./b> - just remove the periods.. [.]
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
thanks ladies
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
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