Friday, March 21

Chris Wallace Defends Barack Obama over "Typical White Woman" comment

This morning Fox News Sunday Host Chris Wallace, the man who didn't seem to know who really ignored the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, took the three Fox and Friends host to task for two hours of Barack Bashing

Hey listen, I love you guys but I want to take you to task if I may, respectfully, for a moment. I have been watching the show since 6:00 this morning when I got up, and it seems to me that two hours of Obama bashing on this typical white person remark is somewhat excessive and frankly I think you’re somewhat distorting what Obama had to say.

Exactly when this guy learned to think clearly I don't know, but it's nice to see.

Wallace Continued.

Far be it for me to be a spokesman for the Obama campaign, and I will tell you that they would laugh at that characterization, but you know, the fact is that after giving a speech on race earlier this week, on Tuesday, he gave a major speech on Iraq on Wednesday and a major speech on the economy yesterday. And so, I think they would say that in terms of deflecting attention away from the issues people really want to hear about, maybe it’s the media doing it, not Barack Obama.

Amazing.

Chris is absolutely correct about Obama's two Iraq speeches, and the fact that they received almost zero media coverage.

The simple fact is that the "media's been doing it all" along. They been going after Obama over comments such as "Chicken's coming home to roost" when right-wingers like Dinesh D'souza has written an entire book blaming the cultural left for 9/11.

It's good to have an actual discussion of race that is more than just a finger-pointing contest, and I for one am frankly glad to see at least someone on Fox News can put down their ideological blinders for a moment and actually speak to the core elements of the issue.

Yes, there are White people who are afraid of young black people. Hell, there are black people (like Jesse Jackson) who are afraid of young black people. This fact contributes to a cycle of negative treatment, they get followed around in stores, they got over scrutinized by police, they get convicted more, and sentenced longer... all of which feeds back into the fear.

What we really need to do is start talking about dismantling that perpetual fear engine by taking it apart link-by-link. But at least this is a start.

Usually you would expect Fox to continue cheerleading the Surge, even on a day when it appears that the Sunni Awakening Forces are GOING ON STRIKE FOR NON-PAYMENT.

Leading members of the 80,000-strong Sahwa, or awakening, councils have said they will stop fighting unless payment of their $10 a day (£5) wage is resumed. The fighters are accusing the US military of using them to clear al-Qaida militants from dangerous areas and then abandoning them.

If they can have an honest discussion of Barack Obama, maybe they can finally have an honest discussion about what happens, not when our troops pull out, but when our pay-off checks to former Sunni and Shia insurgents and terrorists start to bounce.

Vyan


Tuesday, March 18

Breaking the Racial Stalemate

Barack said it today - he said what needed to be said, and what America needed to hear.

Separating himself from the hurtful comments of his former pastor - yet continuing friend - Jeremiah Wright without throwing away the man, without throwing away the community, without disowning his own family, without disowning America, Barack Obama managed to change the tone and refocus this debate in the direction that it needs to go.

This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years.

...

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

We need to go forward together - not seperately.

Many can and will say things that disturb and frighten us, but we must come to understand that when we seek to split ourselves off from those people - rather than their comments - we will continue to Divide ourselves from each other.

Divided we Fall, Together we Stand.


Black people do have legitimate reasons for resentment.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future.

With this statement he has finally shown that he does understand what it is to be Black In America - an issue with which I had had some significant doubt that he was fully commited to. I doubt no more.

However he went one step further and showed that he also understands that White people have legitimate reasons for resentment too.

Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition.

Life is not a Zero-Sum game, where every positive thing that happens to one person must be snatched from the mouth of someone else. Yet we have been taught to address the things in our life purely in competitive these terms, in terms of Winners and Losers.

We rarely speak of it, but much of America is based on the idea that If you Play the Game, you will Succeed and be Rewarded, with riches, opportunity, leisure and prosperity.

We're all playing a game, a game in which we already know is at least partially rigged in the favor of those who already have every advantage.

We all feel resentment that somehow, somewhere - we've been robbed. Somebody should have called a foul. Where's the flag on the play? The Refs are all on the take.

It has been the lot of many politicians and political commentators to manipulate this resentment for their own gains.

Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Talking heads, screaming at each other - pointing the finger of Race Baiter. From Rutgers to Duke, it goes on and on. Playing the "Race Card", ignoring the Legacy of Discrimination. We Recriminate and Rebuke, never Solve and Resolve.

It's past time we stopped bickering, and started doing.

Yes, we are in a competition. Yes, we are in a game - but we need to learn that ultimately - We're All On the Same Team.

The Human Team.

Yes, we have indeed made great strides forward over the last 50 years, but we have not arrived at the Promised Land Yet. Not quite...yet.

We have to remember that sometimes being at 5 and Goal, is far more difficult than being on the 90 yards down field. We can't afford to give up now, not when we're so close.

White people can not walk away from this and pretend as many have, that their hands are clean and nothing should be asked of them.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds.

Black people must do more than just point fingers, they must also take some responsibility of their own, and continue to nurture hope rather than give in to cynicism and despair.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

We can not afford to disown each other, and we have spent far too long staring at each other across and angry divide of apathy and hopelessness, screaming our long list of deep grievances in impotent righteous rage, we must learn to listen to each others real concerns and issues not with a tin-ear, not with a "my pain is sooo much bigger than your pain", but instead we must embrace it all, as OUR COMMON PAIN. Our Common Suffering. Our Common Fears.

And Our Common Hope.

Hope for a safer America. Hope for a more tolerant and generous America.

Hope for a Better America.

It's well past time we started making that America, together.

Vyan


Obama Speach on Wright and Race


Remarks of Senator Barack Obama

"A More Perfect Union"

Constitution Center

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union."

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It's a story that hasn't made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either "too black" or "not black enough." We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

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.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

"People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend's voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn't need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild."

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.

I can no more disown him 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.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven't fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today's urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What's remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so na├»ve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright's sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

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.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."

"I'm here because of Ashley." By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.


Yeah, but .. Wright wasn't Wrong.

Now that Barack Obama has officially repudiated the comments of his former paster Jeremiah Wright, and dropped him from involvement in his campaign - followed by a very clear and inspiring statment that of what he does believe and how he intends to address the issues of America not with rancor and outrage, but with hope and positivity -

Might we take just a second to consider the fact that despite the high intensity, voltage and volume of his of rhetoric - even if many would fairly disagree with how he said it - most of what Rev Wright said was absolutely 100% True?

And might we also consider - that very fact may be why this issue is so upsetting to some people?

I know a lot of people would like this issue to simply go away, but I think that's like trying to sweep a hand-grenade under the rug and thinking it'll won't hurt when it goes off.

It's not going away. Period.

It's going to keep going off - again and again.

Today we've had an attempt to help prove that Barack is not a bald-faced liar and really wasn't in the pews during any of these inflammatory sermons.

At the same time Bill Kristol has already shot off his big fat mouth, and hit himself in the dick on that same issue. No, Barack's wasn't in the pews at Trinity on July 22, 2007.

Problem is whether Barack was in the pews or not is missing the key point, and that's the content of what Rev. Wright was saying.

There have been a couple of really well written diaries on this - expressing the simply honest truth that when (most) white people listen to Rev Wright they hear something very different from what (most) Black people hear, and sometimes some translation is required.

In the 60's and 70's black power rhetoric was common, however in our age in which we are in full denial of our national culpability in some very violent and unsavory deeds, this sounds like the essence of treason. How dare anyone speak ill of America after 9/11. We live in era in which patriotism is uncontested. By patriotism I don't mean the simple love of ones country but the idiotic symbolic display of this adoration.

What is difficult for many white Americans to understand is that patriotism is intimately linked with white supremacy--see FoX News if you have any doubts. Black men and women, from the south side of Chicago who have enlisted and fought in every war this country waged returned home to segregation, racial violence and the grind of everyday bigotry. They don't wear flag lapel pins, they don't joyously sing "God Bless America" at every opportunity--why the hell would they. Wright is the pastor of THIS community. And their experience vis-a-vis patriotism is complicated, and completely untranslatable to white America--liberals and reactionaries alike.

So what did he say - and what is the translation?

Wright's "God Damn America" Statement:

"The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people," he said in a 2003 sermon. "God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."

One could and should quibble with details. The US Government did not give drugs to the Black Community - however, following the Crack Cocain that flooded American streets during the 80's it was discovered that some of these drugs did come from the Contras and the CIA failed to notify the DOJ of this for over two years.

By the CIA's own account, they stood by and let it happen. This is partly why former police officer and drug trafficker Ronald Lister claimed that he was "under the protection of the CIA" when he was eventually arrested in 1986. He wasn't, but there were reasons for him to make the allegation.

There is still today a 100 to 1 disparity between the level of punishment meted out for crack cocain as there is for powdered cocain.

Crack Cocain is cheaper and commonly used by people with less money than Powerdered Cocain - and by the way - far more of those poorer people are black than white - however most overal drug users are white.

According to the federal Household Survey, "most current illicit drug users are white. There were an estimated 9.9 million whites (72 percent of all users), 2.0 million blacks (15 percent), and 1.4 million Hispanics (10 percent) who were current illicit drug users in 1998." And yet, blacks constitute 36.8% of those arrested for drug violations, over 42% of those in federal prisons for drug violations. African-Americans comprise almost 58% of those in state prisons for drug felonies; Hispanics account for 20.7%.

Right now the percentage on Americans under incarceration is higher than any other industrialized nation - including China. An extradinarily high percentage of of these people are black.

From the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

# In 2001, an estimated 2.7% of adults in the U.S. had served time in prison, up from 1.8% in 1991 and 1.3% in 1974.

# Lifetime chances of a person going to prison are higher for

-- men (11.3%) than for women (1.8%)
-- blacks (18.6%) and Hispanics (10%) than for whites (3.4%)

The bottom line is this although Black's don't use more drugs than anyone else, because of the reality of profiling, three-strikes and disparate sentencing - they are almost three times more likely than Hispanics and five times more likely than whites to be in jail.

Why is this so important, besides the fact that it is causing a near genocide among the black population?

Well, many people tend to say that black people should be well "over" the Slavery issue - but as I often mention slavery isn't over according to the 13th Amendment.

Amendment 13 - Slavery Abolished. Ratified 12/6/1865.

1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

We have justice system which is tilted toward the incarceration of black men, and as such has the constitutional option to put these people into Forced Labor inside a $multi-billion Prisons for Profit industry at any time, and there is no legal recourse for this. None.

Wright's point - with the weight of all these facts behind him - is that all the above is a crime against humanity, and - in his view - a crime against God. Taking away the value of man's labours - is Theft!

Thou Shalt Not Steal!

These policies have visited a Genocide onto Black's in America.

Thou Shalt Not Murder.

I would disagree with Wright's statement of "God Damn America" in general terms - but when you get into specifics, doesn't America bear a weight of responsibility for all the above?

Doesn't it need to serve penance?

Shouldn't America be asking for forgiveness for it's sins?

If you can look at all this and not have an epithet on the edge of your lips, as I've said before, I suspect your soul may be in need of defribbilation.

Wright's "9/11 was our own fault" Statement:

"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye," Rev. Wright said in a sermon on Sept. 16, 2001.

"We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost,"

It's obvious that the death toll at Hiroshima and Nagasaki far outstrips those who lost their life in New York or Washington on 9/11/01.

We have supported actions by the Israelis - such as assasinations and bombings carried out by Mossad - which would certainly fit the definition of "Terrorism."

It would be fair to argue that all of these actions were taken as a last resort as an effort to prevent even further loss of life, but I think that distinction is generally lost on the hundreds of thousands of victims and survivors, don't you?

This is what Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA's Bin Laden Desk has written about why we were attacked in his book Imperial Hubris.

My thesis is like the one that shaped Through Our Enemies' Eyes, namely, that ideas are the main drivers of human history and, in the words of Perry Miller, the American historian of Puritanism, are "coherent and powerful imperatives to human behavior." In short, my thesis is that the threat Osama bin Laden poses lies in the coherence and consistency of his ideas, their precise articulation, and the acts of war he takes to implement them. That threat is sharpened by the fact that bin Laden's ideas are grounded in and powered by the tenets of Islam, divine guidelines that are completely familiar to most of the world's billion-plus Muslims and lived by them on a daily basis. The commonality of religious ideas and the lifestyle they shape, I would argue, equip bin Laden and his coreligionists with a shared mechanism for perceiving and reacting to world events. "Islam is not only a matter of faith and practice," Professor Bernard Lewis has explained, "it is also an identity and a loyalty -- for many an identity and loyalty that transcends all others." Most important, for this book, the way in which bin Laden perceives the intent of U.S. policies and actions appears to be shared by much of the Islamic world, whether or not the same percentage of Muslims support bin Laden's martial response to those perceived U.S. intentions. "Arabs may deplore this [bin Laden's] violence, but few will not feel some pull of emotions," British journalist Robert Fisk noted in late 2002. "Amid Israel's brutality toward Palestinians and America's threats toward Iraq, at least one Arab is prepared to hit back."

In the context of the ideas bin Laden shares with his brethren, the military actions of al Qaeda and its allies are acts of war, not terrorism; they are part of a defensive jihad sanctioned by the revealed word of God, as contained in the Koran, and the sayings and traditions of the Prophet Mohammed, the Sunnah. These attacks are meant to advance bin Laden's clear, focused, limited, and widely popular foreign policy goals: the end of U.S. aid to Israel and the ultimate elimination of that state; the removal of U.S. and Western forces from the Arabian Peninsula; the removal of U.S. and Western military forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Muslim lands; the end of U.S. support for the oppression of Muslims by Russia, China, and India; the end of U.S. protection for repressive, apostate Muslim regimes in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, et cetera; and the conservation of the Muslim world's energy resources and their sale at higher prices. To secure these goals, bin Laden will make stronger attacks in the United States -- complemented elsewhere by attacks by al Qaeda and other Islamist groups allied with or unconnected to it -- to try to destroy America's resolve to maintain the policies that maintain Israel, apostate Muslim rulers, infidel garrisons in the Prophet's birthplace, and low oil prices for U.S. consumers. Bin Laden is out to drastically alter U.S. and Western policies toward the Islamic world, not necessarily to destroy America, much less its freedoms and liberties.

The fact is that Bin Laden attacked us on 9/11 to Change U.S. Foreign Policy, not because he "Hated Freedom." Those really were our own "Chicken's coming home to roost", and denying that fact doesn't change the fact.

This isn't to say that Bin Laden is correct - he connects a series of dots in his arguments that simply don't flow together - only that he had reasons for what he did and what he is doing, and those reason have a strong resonance with the muslim world. He's not a "madman", he's a warrior and strategist.

It's true that Hillary Clinton has probably never been called the "N-Word" (Although we all know she has been called the "B-Word") She probably won't ever know what it's like to live the life of a black man, but I think she can get a pretty good idea. Even what he said here is "True", albiet somewhat irrelevant. You don't have to be black to care - the Freedom Riders cared, and died, to help black people.

The real question should be one of empathy, not skin tone.

Still the bottom line is this: America has grossly mistreated - and continues to fail - Black and Muslim people (as well as Native Americans, Latino, Women and many others), it should be fair to say it's high time that America looked itself in the mirror before it points fingers.

It's well past time America took some RESPONSIBILITY for itself, and finally changed course.

This isn't to say that every person in America is racist, or anti-Muslim - or a sexist - that isn't necessary. Most of America has never been racist, ever. Not even before the Civil War, however when bigoted policies were implemented then - most people did nothing.

After the Civil War and the promise of reconstruction turned to the bitter ash of Jim Crow - most people weren't wearing White Sheets - Most People Did Nothing.

When Black men were being regularly lynched in the early 20th Century - most people weren't holding the rope - Most people did nothing.

Today, when the Votes of African-Americans are Caged and Denied, when the Terrorism of Lynching Nooses are hung in Jena, LA, when the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ is racially purged, when an entire American City DROWNED - Most people have Done Nothing.

We may be legitimately annoyed that Rev. Wright's language was over-the-top, we may legitimately condemn that language - but we should also recognize that unlike Jerry Falwell's blaming AIDs and the ACLU for 9/11, or John McCain supporter John Hagee blaming the "Sin of New Orleans" for Katrina...

A lot of what Jeremiah Wright said had a point, and that point should be listened too even as we disagree with HOW it was said.

As I said at the beginning, I suspect the intensity of "Outrage" at Rev Wright's comments may be directly related to people desperate desire to "distance themselves" from all the above. People figure they weren't alive during Slavery so they don't have any responsibility for it's after effects.

    "It's not my fault.

    Leave me alone. Just Get OVER IT. My Family has had it tough too, quite whining. Just Stop Talking about it and things will get better..."

No, sorry it won't.

They say we (America - that is, WE are America) don't need to apologize for slavery because no one is left alive who suffered it or inflicted it.

Ok, but then when they "ended" slavery 150 years ago we also supposedly guaranteed blacks "equal" protections (14th Amendment) and the right to vote (15th Amendment) didn't they?

Gee, How'd that go?

Why did it take almost another 100 years for the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts to be passed? Seems to me we were all supposed to be "over this" in 1868, yet we're still fighting and dying over it in 1968 and we're still fighting over it now.

Alright, Never mind the "Slavery card".

What's the excuse for not Apologizing for the Open Segregation that took place during that following 100 years after Slavery? What's the excuse for not apologizing for Jim Crow? For Lynchings? For Profiling and filling our Prisons with Black and Brown men, then turning them into Indentured Servant Factories?

Where's the Apology for Neglecting the Survivors of Katrina?

And btw an apology doesn't mean it's your fault, it may mean that you admit you give a crap. Apologizing is admitting that it was - and is - WRONG!

Why is that so hard?

Some people may not want to hear it, they may consider anytime anyone brings this up to be "carrying a racial grievance", but if America - as a nation and a people - seems to have such a problem admitting when it's done something wrong - particularly when it's so OBVIOUSLY WRONG - then it (we) clearly don't have what it takes to go a different course.

Before we can reasonably expect anyone to "Get Over" any of this - before we can "Get Past" it - we have to STOP DOING IT!

Then we have to fix it, and we can begin to heal it. So far we've done none of the above.

Good non-bigoted people have to be willing to stand up and say - No More, instead of "Go Away". "Stop bothering me, I've got texting to do..."

The fact that we haven't done any of the above is why people like Rev. Wright will continue be out there - screaming at the pews.

Want them to go away?

Start fixing it.

Don't just stand by - Stand UP!

Stop claiming that anyone who points out the truth is using emotional blackmail or "Playing the Race Card." (Sometimes they are, but sometimes they aren't!) Don't stand on the sidelines and claim "It's not my problem" - it's ALL of our problem, black and white Americans alike.

Doing so won't just benefit Black people, doing so won't hurt Whites - it will only benefit America.

Vyan