Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Obama's Speech on Race



I didn't get a chance to actually watch this until this evening, I'd just heard snippets on the news that it was great, or historic, and that made me slightly skeptical. Nonetheless, I've been increasingly a fan of Obama as the campaign has gone on, and I definitely wanted to understand the conversation on this.

I thought to myself, well, here's really something. Because it does not end with any sort of rallying cry, it is not decisive. It's a head turner because it asks us to recognize in the open the racial divides that exist in America. It draws a distinction between race as it has been encountered in politics thus far, and race as a structure and divide that is actually built in to American society.

Obama refuses to disown Reverend Wright as a quack, and instead uses Wright's racially divisive language as a means to pry open and expose these underlying structures of race in America.

Both of the above are delicate maneuvers to make, with a hot button issue. Regardless, he is somehow able to thread the needle, and cause us to think critically about our present conditions and how they can change.

I admire his ability and willingness to make these difficult moves and speak them in public, and would be glad to hear more. Certainly if he is able to bring about change through politics, that would be great, but I am just as interested in his ability as a public figure to make us think twice about the world we live in, and how it can be different.