Senator Obama gave a speech yesterday which will most likely be considered one of the most brilliant, profound and transformative speeches of his political career. The speech not only forced me to acknowledge my own anger as an African American, but I was forced to consider the genesis of the anger of many white Americans, more specifically, that not all white Americans have been privileged because of their race and should not all be held accountable for America's dark past.
Tears rolled down my face as he spoke of his experience as a bi-racial or multi-racial person in America. He is a man caught in two worlds. He can no more reject or hate the one than the other despite the fact that his appearance automatically associates him with one more than the other. I was reminded of my own experience and that of my family. I thought about the anger I feel when I think about how my grandparents (not great, great grandparents) were sharecroppers in Mississippi who picked cotton for a pittance in order to survive and care for their nine children. I thought about the anger I felt when I heard a young white college student tell a black woman to thank her grandfather for his cotton shirt. I thought about the pain in my heart when I think about how my grandmother received substandard medical care and botched surgeries as she suffered through cervical cancer because she was a poor, black woman in Mississippi.
While confronting my personal anger and pain, I was also forced to think about the opportunities America has afforded my family. No, my grandparents could not amass financial wealth that they could bequeath to future generations. However, had my paternal grandparents lived they could take pride in the fact that the same America that engaged in the atrocities of slavery, also provided their seed educational opportunities that produced a cardiologist, a gynecologist, a lawyer, a chief of police, a banker and various other professionals.
Just last year, we were dealing with the racial issues associated with the Duke LaCross players, Don Imus and Michael Richards. Prophetically, I wrote the following in an email to Bill O'Reilley:
This is not an issue about Senator Obama, Mr. Sharpton or Mr. Jackson. This is about Don Imus' representation of the canker sore we identify as racism. It's just below the surface of our very existence and situations like Michael Richards and Don Imus indicate that racism permeates our nation. And, as progressive and idealistic as we may want to consider ourselves, we're still a nation with many, many problems that stem from our historical foundation. Until we are honest with ourselves about who we are, where we need to go as a nation, and what it takes to heal, we will continue to remain in the dark and situations like Imus and Richards will continue to arise to show us who we really are as a nation.
It should not be forgotten that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. The fact that Senator Obama has presented the boil of racism in an open forum to the entire nation, paves the way for us all to begin the journey of healing our divide and addressing the issues that presently impact our nation. As Senator Obama's speech revealed, the real issue is not about Rev. Jeremiah Wright and whether Senator Obama should denounce his inflammatory statements and disassociate himself from someone who has been a devoted friend and spiritual mentor, not political advisor. Rather, the real issue is our character as Americans, whether black, white, brown or yellow and whether we can come together, heal our divide and address our problems in a united front in order to journey on the road to being a more perfect union.
Yesterday, Senator Obama eloquently stated the following:
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.
We have been so focused on Rev. Jeremiah Wright that we have ignored the fact that $30 billion dollars of taxpayer money has been given to bail out a Wall Street firm, while individual taxpayers are suffering all across America. This is the same Wall Street that has been doling out millions of dollars to its C.E.O.'s in the form of bonuses, stock options and golden parachute retirement packages. Thirty billion dollars certainly could have been used to assist quite a few homeowners who are in the process of loosing their homes. It could have assisted those without medical insurance to receive much needed healthcare. Or, it could help a student desirous of improving his or her life, attain an education in order to become a more productive citizen in this country.
The reality we face as Americans is that the economic, healthcare and education crisis' of this county ultimately impacts us all, whether black, white, brown or yellow. The infusion of race into the campaign of Senator Obama past yesterday will serve no purpose other than to continue to pour salt into a wound that has now been postured for healing, paving the path to a more perfect union.