03/18/2008 06:34 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Moving Beyond Talk and 'Race Entertainment'

Senator Barack Obama's speech today was eloquent, insightful and unprecedented.

Unlike the analysis of race that conservatives, liberals and progressives have made in the past, Senator Obama's marriage of race with the nation's economic challenges was deeper and broader than any speech given in recent memory. He brilliantly steered this campaign season away from the old, business-as-usual politics, to the visionary politics that Americans demand during a race for the White House.

I'm reminded of another politician who initiated his own conversation on race, former president Bill Clinton. In 1997, the then-president launched a year-long race initiative. But Clinton's race dialogue took place without a corresponding economic proposal. As a result, the race talk in the absence of economic action ran the risk of being merely -- what I called at the time -- "race entertainment."

There's been too much talk about race in politics for too long. Senator Obama gave us an opportunity to take positive action.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did the same thing. When he died, Dr. King was not organizing a discussion about race. He was organizing a "Poor Peoples' Campaign" to fight for economic and racial justice. Dr. King argued that the money we were wasting to conduct an immoral war in Vietnam should have been used to conduct a moral war on poverty at home. And the economic effect of money invested on a war on poverty at home would have had an even greater positive economic impact on a booming domestic economy than the war in Vietnam. Sound familiar?

To talk about race without committing to a quality education for every American child, as well as fairness in wealth and income, is just talk. And all of that talk can only lead to more hostility, frustration and racial animosity. That's been the path for too long. No more talk.

Barack Obama gave us a real choice today. Some may want to continue with the economic and race entertainment of the past, but I join him in choosing something much better this time.

-- Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. (D-IL)

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