Tuesday, March 18, 2008

In order to form a more perfect union

Americans shy away from honest discussions of race and racism (and even more from class and classism). I don't know how we can hope to move forward unless we face these issues honestly. Today we saw and heard a good example of how it can be done.

You owe it to yourself to read Barack Obama's speech today. You can find a transcript here.

An excerpt:
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.
Or watch it.

--the BB


Episcopollyanna said...

I thought it was a great speech. He mentioned Faulkner, which floored me. I guess I've gotten used to "misunderestimating" politicians over the past eight years.

Honestly, it was wonderful and brought tears to my eyes.

Jane R said...

Yup, and see this by the very thoughtful head of the UCC re: the Jeremiah Wright flap. (Sorry for blogwhoring, but I am intent on spreading this statement around; it really merits a reading because folk just don't get the context or the rhetoric.)

Paul said...

Shameless blogwhoring at that, you unpainted hussy, but all is forgiven. I got your e-mail and saw your post, just had not gotten around to referencing it yet. Now you've done it for me. Thanks. Nice to see UCC folks standing up for their own (unlike Anglicans).