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thoughts on The Speech in the form of a letter

Posted by pocochina on March 22, 2008

Senator Obama,

Like so many Americans, I was moved – in fact, emotionally shocked – by your speech this week.  I’ve already had an imaginary word with Rev. Wright during Pastorgate 2008, but well, he’s not asking me to hire him for a job next month, and you are.  So, Senator, we need to talk.

I am furious that you even had to give such a speech.  Your religion is private, and I do not judge you by your church. There are a great many double standards at work, in a world where the Republican party may accept the money, the votes, and the “moral rectitude” of white misogyinst, racist hatemongers under the guise of religion, and you are called to repudiate your minister and friend, both because you are both African-American and because of your anti-racist views.  This is unfair, and it is wrong, and I stand in firm opposition to such injustice in our political discourse.  Likewise, you should not be judged on your race, and in a just world, such a speech would not only have passed without issue, it would not have been necessary.  I understand that we don’t live in that world, not yet, and I take your word for it that your commitment to changing that sad fact is pure and true.  I don’t know what it is like to be African-American, and I cannot claim that struggle for my own, but I hope you know that I am an ally in this fight.

First off, I want to give credit where credit is due.  I know you wrote it yourself (watch me not make a joke about Gov. Duval!  See, I’m mature) without speechwriters.  So, rhetorically and oratorically, you deserve all of the acclaim you’re receiving on your gifts and your skills.

I know more about you than I did a week ago – not factually, as I am as familiar as the rest of America is with your life story, but how it has shaped and affected you as a man.  I stand with you unequivocally in the long, hard fight against American racism.  I know more, too, about the pain of growing up multiracial in America.  It breaks my heart that any child should experience such pain.  We can, and we must, do better by our fellow Americans.

I know too that it is terribly difficult to stand up for yourself in defiance of an injustice which calls you “less than” and to call it by its name.  You spoke unflinchingly about the emotions and prejudices which perpetuate racism in this country with honesty and without victim-blaming.  This is a critical and difficult tightrope to walk, and it is set high, and the safety net is thin.

But Senator, for all the rawness of your emotion, and the brilliance of your words, I am still concerned.  I am concerned that when you repudiated the “controversial” statements made by your minister, you spoke only of those statements deemed controversial by the mainstream press.  You did not repudiate the terrible sexism in Reverent Wright’s speech; you failed to deplore the personal and unjustified attacks on your opponent.  You allowed his vicious and cheap reminder of her marital struggles to pass without comment, and such an attack on Senator Clinton is an attack on all of us. In allowing to stand his statements that ignore the legacy of misogyny in America, you have left me with even more reason to question your commitment to true equality for women.  I can only assume one of two things – either you are so deeply cynical that you are afraid to remind voters that Senator Clinton also faces deeply ingrained prejudices, or you simply do not care about our pain.  I do not want either of those possibilities to be true.  Please prove me wrong.

You could have easily done so.  When you spoke of your grandmother’s racism – and I can only imagine how hurtful it was, and it turns my stomach to think of the children who must face that hurt every day – you could have spoken with the same empathy and (undeserved, in my opinion) gracious assumption of humanity you granted to white resentment.  A simple sentence.  “Though her prejudices were wrong, we must acknowledge that American women of all colors still have too much to fear when walking down the street.”  You could have decried the hatred shown towards Senator Clinton. You did not even grant lip service to the struggles that half of Americans face every day because of what is between our legs.

You did not speak respectfully of women.  When you mentioned “white men flocking to John McCain,” you either assumed that women of all hues would stand by you like Tammy Wynette, or that we do not even matter.  When you spoke specifically of a woman who has given her entire life to this party and this country, who is now dying of cancer after a lifetime of service – you called her “a Hillary supporter.”  Yes, she said something about you, and all African-Americans, that she should not have, but to take away not just her title but her very name was disrespectful.  You knew that you could get away with such disrespect because she is a woman, and you chose to do so.

Senator, I do not want equality that is built on your back – that would not be equality, it would simply be a different hierarchy, a new type of power to be abused.  I am not interested in that.   I am interested in equality for both of us.  I am waiting – looking – hoping – for an indication that you feel the same about me.



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