2008 Presidential Election, Race and Racism
Professor Vernellia Randall
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Australia: Obama shops his grandma but won't save his skin


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Herald Sun (Australia)
March 21, 2008

BARACK Obama's mistake was to choose to be black, and on Tuesday he only made that mistake worse by betraying his white grandmother.

And as a result, his speech to excuse his links to race-baiting black preacher Jeremiah Wright may have killed his chance of becoming the next president of the United States.

Sure, Obama will still win the Democratic nomination, but the polls are already turning sour and the man who promised to bridge the racial divide looks like falling into it instead.

Obama is the son of a Kenyan man and white American woman. His father soon abandoned his family, and Obama was later raised in Hawaii with his mother's parents. So his strongest cultural influences were ``white'' American, although he looked black.

This background meant Obama could have been above not only racial stereotypes, but racial identity. He could have been not just a black politician, but a multi-racial one -- representing Americans of every race.

But he chose instead to be black -- so black that in Chicago he joined the Trinity United Church run by Jeremiah A. Wright -- who in the two decades since has been Obama's pastor, mentor, adviser and acknowledged source of inspiration.

Trinity is not a black church simply in that almost every one of its members is black, or its black pastor discusses racism and is political.

Martin Luther King ran such black churches, too, yet still reached out to whites to join him in recognising that all men and women were equal under God, and should be equal under the American flag as well.

But Wright is not that kind of black preacher. The man Obama chose to follow does not fight racism, but whips it up against white America, portraying its government and institutions as fundamentally corrupt.

In the past week excerpts from DVDs of his sermons -- DVDs proudly sold by Trinity -- have been run on television to show Wright in full flight:

``The government . . . purposely infected African-American men with syphilis . . .

Continued page 19

From page 18

``(W)hat's going on in white America, U.S. of KKKA . . .

``Black men turning on black men that is fighting the wrong enemy . . .

``We cannot see how what we (the US) are doing is the same thing al-Qaida is doing . . .

``We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans . . .

``(With the September 11 attacks) America's chickens are coming home to roost . . .

``The government lied about Pearl Harbor. They knew the Japanese were going to attack . . .''

For 20 years Obama listened to a pastor with that message, and called him friend and counsellor.

When rumours of Wright's preaching first broke, Obama feigned ignorance. ``I don't think my church is actually particularly controversial,'' he said. He hadn't heard Wright say stuff like: ``God damn America.''

But then the tapes hit the airwaves, and Obama realised he had to address them head on with a speech about race -- and Wright. True, he now admitted, he'd heard Wright say ``controversial'' things ``which expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country -- a view that sees white racism as endemic''.

But the man and his church comprised both good and bad, like ``the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America''.

For that reason, ``I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother -- a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe''.

And that's where Obama lost me -- and perhaps the election.

Reread Wright's claims. Several aren't part of America's debate on race, but are wild anti-American conspiracy theories of the far-Left.

Obama dismisses them as the heated rhetoric of a protester against racism to make his failure to reject them earlier seem less craven.

And why does Obama characterise such lies about America as just part of being black in the US? Was that really part of King's preaching, too?

But worse is that Obama denounced his own grandmother -- still alive -- and likened her private fears to the public hate-mongering of his preacher.

His sin isn't just that he's betrayed his own grandmother to save his skin. It's also that he's undermined the very point he tried to argue -- that he is above the racial politics of a Wright and can bridge the black-white divide.

He's instead demonstrated that to defend a black preacher guilty of appalling bigotry, he'd shop even his own white relatives. I doubt white and Latino voters will miss that message.


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