Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Out of Context: Issue 6

"My candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action." - Barack Obama, A More Perfect Union speech, 18/3/08

Obama describes his church:

"Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety - the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity's services are full of raucous laughter
and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America." Ibid.

Obama not stirring up the race card:

"Race is an issue. . . so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow."

Obama not reciting the history of racial injustice:

"We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. . . Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven't fixed them. . . inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students.

"Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments - meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today's urban and rural communities.

"A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families - a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods - parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement - all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us."

To be fair, of course, you have to read the whole speech in-context. But when you do, don't ignore the words. A speech is made out of words. They have meaning. They were put there for a reason. What is it?

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