March 18th, 2008
04:36 PM ET

Healing the Wounds of Race

Editor's note: Jim Wallis is a guest on 360° tonight.  He originally posted the following blog on sojo.net

It has simmered throughout this campaign, and now race has exploded into the center of the media debate about the presidential race.  Just when a black political leader is calling us all to a new level of responsibility, hope, and unity, the old and divisive rhetoric of race from both blacks and whites is rearing its ugly head to bring down the best chance we have had for years of finally moving forward.

And that is indeed the real issue here.  A black man is closer to possibly becoming president than ever before in U.S. history.  And this black man is not even running as "a black man," but as a new kind of political leader who believes the country is ready for a new kind of politics.  But a new kind of politics and a new face for political leadership is deeply threatening to all the forces that represent the old kind of politics in the U.S.  And all the rising focus on race in this election campaign has one purpose and one purpose alone—to stop Barack Obama from becoming president of the United States.

Barack Obama should win or lose his party's nomination or the presidency based on the positions he takes regarding the great issues of our time and his capacity to lead the country and the U.S.'s role in the world.  He must not win or lose because of the old politics of race in the U.S.  That would be a tragedy for all of us.

The cable news stations and talk radio are playing carefully selected excerpts of the most potentially incendiary statements from Rev. Jeremiah Wright's fiery sermons.  Wright is the retiring pastor of Barack Obama and his family's home Trinity Church in Chicago. Obama, while affirming the tremendous work his church has done in his city and around the nation, has condemned the most controversial remarks of his pastor.  But the whole controversy points to the enormous gap in understanding between the mainstream black community in the U.S. and the experience of many white Americans.  And that is what we are going to have to heal if we are ever to move forward.

Here is what I mean.

There is a deep well of both frustration and anger in the African-American community. And those feelings are borne of the concrete experience of real oppression, discrimination, and blocked opportunities that most of America's white citizens take for granted.  African-Americans across the spectrum of income and success will speak personally to those feelings of frustration and anger, when white people are willing to listen.  But usually we are not. In 2008, to still not comprehend or seek to understand the reality of black frustration and anger is to be in a state of white denial – which, very sadly, is where many white Americans are.

The black church pulpit has historically been a place of prophetic truth-telling about the realities that black people experience in their own country.  Indeed, the black church has often been the only place where such truths are ever told.  And, black preachers have had the pastoral task of nurturing the spirits of people who feel beaten down week after week. Strong and prophetic words from black church pulpits are often a source of comfort and affirmation for black congregations.  The truth is that many white Americans would indeed feel uncomfortable with the rhetoric of many black preachers from many black churches all across the country.

But if you look beyond the grainy black-and-white clips of the dashiki-clad Rev. Wright and the angry black male voice (all designed to provoke stereotypes and fear,) and actually listen to what his words are saying about the U.S. being run by "rich white people" while blacks have cabs speeding by them, and about the U.S.'s misdeeds around the world, it's hard to disagree with many of the facts presented.  It's rather the angry tone of Wright's comments that provides the offense and the controversy.

Ironically, a new generation of black Americans is now eager and ready to move beyond the frustration and anger to a new experience of opportunity and hope.  And nobody represents that shift more than Barack Obama.  There is a generational shift occurring within the black community itself.  This shift is between an older generation that is sometimes perceived to be stuck in the politics of victimization and grievance, and a younger generation that believes that opportunity and progress are now possible—not by ignoring, but by being committed to actually changing the facts of oppression and discrimination.

Barack Obama represents that hope of dealing with the substance of the issues of injustice while at the same time articulating the politics of hope, and even the possibility of racial unity.  Obama's attraction to many who are white, especially a new generation, demonstrates the promise of a new racial politics in the U.S.  But to be a leader for a new generation of black Americans, Barack Obama had to be firmly rooted in the black church tradition, where the critique of white America, the sustenance of the African-American community, and God's promise for the future are all clearly articulated.  That's why he began attending Trinity Church, where he was converted to Jesus Christ in the black liberationist tradition of, among others, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

So it would be a great tragedy if the old rhetoric of black frustration and anger were to now hurt Barack Obama, who has become the best hope of beginning to heal that very frustration and anger.  Obama has never chosen to talk about race in the way that Rev. Jeremiah Wright does on the video clips that keep playing, and indeed has never played "the race card" at any time in this election.  It's been his opponents that have, especially the right-wing conservative media machine that wants the U.S. to believe he is secretly a Muslim and from a "racist" church.

This most recent controversy over race just demonstrates how enormous the gap still is between whites and blacks in the U.S. – in our experience and our capacity to understand one another.  May God help us to heal that divide and truly bless America.

– Jim Wallis, Author The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith & Politics in a Post–Religious Right America

soundoff (152 Responses)

    obama rode the fence on this one playing it safe, i dont believe a word he said, he lied before when he said that he wasnt there, i am a black women and i will not be voting for him come this nov, i will vote for Mc cain, if i cant trust him now i know i want be able to believe anything thing he say once he get in the white house , atlease with the other canadates you know what you getting.

    March 18, 2008 at 7:10 pm |
  2. Nelson

    My dad is 86 and I am 65 never voted republican, but Obama has
    converted us to die hard republicans and will be working for John McCain.

    March 18, 2008 at 7:04 pm |
  3. Jim, Las Vegas, NV

    I thought Obama gave a great speech. I'm tired of seeing Rev. Wright's rant from the pulpet played multiple times each hour.

    March 18, 2008 at 7:04 pm |
  4. Brenda / Temple, TX

    I saw before me today, a man with honor and great patriotism address the American people today about an issue that has divided this country for quite some time. A man neither black, white, Latino, or Asian, (although to some eyes, he is black) should not have to prove to the American people that he is worthy of running for office for the President of the United States of America. When the entire world watched the Twin Towers fall, there was no mention of race but only of Americans who lost their lives. It was a day that united this country to mourn the lost of those who had fallen.

    I, among countless Americans have never participated in any presidential election until the 2008 elections. I am not proud of that but I am proud today that my vote counted. I hear all too often echoing throughout the communities that, "I am not voting because nothing is going to change". Well there is someone who stands before us is willing to sacrifice it all for change. I heard this man last year announce his presidential candidacy and I stood up. Not because he was a black man but because I believe he is the right man. I had given up on the "American Dream" because of all the hate that surrounds me in this country. How can we repair our economy if we can't learn to except who we are and not judge each by the color of our skin or our religion? I know that there will always be diversity but does it always have to start with race? Have you looked out your windows to see that there other issues in this country that needs your attention and not just the media focusing on one man because of who he knows? The tiring polling that goes on daily about a race issue that hasn't changed much since slavery. We all know that polling is only an effort to determine your ratings. Can you see beyond all this race and realize that Senator Obama and Senator Clinton has brought more people together to join the battle for change? How long has it been since there have been record number turn out in polls in an election year? I guess that type of news doesn't sell. I served my country for eight years. I met some great people during my tour. It was a bond between American people that has come together to fight for the American Dream. My American Dream came to an end when I was honorably discharged from the military. The absolutely worst day of my life. I left some brave men and women on the battlefield. I did not realize that I would be facing another battle in this country and that battle is the headlines in the news today. But I heard a man speak last year and it changed my life and gave me some hope and my American Dream back. The military wears only one uniform adorned with only one flag. That flag stands for liberty and justice. In the military, they fight together and they die together. Of all the fallen heroes, not one mention about the color of their skin or their religion, but only that they were military soldiers. Why can't this country together wear one uniform, the uniform as an "AMERICAN"? Why do we fight for freedom if we can't free our minds of the past?

    March 18, 2008 at 6:57 pm |
  5. Axl

    Wright was a US Marine who fought for the flag of the United States in Vietnam. He, like millions of people around the world, sees the hypocrisy and yes, sometimes sheer evil, in many of America's actions in the international arena. Wright's statements on 9/11 were very hurtful to many people and Obama has roundly condemned them. However, the average Iraqi woman who has lost at least one child under 10 since 2003 didn't do anything wrong to the United States. How do you think she feels about us? If she speaks up and gets dismissed as a terrorist because she's Muslim, how do you think she will feel?

    This instinct to avoid acknowledging other people's anger is a fundamental weakness of mainstream American society. It has made America weaker around the world.

    Obama said Wright, like his own grandmother, is not perfect. That he understands the trouble people of Wright's generation have moving on should not surprise anyone. It's like asking why Jews get so hung up about the Holocaust anyway? America has been selective about respecting and acknowledging people's pain and anger. I wonder if the average person posting negative on this board has ever heard a homophobic or racist statement from a family member at the dinner table.

    March 18, 2008 at 6:55 pm |
  6. Sharon

    I would like to differ from the men in the posting who say Hilary hasn't had to defend herself as a woman. First of all, I am undecided as to who I will vote for in the election. I am not really impressed by any of the candidates. But if we are going to talk about discrimination, as a white female, I think you have to address this issue of gender. I have lived through job discrimination twice. The second time I filed a complaint with the EEO. My case worker, a black male, never bothered to contact me. I called him and he told me he was looking into it. Never heard from him again. I went on with my life and found a job working for another female. Discrimination does not begin or end with the color of skin. Repeatedly on TV I have watched men, especially black men, question Hilary's ability to be president based on her sex. So to say this hasn't been an issue for her is ludicruous. My questions for Obama have nothing to do with race-I want to know what qualifies him to be president, what has he done in his current role that shows his ability to be bring about change, and what exactly he plans to change. I have been voting for change for 30 years, haven't seen any yet, so tell me, what does Obama offer a 50 year old women who has worked for 30 + years and is tired of paying taxes to keep up the world while retirement gets further and further away?

    March 18, 2008 at 6:53 pm |
  7. Arthur

    It is a crime that we as americans have not moved foward but still stuck on the plantations what a shame. oh and to those who ask about his experience what freaking experience did bush bring oh lies theft and murder oh yea we know now. stop the maddness the man is probably our only hope for real change in america and we want to do anything to stop him because he dosent look like us.

    March 18, 2008 at 6:47 pm |
  8. Sharon

    Having quit churches in general years ago due to the sexist attitudes that prevail, and having seen churches split in half over the song selection, I find it amazing that Obama would continue to go to a church for 20 years in which he shared such diverse opinions from it leader. Could it be that off the political campaign, his opinions are really not different?

    March 18, 2008 at 6:42 pm |
  9. Gary

    So the preacher of a large congregation got all "full of himself" and said some things people take exception to. Wow, like that's never happened before! At a time when we have troops at war and stretched dangerously thin, the economy is tanking, and millions of Americans still don't have healthcare, we are obsessing over what someone's preacher said? Let's get back to what matters folks.

    March 18, 2008 at 6:40 pm |
  10. Jan from Wood Dale, IL

    It's okay to be angry over past injustices in America, but Sen. Obama has failed to acknowledge the progress that has been made since the 60's. It's wonderful to want to see more progress in the days ahead, but I ask you, prior to Obama running for President how has he been an instrument for change to social injustices?

    Prejudice of any type is wrong, and everyone is responsible for their own actions. Sadly, we have moved into an era of "instant gratification" and a certain sense of "entitlement", and that's what I see in Sen. Obama.

    March 18, 2008 at 6:38 pm |
  11. CJ

    Funny how Obama managed to spin this into a race war. When the REALITY is that Reverend Wright is a radical of political nature. How do you explain why Wright and Louis Farrakhan made a joint visit to the military dictatorship of Moummar Gaddafi during the "1980s"? Was that because of race? Or was that because of radical politics?

    Gaddafi and Libya were responsible for the DEADLIEST terror attack against Americans prior to 9-11, the Lockerbie Scotland downing of PanAm flight 103, holding 189 American citizens! At the time, Libya was no ally of the United States.

    But Wright has nothing but contempt for innocent American victims apparently, by his decision to visit Gaddafi in the first place then to rub it in in hate-filled speeches blaming 9-11 on America. Is this how a pastor should speak? What about the victims and their families? They are just supposed to go, "oh well, guess America had it coming to my Dad, my wife, my son, my daughter." I mean, it's unconscionable to infer that! And reckless to preach it!

    And THIS guy is a close friend and campaign advisor to Obama? In what freak universe do you think Americans should trust someone with that kind of bad judgment to surround himself with such advisors as this and then hand him the presidency when he ALSO doesn't have any experience? Are these the kind of people he would fill his cabinets with? I mean, WE DON"T KNOW! Because he has no experience and no achievements and virtually no record. He is a blank slate so the only way we can fill in that slate is with the limited information we get - which is who he chooses to put on his campaign and what is being preached at a church he claims to have attended for over 20 years.

    It is offensive to Americans to suggest that because we don't like the hate-filled anti-American speech of Wright, that we are somehow "racists" or that we don't understand "black culture." The reality is that white, black or brown... it is what Wright SAID that is offensive and what he has DONE that is outrageous (and by associatoin, Obama's close connection with him). Not the color of his skin or the predicament that many African Americans like him find themselves in - holding a lot of resentment and pent-up anger. There is no amount of anger that could possibly justify anything that Wright said in those MULTIPLE inflammatory statements that he made. It was also ILLEGAL for him to criticize Hillary Clinton and campaign for Barack Obama from the non-profit pulpit.

    So please, media, stop trying to spin and hype Obama into the White House. Americans are smarter than that!

    March 18, 2008 at 6:32 pm |
  12. Ruby Coria, LA., CA.

    Jim, funny you end by saying God help us heal that divide and truly bless America. The Rev. of course speaks the truth (goes a little over board at times.) and their are many who think like him (me, at times and I'm Mexican/American) but Obama is running for the Noble Office where it does matter who inspires you. Words count (Obama said.) it kinda don't matter what good you do as soon as you Damn America their goes the dream..I Know Obama didn't say it, but he loves the Rev. like family even compare him with his grandmother he is inspire by him, nothing wrong with that but the damage is done the Rev. damn the democrat party! He ride us like he said Bill did. ouch!

    March 18, 2008 at 6:28 pm |
  13. Kathy

    I'm very disappointed in Barack Obama. Friday night, he stated he was not aware of his pastor's radical views, but today he admitted he was aware of those views, and tried to distance himself from this controversy. If he really didn't agrree with his pastor's remarks, he should not have continued to worship in that particular church. I was born and raised Catholic, but my disagreement with some church doctrine has forced me to no longer attend services on a regular basis. I believe you can still be a Christian, even though you don't attend a particular church service, and I believe Sen. Obama should have walked out on that pastor's hate sermons long ago!

    March 18, 2008 at 6:24 pm |
  14. Penny

    He is one of the most articulate, passionate speakers that I have ever heard, People forget we are in the 21st century and we need some intelligence in our country. I am tired of OLD PERSONS BOTH BLACK AND WHITE who always take us down the same old roads. I want to learn about new STUFF. Thats why I donot think Hillary nor McCain are good for AMERICA in the 21st century. They are old. Let's get real.
    NEW IDEAS PLEASE. I f you don' have it by now, just forget about it.
    EDUCATE yourself and get it done. Stop dragging us down. It is like a pity party.

    March 18, 2008 at 6:20 pm |
  15. Cheryll

    Here I go again, thinking that I am finished with posting my comments and then I read something else and I have to put my 2 cents in. It is amazing to me how some of the people who have responded have said, "he lied" He said he had not heard that speech of the reverend, but he was right, he was not there. I am sure he has heard comments like that before, but it may not have been in the church, did you ever think about that and because we were not present when comments were made we don't know if he pulled his coat tail do we. But we are ready to pull the plug on him, we are ready to one day be for him and the next crucify him, what kind of people are we? We are the typical wishy washy americans. We believe in half truths. It is amazing to me how many americans have been so quick to throw him under the bus, like they were sitting waiting for this to happen. We couldn't get him on anything else but we can get him on this?? We say he does not stand for anything and yet I have heard the issues where were you people? Why is it okay for Hilary or McCain to have speeches but not Obama. He has talked about health, education, the war, the economy. He has talked more about education than Hilary and McCain. He is a man that cares about our children and country more than I can say about the other two, but we will never know because once again we have hurt our poor white folks feelings with telling the truth but then God did say, "You will know the truth and it will set you free" Are we ready to be SET FREE! I DON'T THINK SO!!

    March 18, 2008 at 6:10 pm |
  16. Mischelle from Illinois

    I feel that the reason that young voters are not as deep seated in the controversy of RACE is that they have never experienced first hand the "older" generation of African American point of view, being that of victimization and oppression. Young voters have really only experienced the effects of fairness and equal opportunities and therefore may not have that perspective, until possibly now. A young person may say something like, "My generation is not responsible for those horrible things and therefore, they are not as relevant"

    It sure is educational for a person who has NEVER before heard so much hate from a person who is supposed to be teaching love. I go to church and I have NEVER heard such hate, nor would I ever tollerate it, from a spiritual leader. It is shocking to me to hear people defend that minister. SHOCKING.

    March 18, 2008 at 6:10 pm |
  17. Mickey

    Mr. Obama's essential problem is that he is not being genuine, authentic. He comes across like a phoney. He tells people what they want to hear–what he thinks will "sell." I have watched this race very closely, but I still have no idea who Barack really is. WILL THE REAL BARACK OBAMA PLEASE STAND UP???

    March 18, 2008 at 6:07 pm |
  18. x obamican

    Give me a break. This was racism at it's finest. Mr. Obama and Reverand Wright are both frightening men. I've been to churches of all kinds all over the world, and have neverrrr heard anything like what this so called Christian Minister Spewed. We can not take the risk of electing any one who has assosicated so closely he considers this man his Uncle who has known Radical Islamic ties, not to mention anti american.... For him to refer to his grandmother and mother that worked to raise him in the priviledge that affords him the position he is in today.is dispicable. Black women are afraid and of black men too. Black men fill our prisons. It's no different than getting on an airplane with a person in Islamic Attire. For our own well being it is necessary. Racial Profiling is a necessity not something anyone likes to be forced to do. Anderson, Mr Obama is a Mulatto, who is a black man wanna be. He has blatantly lied to us...and we have every reason to be wary of him. Hitler was an eloquant speaker as well.

    March 18, 2008 at 6:06 pm |
  19. cn

    Obama seems to be reminding us to question ourselves on a personal level at home, in our neighborhoods, churches, workplaces, recreational places. What choices do we make based on race in our daily lives?

    His speech encourages us to think about how we view each other on a personal level.
    Does a teacher see a student or does a teacher see the color of a student first?
    Does a doctor see a patient or does a doctor see the color of a person first?
    Do I see my neighbor as a white neighbor or a black neighbor?
    Will white Christian ministers come to Rev. Wright to comfort his pain and discomfort on racial matters?
    Can an anchorman of any race be readily accepted, trusted, believed?
    Will we ever have a presidential race where there is no polling data based on race? Imagine what we are telling the rest of the world when the media spend hours on displaying and discussing polling data on race. That says a lot to the rest of the world about racial problems in our country.

    March 18, 2008 at 6:05 pm |
  20. Dolly

    Obama needs to drop out

    March 18, 2008 at 6:03 pm |
  21. lee

    The bottom line is this is a major case of poor judgment on Obama's part to associate 20 years with a man like Rev. Wright. Also, Obama said to the Chicago Tribune this weekend "it was his instinct to trust Rezko despite his acknowledged legal problems". Again another example of poor judgment. We overlooked his lack of experience can we over look his lack of good judgment. Is eloquent speaking what we are all so inspired about that we can close our eyes to the facts, this might not be the man for the job.

    March 18, 2008 at 5:59 pm |
  22. Ann Farmer

    I have waited and waited for Barak Obama to acknowledge that he was raised by a WHITE single mother(who according to the NYtimes article sounds fantastic). He is obviously a man in search of a father and an identity and he found it in Chicago and has adopted his minister as his father figure. It is indeed sad that he didn't relate to his White grandfather or to his White grandmother who he basically "threw under the bus" in his speech. This was the woman along with his mother who scarificed to raise him and she is repaid by being belittled in his speech while he praised his minister.
    I view Barak Obama as someone who was raised in a multi-racial culture in Hawaii but who only found himself in the black community in Chicago. His candidancy is indeed a lost opportunity!

    March 18, 2008 at 5:53 pm |
  23. cn

    I would like to know if Hillary Clinton has been showing a lack of judgement by accepting the endorsement of many African-american ministers, who have similar rhetoric and views as Rev. Wright's.

    The point is the media coverage has been so narrow on presenting this story. You could have easily found many white politicians who attend Arican-american churches during election time to get votes. They could care less about what's being preached there.

    March 18, 2008 at 5:50 pm |
  24. Ginger

    There was a artical today online Wall Street Journal
    Written by a Shelby Steele he specializes in the study of race relations. Very interisting article called the Obama Bargain.
    What about the Suix Indian finally receiving a medal of Honor 25 years after his death.
    There are people who don't like people for all kinds of reasons. Color hair, eyes skin, female, male, and gay. But we have to remember not to say all of us are that way. Each individual is different.

    March 18, 2008 at 5:47 pm |
  25. Jeff

    Racist hate speech is not an understandable part of todays racial situation.

    Bigoted, hate inciting, rhetoric should be condemned, not sympathetically understood. It doesn't matter if the year is 2008 or 1968, this country will not, and never has moved forward on issues of race relations by pandering to explosive bigotry, no matter who claims that they "understand" the cause of the bigotry.

    The words of Rev. Wright are very dangerous, not to mention wrong. This speech certainly does elevate itself to something more powerful than "just words".

    March 18, 2008 at 5:45 pm |
  26. Summer

    I am an educated 28 year old African American female and an Obama supporter. I am not supporting Obama because he is a Black man, but because he has proven himself to me. He speaks my language and the language of millions of other people. When you hear him, you can’t help but feel, finally, someone that can CHANGE American politics. In my opinion, the real fight is not black and white, but rich and poor. There is such a disparity in this country between the classes that middle and lower class Americans are losing all hope. As an African American woman in corporate America, I am not frustrated in any way with race. I am more concerned about the gas prices and my 401k plan. As Obama said in his speech, I feel everyone has to be accountable for the path they tread for themselves. But as you can blatantly see in the race he is in for American President, race is obviously still an issue for many Americans, or at least in the media. It is sad to see an opportunity for us to focus on such important issues such as the economy, foreign affairs, all of the children "being" left behind, etc... all being overshadowed by race. I would rather the media focus on the these issues instead of a Sunday morning sermon.The views of Rev. Wright are not the views of the African American community. I do not blame America for any problems I experience in my life. I consider myself a very open minded and optimistic individual, but I am also not naive. I know that there is still racial injustice in America, but I can only hope we do not take the opinion of an Obama associate and lose out on the opportunity to make history. History; not because Barack is a “black man”, but history in the fact that for the first time in American history, we will look forward and look beyond color and truly united together for what is best for America.

    March 18, 2008 at 5:44 pm |
  27. joe pittsburgh

    I was not impressed with his speech. All he did was defend Pastor Wright’s assault on America .maybe that’s why Mrs. Obama made the comments that she is proud of this country for the first time in her adult life maybe she has been listening to Pastor Wright too long. But lets all believe that Barock was not there to learn the hate for America that his wife was taught. You people have to think rationally!!!!! You are making a choice for the President of the United States of America

    March 18, 2008 at 5:43 pm |
  28. Cindy

    I could care less what color Obama is! The fact is he has not told in detail any of his plans on how he is going to change things. I shouldn't have to go to his web site or read a book to see it. Since he is so great at giving speeches he needs to articulate to us all, what his plans are from his own mouth!

    And I resent the fact that someone thinks because I am white that I don't know anything about a black church or black issues! This is not the old days of yore! True I've never lived it but I do know the hardships and the reality of racism. And as far as the church goes I go to a church that is totally mixed with blacks, whites and spanish. My preacher even preaches in the same style as Wright known as pentecostal. Yet he NEVER, EVER would get up and say that trash that Wright did. Don't lay it on me that he's only preaching what the black men deal with. That is absurd! He should be preaching unity, love, rising above what others think and doing your thing, etc. Hate filled rants do nothing but breed more hate. How can that not have gotten into Obama in 20 years!? PLEASE tell me that!

    Cynthia, Covington, Ga.

    March 18, 2008 at 5:41 pm |
  29. Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA

    What I like most about Barack Obama is that he faces tough situations head on, and doesn't try to avoid the tough problems as so many other "poll obsessed" politicians try to do. That, in itself, makes him a good candidate for President of the United States.

    March 18, 2008 at 5:37 pm |
  30. Anne In New York

    After CNN ran the Wright tape over and over, I started to think that perhaps the country wasn't ready for an African-American president. All that anger.

    But after Obama's speech I saw the situation differently. There are plenty of things CNN does that I dislike, like sensationalize the news.
    E.g., the Wright tape over and over.

    I think CNN is turning into the National Enquirer of journalism.

    But I'll still watch watch it.

    March 18, 2008 at 5:33 pm |
  31. Em Deus

    These issues should have been addressed long before Obama’s bid for the White House.

    I think for Obama to even take the time to address these issues shows leadership qualities an American President should possess. The truth is many of our politicians found it easier to avoid the issue of race in America only to try to solve the problems in the Middle East.

    This truly shows he cares about America’s issue. In these times of crisis we need an American President not an Iraqi President. Someone to serve the people of the United States of America.

    March 18, 2008 at 5:29 pm |
  32. peggy - akron Ohio

    Obama is not going to "change". We were apart of a catholic church inwhich the preist retired. After his retirement, we had a nun step in and run the daily business of a parish life. We did not agree with how the church was being ran or the comments that were being made, therefore, we stopped going to that parish and found a different location. My point is that if Barack and his family did not agree with the pastor for years, they could have changed churches. But they didn't. The things in which his pastor had said and advised his flock are Baracks roots.

    March 18, 2008 at 5:28 pm |
  33. James

    I feel that it is a great injustice that Barrack Obama has to defend his race when Hillary didn't have to make a speech on gender and John McCain didn't have to make a speech on the elderly. When are we going to accept that the fact that Obama is a black man is the issue here. A few weeks ago McCain and someone to speak out against Obama and that was in the news for only a few days and after Geraldine resign noone has heard anymore about her, however the issue with Obama pastor is on every news channel everyday. Anyone who says that they have not been around someone ( friend or family) who has made a racial comment would be lying. Come on America lets face the fact that this happens but we just don't talk about it.

    March 18, 2008 at 5:25 pm |
  34. Latinloverone

    This is not about a race. This is about Obama's lack of judgment. But also that he lied last friday. When he said he never heard this kind of speech on my church before. But now he said yes I heard this before.

    March 18, 2008 at 5:24 pm |
  35. d barry

    I am voting for experience. If not Hillary it will be McCain. I did not come to this lightly. ITS NOT ABOUT RACE! Now that Obama blamed his grandmother, for words that were unkind to her grandchild. Hillary for having someone in her campaigne bring attention to Obama's sunday church meetings. I did not see Obama step forward to tell his church not to hate during these events. Will he even now do that much. He loves giving speaches, why not start there at church.
    Bill Cosby wanted the black familys to work harder for a better tommorrow and the African American people turned on him. My family was not in this country when there were slaves, but because I am white I am blamed as all whites, we all must of been slave owners,the color of my skin means I am responsible for the hardships of all African Americans.
    What about Opra !!! Is she given a pass on the bad behavior of the church as well? I thought she was above being a biggot.

    March 18, 2008 at 5:22 pm |
  36. Mike Pettiford

    Dear Sirs,

    I challenge you as a news organization to require a full explanation on Mrs. Clinton's and Mr. McCain's views and attitudes on race, religion, and their church attendance.

    March 18, 2008 at 5:19 pm |
  37. Sabrina in Los Angeles

    While the pastors comments were inflamitory, I think they are still accurate.

    The black experience is different from the white experience.

    This nation has been controlled by White, priveledged, wealthy men.

    That statement is true.

    Obama was raised by a single parent who was not priveledged/wealthy and not male.....that is what the comment is about.

    Base people on their intellect not their skin color....otherwise we end up with trash....white but dumb.

    I'm a bit tired of the "good old boys club" of White, priveledged, men. I want it based on intellect not exterior.

    Obama scares them because he is sharp intellectualy but his exterior is not what they expect.

    They need to get over it.

    This from someone descended from Irish Nobility by the way.

    March 18, 2008 at 5:19 pm |
  38. Susan Cusson RN

    Give me a break. I remember the 50's & 60's and don't need a history speech. He lied yesterday and attempts to correct the lie today. I have changed my church and Priest for far less. It's not about race, it's about our country (USA). Does he have a problem with the pledge of allegiance?

    March 18, 2008 at 5:16 pm |
  39. Terek - Westbury, NY

    I thought Barack Obama’s discourse on race relations in the history of America was an honest and true reflection of what many of us do not wish to see or be reminded of. The United States of America has not always lived by the pledge of “liberty and justice for all”, especially for blacks in this country. In fact, Jim Crow law was only abolished in 1965 which is not long ago when you think about it. For many African Americans the memory is very much alive of their experience of white only bathrooms and water fountains. The memory is alive of black men, woman, and children being knocked to the ground by water hoses and attacked by police dogs because of their desire to march and fight for equailty. I have heard many people, caucasions in particular, who have said that “black people need to just get over it.” However, it is easy to say when you have not lived and experienced the kinds of injustices and inequities that many of these living Americans have endured. I have uncles and aunts that carry a certain amount of bitterness for the things they have experienced. Admitedly, I too hold some measure of anger of my own for some of the things I have experienced which I thought was perpetrated from racial prejudice. I agree with Obama’s statement when he said, “The anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races,” For far too long we have tried to ignore or sweep under a rug the issues of race in this country and because of this it is easy to see why we have not yet found healing from this painful condition.

    March 18, 2008 at 5:14 pm |
  40. Richard from Texas

    I have to say that Mr. Obama’s temperament seem to be one that is calm and none violent, totally different to that of his pastor. If we have to judge Mr. Obama, we must look at how he behaves with everybody. There are those who claim he should have come out stronger against his Pastor probably using more harsh terms. For us to know whether he’s being bias in his approach we must compare how he deals with everyone. Obama’s character is one that is rooted in getting the message across without being insultive To whom he disagrees. We see him doing this with his opponent Hillary all the time. Many times he pauses during his comments to ensure he finds the right words in order that he does not come across as offensive.

    Evidence of that comes out in some of his responses to her comment that McCain is more qualified than he is; he on the other hand says she is qualified and would make a better president than McCain.

    She says he doesn’t have the experience to be president. While critics say she was just a house wife in the white house, he has never taken that position to demean her experience and instead says “he does not question her experience, but he thinks he has the right judgment”.

    Two totally different approaches to politics. Many times we see him not lashing back at negative comments by his opponent, but try to stay focused on the issues. We see a temperament of an individual who is calm and respects people’s opinions even when it is negatively cast against him. Equally I would expect that because it is human nature to judge others the way we judge ourselves, he would also respect even the opinions of his pastor within the same character, but not agree with them. I think all this speculation on the part of the press that he may share the same views with his pastor for being there, is not examining the character of the man in general.

    He spoke of his grand mother whom he disagrees with for her racial comments but love’s her and can never deny her. We see a man who has many friends both black an white and has never in the history of his life insulted any ones race, but respects everyone’s opinion on the issue. Besides, we must also realize that these clips were taken over hundreds of summons that lasted just a few seconds, so it’s not like that’s all he was hearing. What about the hundreds of things spoken about other than race that would overwhelmingly overshadow these few seconds of comments.

    March 18, 2008 at 5:14 pm |
  41. Fay, CA

    This most recent controversy over race just demonstrates how enormous the gap still is between whites and blacks in the U.S. – in our experience and our capacity to understand one another.

    The comments posted on this blog in response to Obama make this abundantly clear.

    We need more articles like the one you've written here because it gets to the heart of the issue. It appears many people are incapable of going beyond knee-jerk reactions and actually looking at the deeper issues that the Obama/Wright controversy has raised and that is particularly sad because it is very apparent that much more work needs to be done when it comes to dealing with race. It would be great if people could keep and open mind and really listen to each other, but unfortunately I don't see it happening at all.

    March 18, 2008 at 5:14 pm |
  42. brandon perrault from new mexico

    Anderson , Mr. Obama's speech today just confirmed why I feel he is well suited for our next president. He spoke with compassion, honesty and didn't run from the race issue as so many politicians do. I think he is the perfect guy to represent the US to the world and repair alot of the damage done by our failed policies of the past. I thought it took a lot of courage to say what he had to say today and he has my vote.
    Silver City, NM

    March 18, 2008 at 5:10 pm |
  43. Gary Chandler in Canada

    Does America have a Minister of Multi Culturism, like Canada does, that funds centres and events that celebrate cultural diversity.
    Melting pot is a misnomer! With pockets and regions of ethnic groups, America is a cultural mosaic, just like Canada and many other countries nowadays for that matter. Think patch work quilt, not cement mixer, if the USA wants to move towards a better racial climate.

    March 18, 2008 at 5:10 pm |
  44. Dee

    I listened to Obama's speech & wanted to give my opinion, before I read the blog or listened to the media's opinion.

    Let me start by saying, I liked Obama early on for what I believed would be good for the unity of this country. Let me also say, I couldn't disagree with his political views anymore then I do.

    I started off listening as if I planned to vote for him, but he had lost me. I listened for the things I needed to hear to for him to win me back. What I heard was a great speech overall, but I didn't hear what I needed to hear as a white Irish American.( with a bit of native American & misc. in me.)

    This is what I heard: Rev. Wright has taught me much, but I don't agree with some of his views. He has taught me about Jesus & pride to be a black man in an unjust world, David Vs. Goliath. He talked of unity & healing. Bringing together the country for the good of America. It was a good speech, but more importantly, it wasn't what I heard, it was what I didn't hear is what mattered to me.

    I heard about the struggle of a black man, but I didn't hear about the struggle of Irish Americans, Native Americans, Chinese & Japanese. The taking of the land from the Native American, the persecution of Irish & Chinese workers. The rounding up of the Japanese in WWII and placing of them in prison camps.

    I heard to understand the struggle to overcome the past within the black community & in the church. What I didn't hear was the denouncing of hate filled speeches within the black churches.

    I heard that white men need to understand what it is to be black, the challenges to be equal & the uphill struggles. What I didn't hear was black men needing to let go of the past, stop using race for not succeeding & stop keeping the race debate going by the speeches & preaching of hate by black teachers & Rev.

    He started to talk about the concerns of white men with jobs, but stopped short of the defense of whites. How without his white brothers, none of this would be possible. How it was with the blood of white men that blacks men gained their freedom. How Kennedy, along with Dr. King, died in their pursuit of equality. He brought up moving beyond race, but brought up Ferraro.

    He represented black America fantastically & it is possible to have the first black President, "Change". I, as a white man, didn't feel represented. I was to feel guilty for what my ancestors died for 150 years ago & that was the freeing of the slaves. I wanted to hear about the blacks letting go, not just the whites understanding.

    Obama talked about how Rev. Wright taught him his faith in Jesus Christ. What I didn't hear was his view on Jesus Christ. Rev. Wright said, "Jesus was a poor black man." What I came away with is, if you aren't black you can't know suffering. Jesus Christ was more likely to be a Middle Eastern Jew. He might not have been white, but I have my faith all the same. I didn't feel represented as a white man & the United States can have the first true black President. By the blacks, for the blacks & white men need to understand tolerance. I think it is a double edged sword & for me, he killed himself.

    March 18, 2008 at 5:08 pm |
  45. Al Jackson

    I feel Senator Obama's speech today discussed the issue of racism in America very well. I also felt he did an excellent job of making the point to American people that the real issues we all face, the economy, housing, healthcare, the continuing conflict in Iraq, the oil crisis, to name a few, are better overcome as one, not divided. Senator Obama was correct in pointing out that we should not forget our past but we should learn from it and move forward. Part of that learning is to heal the wounds that the older generation who still feel the pain of racial and gender injustice. Senator Obama embodies all that you want in a leader. People question his experiene. His insight and vision to truly pursue the challenges facing America more than make up for his so called lack of experience. I for one do not want another "experienced" politician leading this country and again, not addressing the issues facing the common citizen. That is what Senator Obama brings, making the common citizen a TRUE STAKEHOLDER in America again, like it should be, like the constitution states. "We the people . . ."

    March 18, 2008 at 5:04 pm |
  46. Gary Chandler in Canada

    Tit for Tat? The preacher's remarks were politically stupid, and religiously irreverent; however the first sentence raises a bigger concern. "the reason people hate Obama" Were there public attacks on Obama that enraged the old man into an incorrect response?

    It makes me wonder if there is a perception that a woman can be president in America, if she has a 'real' president behind her, but a person of color has to wait a few more decades, around the same time the Republics will finally field a non white male, if ever.
    (oh.. Why can't he, in this day and age, call from Europe with an apology? That would go a long to healing wounds.)

    March 18, 2008 at 5:03 pm |
  47. Ann, Houston

    Thank you Mr. Wallis, but as you can see this is not what folks want to hear. I am African American. I have two sons. I am getting divorced and will be a single mother. But, I don't despair. I am excited at what the future will hold for them. I am proud to be African American, but I have concerns about America and it's direction. We are definitely allowing the media to sway or opinions and it's very disheartening. I will be glad when tide is over. The church was our last refuge. I pray we can at least keep what makes our churches spiritually fufilling and this mass media coverage don't destroy what gives me strength to go on another week.

    March 18, 2008 at 5:02 pm |
  48. Kathie

    What has race got to do with his hurtful comments about 911 ?
    I notice those comments were edited out of the clips being shown
    over and over again. What about his hateful comments about the
    U.S. they were gone too? As far as I know nobody had him held
    hostage in the U.S. if he hated the country so much he could have
    left. I'm not even American and I was offended by the things he
    I don't think a man who hates the U.S. so much should have a
    free pass to the White House anytime he wants, because the
    president thinks of him as 'uncle' .

    March 18, 2008 at 4:54 pm |
  49. Pat

    I, too, am of mixed race just like Obama. I've struggled my entire life to stake my place in society...... Not of either race but as an individual. The social climate doesn't allow it. If I had a dollar for each time in my life that someone has queried me on my ethnic background, I'd be a rich person. They can say it isn't about race but we all know it really is.

    March 18, 2008 at 4:52 pm |
  50. easter baby

    i am surprised REAL MINISTERS did not defend what Rev. Wright said as his interpretation of the Bible. What was the GREAT FLOOD about? What was Sodom and Gamora about???? God was cleansing the World of sin in these cases.

    America is not without sin! Let’s be Honest!!! America funds anti-government movements in other countries, and frowns when someone criticizes this government. That is why the dollar is losing value and other countries are getting ahead of US. When foreign government don’t progress, their people get in the streets and demonstrate and stand up against government policy. In America, we drive our expensive cars, eat out every night of the week, get the latest in designer clothes, see the latest movies, take our fancy vacations while our jobs are sent overseas, our dollar is devalued, our homes are being foreclosed on.

    March 18, 2008 at 4:44 pm |
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