It was by all accounts reminiscent of the Rev. Dr. King himself and even—dare we say it?—of the Great Emancipator. Yet whatever its emotive puissance, Barack Hussein Obama’s recent oration on race was reminiscent of King and Lincoln in more ways that one: It was a few threads of truth stitched into a tapestry of falsehood and racialist demagoguery, a disingenuous petition for reason and reconciliation, and a subtle petition for racial spoils.
The truth in Obama’s sermon, a putative answer to those who thought he should jettison his nutty and racist rabbi, Jeremiah Wright, was this: Blacks and whites are angry about race. And that’s where the truth ended. Though the black liberation theologian was the proximate impetus for The Speech, Obama coasted by the controversy and shuttled his wefts and warps.
Consider this statement: “Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them,” and “the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.” This sounds true, but it is a lie of Lincolnesque dexterity. First, no public schools today are “segregated.” Second, if predominantly black schools are inferior, the segregation of a half-century ago isn’t to blame, particularly given the billions of predominantly white tax dollars these schools have consumed. How is it, to borrow Prof. Clyde Wilson’s observation about the “legacy of slavery,” that, as more time separates today’s blacks from the segregation and Jim Crow under which their grandparents suffered, these “legacies” only seem to worsen?
Obama didn’t tell us, because the purpose of the speech was not to explain Wright, education, or anything else, but to blame whites for the many pathologies afflicting blacks, even as the “postracial” candidate seemingly legitimized white anger. Black anger, Obama confessed, prevents blacks “from squarely facing our own complicity in our own condition.” But “it is real; it is powerful,” and misunderstanding and condemning it “only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.”
As for whites, he allowed, “a similar anger exists” among those who “don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. . . . They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor.” As well, “they feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.”
Far from conceding anything to whites, this passage slyly introduced a dark theme: White racial resentments are misdirected and unjust. Obama has here introduced the classic Marxian analytical tool: false consciousness, meaning that white racial resentments are energized not by busing, quotas, or crime, but by bad pensions, “stagnant wages,” and offshoring. The “real culprits,” he continued, are the “middle class squeeze—a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practice and short-term greed,” as well as lobbyists and the usual suspects (most of whom, presumably, are white). This false consciousness “widens the racial divide.”
The question, of course, is how to narrow that chasm, and Obama has the answer. “In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination—and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past—are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds.”
“Deeds” means more money for schools, “enforcing our civil rights laws,” and “ensuring fairness” in criminal courts, while “providing this generation with ladders of opportunity” (affirmative action).
Obama never conceded that whites have been practiced in such deeds for two-score years and counting, nor did he explain why his list of myriad economic woes does not affect blacks or what blacks must do to form a “more perfect union.” That is because Obama believes that the principal impediment to black achievement is racism. He left whites holding the bag for racial problems, and they must therefore pay for the policies to perform their penance.
That penance, naturally, includes voting for Obama. In the end, The Speech did not reveal a “postracial” candidate at all but a candidate who, like the crackpot Wright he refused to denounce, is a racialist himself.