In Friday's (3.21) Sun, editor/publisher Jim Lynch wrote a column about presidential candidate Barack Obama's speech in Philadelphia about America's racial divide. In the column, Lynch opined that Obama was beginning a necessary conversation about race with all Americans, black and white. Is this conversation needed...will it transcend politics...will it help unite the country....will it help get him elected president? All questions that are yet to be answered. What do you make of Obama and his speech on race? If you didn't see the column, it's reprinted here in its entirety:
It was a campaign the candidate never wanted to be about race, but which was destined to become all about race.
That first became apparent several weeks ago as I watched the Mississippi primary returns come in. The electronic media was doing its incessant exit polling and I caught an analyst saying something like, "Obama, of course, won 91 percent of the black vote." Emphasis: "of course."
It wasn't long after that FOX news' Sean Hannity began banging the Rev. Jeremiah Wright war drum, night after night. You knew his producers were working overtime to get the footage of those incendiary sermons.
Then they had them and the video started to ricochet from one network to another until Sen. Barack Obama had a full-blown scandal on his hands. And it was all about race.
Obama's historic speech on the country's racial divide - made Tuesday, fittingly, in the city of Brotherly Love - received plaudits from both sides of the aisle. The words "profound, eloquent, moving" were all lavished on him from TV talking heads to editorial writers across the country, but with a caveat attached. Would the speech be enough to salvage Obama's wounded presidential campaign, given that he did not "disown" Wright, his longtime friend and spiritual adviser?
But precisely by not "disowning" Wright, Obama gave himself the credibility to make the speech of his life, a speech that finally opens the door for a conversation about race in America.
It's a conversation this country has not had in almost a half century and, if you listen to Obama's words, race and generation are intricately intertwined.
While denouncing the Wright's KKK- style rhetoric, Obama put his inflammatory oratory in the context of the minister's life and times.
"For the men and women of Rev. Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation, and doubt and fear have not gone away, nor the anger and the bitterness of those years ..."
And that's where Obama nailed it. He denounced the words, but not the man. Obama did not excuse Wright, but described him as someone we could understand, something a five-second sound bite could never do.
And given that Wright is 67 years old, I can only imagine what the American black experience has been for him. Perhaps memories of the real KKK, surely discrimination in the U.S. armed forces in which he served, and the bigotry aimed at the blacks he ministered to in Chicago certainly inform his view of America. That's the generational context. We can all denounce the rhetoric. That's easy. Understanding its source, as Obama explained on Tuesday, is a lot more difficult.
America will be a better place if Obama emerges from this controversy maybe a little bloodied but unbowed - if it turns this conversation about race into a full-blown discourse.
And then, people from my generation, one removed from Wright, might be better able to understand a few questions about race. Like, why in the year 2008 do we see so many cases like the one in Chicago last week where an innocent man spends 26 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit? And why is that innocent man so often black? Or, why in 2008 are there still restaurants in rural Georgia where blacks go in separate doors?
They're questions worth talking about. Obama has started the conversation