March 21, 2008
So I just got around to listening to Barack Obama's speech on race. Here are my thoughts:
For the most part I agree with his speech. However, I am always more concerned with where I disagree.
He tries to say that racism is not endemic. Racism IS endemic.
In the past he would say we have to "get beyond race" and we have to "get past race" and now suddenly in this speech he says, "Race is an issue that I believe this country cannot afford to ignore right now." I find that hypocritical because of his stance before that race and gender are not issues that should matter in a race for the white house.
He talks about resentments of whites for affirmative action— yet affirmative action only attempts to balance the equation— not give more to minorities than to whites. He doesn't want to talk about that though.
He says poor and working class Euro-Americans have cause for concern because of racism of blacks. This is ridiculous and false as all hell. Euro-Americans do have a lot of cause for concern but not about race discrimination or racism. Their concern lies more in classism and capitalism exploiting them.
He says, "I have never been naive enough to believe we can get rid of our racial divisions in a single election cycle or with a single candidate." Yet all he has ever talked about is "getting beyond race" and "getting past race."
He talks about “black racism” like it’s as damaging as white racism— when it isn’t. Black people don’t have power. White people have white privilege and the system of white supremacy is entrenched and is institutional. But he doesn't want to talk about that.
He acts like blacks can just "move on" from what has happened to them based on their physical characteristics. He says blacks need to, "Move beyond our racial wounds." Yet he doesn't want to talk about the long term effects the past has had nor anything about TODAY. He mentions that our schools are still segregated and we still have racial issues today.. but doesn't think that talking about race is a solution to these problems.
It sure seems to me that he trying to say that race is a distraction.
Basically his argument is that class matters more than race. This is an argument put forward by Mr. Cornell West himself in his book Race Matters. Which is a funny title if he's going to argue that affirmative action should be based on class and income and not race. Race should be one factor for consideration in affirmative action-- that is my opinion.
Race does matter.. it still matters..and it will always matter. Race is not something we can "get beyond" or "move past." Race is something that must be systematically deconstructed and unpackaged. It is a sociological construct made up to serve the purposes of those in power and to exploit others. At the same time if race is connected to culture-- then ethnic cultures must be acknowledged, respected, celebrated, and revered.
Our goal is not a color blind society. Our goal is not a melting pot. Our goal is a pluralistic society that recognizes both our differences and similarities with each other. And yes our main goal should be "getting along" in the long run however, there is a long road of reparations that go along with that process. Healing the racial divide takes substantial time and effort. It also takes concrete steps-- systematic and fundamental changes. A paradigm shift if you will.
I agree that capitalism is the main problem we face in America, although Obama would never explicitly spell it out like that. However, race is one factor, as is gender, sexuality, and others, that are used within the capitalist system to exploit people even further.
Sure, we have to have hope for the future. That there will come a time where ethnic minorities will be able to rise up, organize, and that their demands will come to fruition. But that cannot happen until people realize first who they must demand change of. Obama seems to point to blacks themselves to change and somewhat for the government to change. He forgets that it is the white power structure that needs to fundamentally change. I would say it needs to be abolished. However, if Obama said that... he would become unelectable. We must remember no matter how inspirational Obama may seem, he is just another capitalist politician wheelin' and dealin' as they do.