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Let Obama Speak For Himself

There’s a lot of general and special interest flap over Joe Biden’s comments regarding Barrak Obama. 

“I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”

Interestingly, people are only upset about what was said about Obama, and not the rather nasty comments he made about N3tr00t5 favorite John Edward, which to me, were far more poignant and an infinitely bigger kick in the teeth:

“John Edwards wants you and all the Democrats to think, `I want us out of there,’ but when you come back and you say, `O.K., John'”-here, the word “John” became an accusatory, mocking refrain-“`what about the chaos that will ensue? Do we have any interest, John, left in the region?’ Well, John will have to answer yes or no. If he says yes, what are they? What are those interests, John? How do you protect those interests, John, if you are completely withdrawn? Are you withdrawn from the region, John? Are you withdrawn from Iraq, John? In what period? So all this stuff is like so much Fluffernutter out there. So for me, what I think you have to do is have a strategic notion. And they may have it-they are just smart enough not to enunciate it.”

Assorted complaints about Biden’s Obama comment can be found at the progressive bastion of Kos , additionally at the Blend, the Blend’s antithesis LaShawn Barber’s Corner, Shake’s Sister (who recently became an official blogger for Edwards), and the newly refreshing Pandagon

I’m not going to go into details about the beef with Biden’s comments.  It’s not stuff that really needs to be repeated for my purposes.  More to the point, I’m kind of miffed at the whole thing.  I’m not supporting Biden’s comments.  Quite the contrary, his comments were in poor taste. But I’m not sure that there was no truth to what he had said.  It reminds me a great deal of the Limbaugh/McMabb incident, in which Limbaugh summarily resigned under fire due to his comments about the then Flavor of the Month Philly quarterback:

Sorry to say this, I don’t think he’s been that good from the get-go. I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn’t deserve. The defense carried this team.[32]

Essentially, Limbaugh was stating that McNabb was hyped because of the fact that he was a rare occurrence in the NFL:  A relatively traditional quarterback whom happened to be black.  I don’t think that most people participating in honest discussion on the topic would disagree.  The fact is, McNabb’s career while statistically remarkable for a time and generally a likable persona, received a great deal of hype as compared to quarterbacks on similar teams with similar stats and similar set ups – such as my most current example Carson Palmer.  Carson Palmer has no National endorsements that I’ve seen.  Nor does his mother. 

Limbaugh’s comments were understood by many.  He was talking about a topic that people don’t want to talk about.  He said something that possibly was on the right track to identifying why McNabb had the hype machine working for him.  I don’t support Limbaughs comments, I don’t lean on Limbaugh for my football opinion.  But I do believe the opportunity to discuss the racial component in professional sports was squandered in favor of shooting a heavily disliked messenger. 

Likewise, Biden’s comments are, while most definitely loaded with a mild racism, not entirely different from the way a lot of the country views Obama.  Yes, they were phrased poorly.  Yes, there are some offended folks.  But you can be wrong yet bring up a topic that needs to be talked about. 

And now you’re asking – but what does race have to do with it?  The fact is racism still exists.  Obama is still largely political vaporware and his potential and hype (which is not independent of the fact that his is African American) are all we know of him.  If you’re going to disagree and suggest that “Obama is a man with potential, not an African American man with potential” you will find yourself left with a vast amount of explaining to account for a good portion of the hype surrounding him.  And if you’re going to sit there and tell me that race is not a component of the Obama story, you should take all that preaching about racism in America today, America’s legacy of racism over the last 200 years and stick it. You can’t be aware and talking about race in America if you’re not going to address all aspects of it.  If racism is a real thing in 2007, than you positively have to address the race of Barak Obama. 

I am a little surprised by some of the bloggers above who would be glad to tell you that racism exists and name it’s many forms in the modern era, yet in a completely opportune moment for a frank and honest dialog about race at a time when it would benefit it being had for not only the political future for Obama, but would also benefit the nation where almost any opinion diverse conversation on race is met with a very serious kind of tension.

One of the potentials I do see in Obama, is the fact that he has been frank, open, and honest about a great deal in his life.  Don’t get excited, I’m not ready to vote for him just yet (ok he’s a Sox fan and a Bears fan – he’s working his way into my heart).  If he continues this policy of being open and honest, I believe he can engage the nation in real discussion of racial differences.  However, that does require the nation to let him drive without his seatbelt. 

What I see here is that a lot of people are shielding Obama from talk of this, which is undoubtedly stifling this discussion on race that Obama (and to a larger extent, the Nation) needs to have to see any real progress on that front.  And if you’re really planning on stifling that discussion – than why do you want Obama to be president in the first place?  You can’t force racial progress.  You can only hope for a catalyst to effect real change.  Obama may be that catalyst – a new civil rights icon for the modern era – but if you hold him back, don’t be surprised in 50 years when people talk about the greatest president that could have been. 

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dan l

dan l