Coming into this course with previous experience in this topic, I assumed I would be prepared and conditioned to the material, at least in the beginning. However, this week I was really surprised when I found myself sinking into my old white-girl-ways. As we discussed Obama’s speech in class, in which he responded to Reverend Wright’s comment on racism in America, I sat quietly while other’s expressed Obama’s “chickening-out”. Although I completely agreed with this view point, it took me a little while to get there.
After listening to Obama’s speech, I remember admiring it’s eloquence. I even agreed with many points, such as how everyone in this country has a responsibility, white or black, and we have to work with each other. I just listened, and although it had many contrasts to Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech to the APA, I just automatically assigned those contrasts to different periods of time, different needs, and a different audience. I didn’t even think to criticize Obama’s speech, and I assume many white American’s didn’t either.
As we discussed the speech in class, I realized that many white American’s would be satisfied with that speech because they were the target audience. The speech was safe, with little depth towards the real issues of racism. In fact, Obama even said “let’s focus on the real issues…” implying the war or the economy, pushing racism aside like it’s unimportant. It makes me wonder, Did I over look this because I am white? I definitely heard it, but it had a much different meaning to me after we had discussed it in class. It became more clear to me that Obama was just safe to keep the white population’s votes.
Someone in class also brought up the media, which I thought was interesting. Maybe since the media glorified Obama into a celebrity, he became one of those “white” black people, like Oprah. Ironically this doesn’t help the issues of racial divide in America, in fact I think it could have made it worse, allowing white people to say “see, we voted for a black guy, we’re not racist.” It must be a tough position for Obama though. How can one become more of an activist after already gaining the trust of many white American’s? He will surely face resistance and hostility and risk not winning for a second term. Well we all came to the realization that he played that speech safe so he could win the election, but what more could he have done after he had already won without losing his white following?