While progressives and average Americans who think Barack Obama's speech presented a difficult challenge wring their hands worrying about appearing to be racist if they broach the subject in any significant way, the depth of the problem at hand is clear when we have folks on the right like Pat Buchanan just laying it on the line with this kind of mind-blower.
First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.
Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.
Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the '60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream.
...We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?
Thanks, Pat. We've gotten the old "lift up" message, all right. How could people like Buchanan listen to the same speech and walk away with this level of vitriol in their heart and purposeful ignorance of history? Our country suffers an incredible sickness when it comes to race relations. The point of Obama's speech is that we all have work to do and share responsibility in opening up an adult dialog. The above does nothing to advance understanding and shows no desire to do so either.
I love Dave Neiwert's comment on Pat's "A Brief for Whitey" essay.
Damn, I'm sure most black people forgot to be grateful for segregation, the lynching era, sundown towns, and the continuing discrimination they face both in employment and in residence. Because the institutional conditions created by those decades of bigotry have in fact gone largely unchanged, though to white guys like Buchanan, that simply isn't a factor:
Is white America really responsible for the fact that the crime and incarceration rates for African-Americans are seven times those of white America? Is it really white America's fault that illegitimacy in the African-American community has hit 70 percent and the black dropout rate from high schools in some cities has reached 50 percent?
Is that the fault of white America or, first and foremost, a failure of the black community itself?
Well, I'm sure black voters are convinced by that argument. After all, it's obvious that the matter of continuing discrimination is just an illusion in their heads.
UPDATE: Someone at Pandagon found Exhibit B. Bill Kristol in the NYT on Obama's speech:
The only part of the speech that made me shudder was this sentence: "But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now."
With respect to having a national conversation on race, my recommendation is: Let's not, and say we did.
Well, I'm not sure how he would know the value of having it or not having it since too many people run for psychological and political cover any time it comes up. We won't get anywhere in addressing the problem of implicit and explicit bias with that attitude.
(Also see Melissa's post, "Why is this Racist Superfuck Still on my Teevee?")