Hearing the Obama Speech

“LOS ANGELES — If Barack Obama is elected president, his speech on race in America will be remembered as one of the greatest in the country’s history. If he loses, it will still be remembered as a terrific speech, an astonishing display of grace under pressure.

“Those who care about the American dilemma — a racial history that contradicts our stated beliefs — will filter their perceptions through their own life experience, their own political bias, their own emotional stake in this particular election. Whatever the political effect, however, the man obviously said what he really thought.

“He told the truth: We are all racists. That does not mean that we are all prejudiced, but it does mean we notice the color of the people around us, and that affects the way we think and talk and act. And he was probably right about most of us, black and white, when he asserted that our racism is generational, that old men like Pastor Wright and me have more trouble dealing with race than do our children and, I expect, than our grandchildren will.

“That’s the way it is. We are on a long trail to a post-racial society — we may never reach the end — and this election will give some indications how far along we really are.”
Hearing the Obama Speech, by Richard Reeves, March 19, 2008

Yes, I bet even Bill and Hill would be proud to vote for Obama after that speech. This is not an Obama endorsement, but if America has to face it, really face it, on race, all the races, then that can only be good for us and the world.

I think Reeves is wrong about one thing here: whether Senator Obama wins or not, this is going to be remembered as one of the greatest speeches on race in America. It’s a tough subject, I thought he did a stellar job with it.

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