I couldn’t wait to hear Obama’s speech and how he would respond. Surely he would make the attempt to distance himself from the conspiracy laden diatribes of his “former” minister; I say former because he reminds us every chance he gets. I believed he would try to reassure us: No the CIA didn’t throw crack into inner cities to destroy young black men, nor did the U.S. government invent AIDS to destroy African Americans.
When he brought up his white ancestry, more specifically his grandmother, I thought, hey, maybe he’s going to delve into his unique cultural background to demonstrate his how he won’t be bound by labels or defined only by his relationship African American pastor and the black community. Instead, he used his grandmother to remind Americans that, hey, there are plenty of white racists too.
I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
Thanks, but, I’m married to a dark skinned Italian with a heavy accent. I don’t need Obama to remind me there are still racists in America, I know all about it. A police officer once threatened to have Riccardo deported, telling him, “I don’t know where you come from but you’re as ignorant as you can be.” His accent is frequently the subject of snide comments and jokes. A distant relative even refused to call him by his full name, shortening it instead to create a ridiculous cartoon like persona.
But unlike Wright and the members of his afro-centric church, my husband is proud of the opportunity this country has presented him. He’s also well aware that despite his occasional racist encounters and America’s ugly past, the U.S. is the most racially tolerant nation on the planet.
To escape the self-created firestorm, Obama turned to the tired old liberal tactic of shifting the blame from the offender to the offended. It’s whitey’s fault for his minister’s outrage and conspiracy theories. And America’s slave-owning descendants are responsible for black men loitering on street-corners without jobs.
He sought to allay the fears of Americans through today’s speech. In my estimation, he’s only deepened them.