Monday, March 31, 2008
From The Sun…
F1 Nazi nookie boss to keep job
By PHILIP CASE
FORMULA One racing chief Max Mosley will NOT be sacked over a sadistic Nazi orgy with five call girls, it was revealed last night.
Mosley, 67, was filmed playing a SS death-camp commmandant barking orders in German and lashing uniformed girls in a five-hour video.
The married dad-of-two — son of infamous wartime fascist Sir Oswald Mosley — also posed as a concentration camp victim having his genitals inspected before being whipped until his buttocks bled.
But last night F1’s governing body the FIA said he would keep his job as president after Friday’s orgy at a flat in London’s Chelsea was exposed by the News Of The World.
A spokesman said: “As far as the FIA is concerned, this is a matter between Mr. Mosley and the newspaper.” He added that Mosley’s lawyers were “in touch” with the paper.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
The Janitorial Staff Is Not a Proper Hispanic Focus Group
The Rules Always Seem to Change When Developing Work Targeted to Spanish Speakers
By Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
“It’s 2008.” His words were fueled by anger as they burst forth in search of understanding. “Decade of the Hispanic. … Latino boom. … What happened?” the voice continued. It was a Friday evening, and I had answered a call from a multicultural-marketing friend. Something or someone had pushed him over the edge.
Gathering his composure, he went on to describe a call he had received from an executive within his company. One of the Spanish-language networks had done the creative on a new campaign, “and now they want me to round up the janitors, maids and gardeners that work in our buildings and run it by them,” he explained. “Can you believe it? That’s just what they said. In this day and age? I have to say I’m offended.”
I was saddened to feel no sense of surprise or shock. Far too many marketers still think that this blue-collar trifecta acts as a proxy for all Spanish-speaking Latinos. While there is no reason to distance Latinos from these three highly respectable and hardworking professions, there is also no reason to support the belief that a representative sample of Latino viewpoints can be extracted from them.
It bears mentioning that the product being researched has wide appeal and is accessible to consumers regardless of income, education level or social status. The product includes a strong Spanish-language component, making Spanish speakers a primary but not exclusive target. The marketers behind this product have no reason, other than ignorance, on which to base their stated recruitment criteria.
I suggested to my friend, who happens to be Latino, that he find out if non-Hispanic research was done in such a random manner. Perhaps this was an equal-opportunity case of a companywide disregard for research. If non-Latino employees were consistently “rounded up” and asked their opinions on similar campaigns, then perhaps the only real offense was the stereotypical description of Latinos. Maybe he could use this as an opportunity to educate his peers about the error of their ways, much in the same way parents use celebrity “bad behavior” as an opportunity to teach children right from wrong.
There was, however, more to find objectionable. The campaign in question had been developed by a Spanish-language network instead of a qualified agency. Sadly, this too came as no surprise. I knew this company’s non-Hispanic work was not done by NBC, CBS or ABC. For the most part, it’s done by an internal agency. Still, my point remains. For non-Hispanic work, creative professionals are paid and valued for their ability to position the product, develop powerful messaging and achieve a quality end product. In the case of Spanish-language efforts, the rules change. The media buy is negotiated and the client is made an offer it can’t refuse -- Spanish-language creative developed by the network at no additional cost. Who needs to hire an agency when you have low- to no-cost Spanish speakers standing by?
Initially, I wanted to expose the company that inspired this column. Then I realized that it’s not necessary because it’s not an isolated incident. This particular company’s description of Latinos and its approach to Spanish-language creative and research are not unique. Neither is the frustration felt by my multicultural-marketing friend who, like others in his position, finds himself between a rock and a hard place.
What would you do? Or should I say, “What did you do?” as there is no doubt in my mind that many of you have lived through these very circumstances before -- and will again.
From The New York Daily News…
America is changed, but falls short of Martin Luther King’s vision of justice
By Errol Louis
An assassin’s bullet struck down the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 40 years ago, but a great many blacks — protesters and preachers, journalists and judges, authors and activists — think America’s just starting to fulfill King’s dream.
Thousands are set to converge on Memphis this week for a solemn commemoration of the assassination on April 4.
Each will have his or her personal and political interpretations of what King’s stormy, splendid life and sudden, tragic death meant.
There will be remembrances of the days when blacks had to ride in the back of the bus, could not eat at lunch counters in the South, had to use “colored” bathrooms and could not stay in fine hotels, even in some places in the North.
Those days are gone now, but we still have not reached King’s goal of a country where people will “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Activists, walking in King’s footsteps, will be coming to Memphis for demonstrations aimed at pricking the nation’s conscience about a wide range of social ills, including police brutality, failing urban schools, the AIDS epidemic and the decline of organized labor.
Mainstream politicians and civil rights leaders will announce a new urban agenda to help complete King’s unfulfilled dream of a nation freed from the shackles of racism, poverty and injustice.
A group of ministers, led by the Memphis-based Church of God in Christ, will mull King’s contributions to a theology of liberation that used biblical prophecy to organize extraordinary, nonviolent courage and valor from millions of poor and disenfranchised Americans.
All the different agendas — and millions of private remembrances that will take place from coast to coast — will be right on target.
King’s genius lay in challenging Americans to make an individual, personal commitment to social justice — and that makes most remembrances about his life and legacy deeply personal.
“I couldn’t get over how my mother just fell apart,” says the Rev. Al Sharpton, who was 13 years old on the night the television flashed news that King had been murdered.
“She cried like it was a member of our immediate family,” he reminisced. “My mother was from Dotham, Ala. To her and her generation, Dr. King was the difference in how their everyday life was conducted.”
Still, the long fight to break down the system of formal racial segregation in the South, King’s best-known struggle, was only part of his legacy.
For a generation of Christian and Jewish thinkers, King inherited and expanded a home-grown liberation theology that linked spiritual and political progress.
King was tutored by ministers including Howard Thurman, a friend of King’s father who wrote extensively about social justice, built one of the nation’s first integrated congregations and developed a close relationship with Mahatma Gandhi.
Another King mentor, the Rev. Vernon Johns, a farmer and preacher, preached social activism to a reluctant congregation in Montgomery, Ala., that eventually voted Johns out.
They replaced him with the seemingly mild-mannered King, who would set off and lead an international human rights revolution.
Four decades after King’s death, divinity students pore over sermons and writings by Thurman and Johns to discover the roots of King’s thinking about faith, politics and nonviolence.
“He was a person of faiths, plural,” says Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis. “He could speak to a Jewish audience in a language they shared. The photo of him marching with Abraham Heschel was a defining moment in American history.
“It showed that when we stand together, we can make a difference. That’s a story of religion in its best possible moment.”
What most people remember about King — his soaring oratory and nonviolent civil disobedience — remains as basic to American politics as voting and town hall meetings.
“King proved to me that movements are built not on charismatic leadership, but the institutionalization of social change,” says Mark Winston Griffith, a Brooklyn-based writer and community leader who works on predatory lending and other economic fairness issues.
“I’ve attempted to live his ideal of the servant leader.”
One of the most obvious legacies of King — the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act — provided federal protection that allowed millions of blacks to register and vote, leading to the election of hundreds of black politicians to local and federal posts.
“We’ve come a long way and there’s still work to be done,” says the Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker, a top aide to King who later moved to New York and built Canaan Baptist Church, a major Harlem institution.
“I think Barack Obama’s candidacy is the front edge of Dr. King’s dream; I’m more excited about it than anything else,” Walker told me. “It goes toward fulfilling Dr. King’s instruction that we be more concerned about a person’s character than the color of his skin.”
For Sharpton, political advances take a backseat to King’s role as a protest leader.
“Too many people forget that it was Martin Luther King the activist that became worldwide-known. He never was a politician, never ran for office,” Sharpton says. “He chose to be free to remain a challenger to the system. The media does not tell the truth about how controversial and despised he was at the time of his death.”
Forty years after King’s murder, his most visible legacy is the habit of organizing people to protest injustice, argue against those in power and battle for society’s outcasts.
It’s as close, and as urgent, as the next protest.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Write and wrong in a MultiCultClassics Monologue.
• Remy Ma is turning to her fans for help after being convicted for shooting a friend in the stomach. The rapper now faces up to 25 years in jail. “Please write letters about how Remy and her music has positively affected you, influenced you, inspired you, etc.,” stated a note on the rapper’s MySpace page. “In hopes that the judge will be lenient in Remy’s upcoming sentencing.” All friends who write are probably eligible to be shot in the stomach.
• Idiotic students at North Dakota State University sparked controversy by staging a skit incorporating cowboys simulating anal sex while a White student in Blackface portrayed Barack Obama getting a lap dance. “We’re trying to find out the right approaches for accountability but at the same time try to heal wounds that have occurred and allow the campus to move ahead,” said NDSU’s dean of students. The students are probably preparing for their upcoming Remy Ma skit.
From The Chicago Sun-Times…
Hip-hop attitude leads to mayor’s downfall
The reign of Detroit’s chest-bumping, earring-wearing hip-hop mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, is poised for an awful ending. I can’t say I’m mad about it.
While the details of Kilpatrick’s troubles are stuck in a state of alleged-ness, one can’t help but wonder if the values and attitudes that swept him into office in the first place are the cause of his downfall. Sure, the music is catchy and a mirror into youth society, but the worst values of corporate hip-hop are empty. If the music is the message, the message is often one of materialism, misogyny, fatalism and moral relativism embodied by the ethos of no snitching.
In a classic case of the coverup overshadowing the crime, Kilpatrick, 37, is charged with perjury, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and misconduct in office related to police firings, $8.4 million in “hush” money and sexy text messages sent between him and his former chief of staff, Christine Beatty. Both face years in prison, a lot of years.
The smoking gun is a series of text messages the then-married Beatty and still-married Kilpatrick exchanged on her city-issued pager. It took a lot of hubris for these two to wax so rhapsodic about waxing each other’s, er, you know, so openly on property that didn’t even belong to them. Anybody who has ever tried to sneak and do anything knows discretion is the better part of sneakiness.
“I’m madly in love with you,” Kilpatrick wrote on Oct. 3, 2002.
“I hope you feel that way for a long time,” Beatty replied. “In case you haven’t noticed, I am madly in love with you, too!”
These two didn’t learn anything from Bill Clinton and the infamous blue dress or Martha Stewart’s adventures in lockdown.
But Kilpatrick’s real mistake was in believing the hype that is hip-hop. It’s a culture stuck in perpetual teendom, where artists, trends and music constantly morph into new states of hipness to maintain credibility. To the extent to which this evolution creates better art, great. But the pressure, for example, for young girls to eschew their natural beauty in favor of the Lee-Press-On-Hair good looks of the newest video ‘ho, well, there’s something morally corrupt in that. That young men know droopy jeans originated in prison culture yet still embrace that look in the name of coolness is corrupt.
Hip-hop has a jewel-encrusted veneer that covers some pretty rotten values. We see rappers surrounded by scantily clad women sipping Cristal by their pools, as flaunted on TV reality shows. We see a generation of young women determined to use their feminine wiles to get ahead instead of valuing the education they can put in their heads. (Oh, why is Flava Flav even a phenomenon?) We’ve even embraced a woman who once called herself SupaHead. Illegal drug use, marijuana, is encouraged.
Twice, Detroiters were suckered, voting for a guy who took out his blingified diamond earring while campaigning the first time so as not to scare off the church ladies, only to put it right back in as soon as he was in office. Well-educated and politically connected, Kilpatrick allowed his hip-hop inspired braggadocio to overshadow his gifts, which to his credit, led to a promising beginning of a new life for a city long on life support.
But a guy who claims to be an upstanding family man who can’t resist the urge to host a pimped-out party featuring strippers in the mayor’s mansion is morally confused. A guy who uses city money to lease his family a candy-red SUV while residents don’t have a reliable bus system is morally bankrupt.
That Detroit, so full of promise, solid infrastructure and great housing stock, repeatedly finds itself bereft of thoroughly decent leadership to take the city where it needs to go … well, I’m plenty mad about that.
Deborah Douglas is a Sun-Times editorial board member.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Heading for the big house in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Remy Ma burst into tears upon being convicted of shooting a pal in the stomach. “Oh, my God! My son! My son!” hollered the rapper, who now faces up to 25 years in jail. A supporter in the courtroom had to be ejected after shouting, “Fuck y’all!” He later remarked, “I don’t like that judge. … She should die slow.” Sounds like the perfect character witness to appear during sentencing.
• No tears from T.I. The rapper pleaded guilty to illegal weapons charges stemming from an incident involving his bodyguard buying three machine guns and silencers. T.I. is looking at up to a year in prison. Which could make for an awesome concert in conjunction with Remy Ma.
• Supporters are soliciting donations for embattled Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. “Just because people accuse you of things and charge you with things doesn’t mean you’re guilty,” said a fundraiser. “It’s a bad economy; people don’t have money. But he’s a native son, and we need to do everything we can to keep him from going down.” It’s a bad economy? Well, maybe the mayor should have spent more time balancing the budget versus texting with his Fave 5.
From The Los Angeles Times…
No more answers from “Ask a Mexican” columnist
Gustavo Gustavo Arellano, whose “Ask A Mexican” column has angered and amused a great many Mexicans and non-Mexicans alike, is apparently no longer taking questions. His column today in the OC Weekly ends with this note:
“And with this, the Mexican formally bids adios, effective the feast day of St. Melito. It’s been a great run … but all the hateful e-mail, the attacks … and the fact that few of you have bothered to submit video questions to my YouTube channel wear on a guy, you know? Besides, like Mr. Dooley, Olle I Skratthult and The Katzenjammer Kids before me, this column’s time has come: It’s no longer necessary to explain Mexicans to Americans because Mexicans are Americans.”
-- Jesus Sanchez
From The New York Times…
Harlem to Antarctica for Science, and Pupils
By SARA RIMER
The pitch: Eight weeks in Antarctica. Groundbreaking research into the climate before the Ice Age. Glaciers. Volcanoes. Adorable penguins.
The details: Camping on the sea ice in unheated tents, in 20-below-zero temperatures. Blinding whiteouts. The bathroom? A toilet seat over a hole in the ice.
Stephen F. Pekar, a geology professor from Queens College, was selling Shakira Brown, a 29-year-old Harlem middle school science teacher, on his expedition.
Her response: I’m in.
Dr. Pekar had found just the person for his Antarctica team: a talented, intrepid African-American teacher to be a role model for minority science students.
“I’m tired of having a bunch of white people running around doing science,” said Dr. Pekar, who is white. “When it comes to Antarctica, it isn’t just the landscape that’s white.”
Dr. Pekar wants to get more American students, and particularly more minority students, excited about science. Many studies show teenagers across the United States lagging in math and science scores behind their peers in other industrialized countries.
“These kids don’t have the role models, or the environment, that shows them what the possibilities are,” he said. “I want Shakira Brown’s students to be able to live this experience through her. I want them to be thinking like scientists — like lovers of life.”
[Read the full story here.]
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Bad calls in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The Los Angeles Times apologized for running a story based on documents implying associates of Sean Combs were involved with the murder of Tupac Shakur. It appears the documents are bogus. “The bottom line is that the documents we relied on should not have been used,” wrote an L.A. Times editor. “We apologize both to our readers and to those referenced in the documents … and in the story.” Diddy’s pals probably want to kill the folks at the newspaper.
• Motorola announced plans to slice off its cell phone division to create two separate publicly traded companies. The announcement was probably made via text message to employees’ iPhones.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
State of Affairs in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Hillary Clinton said she would have rejected Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. as her pastor based on the comments she’s seen from him. But she’s totally cool with her philandering hubby. Plus, she would have repelled the bullets if a sniper had fired at her in Bosnia.
• Now reports indicate New York Governor David Paterson traveled with one of his mistresses to campaign for Clinton in Iowa last November. Hillary and Bill Clinton see no reason to reject Paterson over the matter. In fact, Bill probably supports the entire affair.
• A federal judge approved a $24 million settlement plan from Walgreens to cover a lawsuit charging racial bias at the drugstore chain. Thousands of Black employees argued the company discriminated against them in hiring and assignment decisions. And a few have probably had an affair with New York Governor David Paterson.
• Ford Motor Company sold Jaguar and Land Rover to India’s Tata Motors. Ta ta!
From The Chicago Tribune…
Rev. Wright in a different light
By William A. Von Hoene Jr.
During the last two weeks, excerpts from sermons of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., pastor for more than 35 years at Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago’s South Side, have flooded the airwaves and dominated our discourse about the presidential campaign and race. Wright has been depicted as a racial extremist, or just a plain racist. A number of political figures and news commentators have attempted to use Sen. Barack Obama’s association with him to call into question Obama’s judgment and the sincerity of his commitment to unity.
I have been a member of Trinity, a church with an almost entirely African-American congregation, for more than 25 years. I am, however, a white male. From a decidedly different perspective than most Trinitarians, I have heard Wright preach about racial inequality many times, in unvarnished and passionate terms.
In Obama’s recent speech in Philadelphia on racial issues confronting our nation, the senator eloquently observed that Rev. Wright’s sermons reflect the difficult experiences and frustrations of a generation.
It is important that we understand the dynamic Obama spoke about.
It also is important that we not let media coverage and political gamesmanship isolate selected remarks by Wright to the exclusion of anything else that might define him more accurately and completely.
I find it very troubling that we have distilled Wright’s 35-year ministry to a few phrases; no context whatsoever has been offered or explored.
I do have a bit of personal context. About 26 years ago, I became engaged to my wife, an African-American. She was at that time and remains a member of Trinity. Somewhere between the ring and the altar, my wife had second thoughts and broke off the engagement. Her decision was grounded in race: So committed to black causes, the daughter of parents subjected to unthinkable prejudice over the years, an “up-and-coming” leader in the young black community, how could she marry a white man?
Rev. Wright, whom I had met only in passing at the time and who was equally if not more outspoken about “black” issues than he is today, somehow found out about my wife’s decision. He called and asked her to “drop everything” and meet with him at Trinity. He spent four hours explaining his reaction to her decision. Racial divisions were unacceptable, he said, no matter how great or prolonged the pain that caused them. God would not want us to assess or make decisions about people based on race. The world could make progress on issues of race only if people were prepared to break down barriers that were much easier to let stand.
Rev. Wright was pretty persuasive; he presided over our wedding a few months later. In the years since, I have watched in utter awe as Wright has overseen and constructed a support system for thousands in need on the South Side that is far more impressive and effective than any governmental program possibly could approach. And never in my life have I been welcomed more warmly and sincerely than at Trinity. Never.
I hope that as a nation, we take advantage of the opportunity the recent focus on Rev. Wright presents—to advance our dialogue on race in a meaningful and unprecedented way. To do so, however, we need to appreciate that passion born of difficulty does not always manifest itself in the kind of words with which we are most comfortable. We also need to recognize that the basic goodness of people like Jeremiah Wright is not always packaged conventionally.
The problems of race confronting us are immense. But if we sensationalize isolated words for political advantage, casting aside the depth of feeling, circumstances and context which inform them, those problems not only will remain immense, they will be insoluble.
William A. Von Hoene Jr. of Chicago is a member of Trinity United Church of Christ.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Quick Shots in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The lawyer for Remy Ma argued in court that his client did not own the gun used to shoot a woman in the stomach; plus, the gun went off by accident. The opposing lawyer countered that the rapper did all the stuff necessary to intentionally shoot, including loading the pistol with hollow-point bullets, racking the slide, aiming at the victim and squeezing the trigger. Looks like the CSI:NY team won’t be needed to solve this caper.
• Now New York Governor David Paterson admits he used pot and cocaine in his 20s. At this point, the man has done everything except shoot people with Remy Ma.
• Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was charged with perjury and other misdeeds on Monday; however, he refuses to step down. Kilpatrick announced, “I look forward to complete exoneration once all the facts have been brought forth. I will remain focused on moving this city forward.” Kilpatrick’s next moves include campaigning to become the Governor of New York.
• Clinton advisor James Carville refused to apologize for comparing Governor Bill Richardson to Judas. Speaking to The New York Times after Richardson endorsed Barack Obama, Carville quipped, “Mr. Richardson’s endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out (Jesus) for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic.” Jesus probably denies knowing any of these fools. Judas too.
Monday, March 24, 2008
From The Los Angeles Times…
Obama’s brilliant bad speech
His rhetoric entangled him in race in exactly the wrong way.
By Gregory Rodriguez
In some ways, Barack Obama’s speech on race last week was as brilliant as it was nuanced. But for all its rhetorical beauty, it was also an enormous step backward and, in the end, a rather self-serving call for more discussion about racial grievance in a country that has already done way too much talking.
Until last week, so much of Obama’s appeal lay in the fact that he was not asking us to talk about the racial divide. Instead, he offered himself as a living and breathing symbol of racial reconciliation; his very origins pointed to the goal of unity and, from his own account, created in him a desire to bring together opposing sides.
Throughout the campaign, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s surrogates repeatedly tried to bait Obama into talking about race; they worked to pigeonhole him (and marginalize him) as the “black candidate.” But in the end, it was Obama’s own alliances that tripped him up and obliged him to directly address a subject (one that he now says we “cannot afford to ignore”) that he had so deftly avoided -- or as the Obamaphiles had it, transcended. For all the kudos the Illinois senator has received for his candor, the very act of delivering Tuesday’s address was a defeat. Obama was a much more powerful force for racial progress when he so effortlessly symbolized it, rather than when he called on us to address “old wounds.”
Those who praised the speech did so in part because it acknowledged the grievances that lie on both sides of the nation’s most intractable racial divide. But that’s also what was so wrong with it. The discussion of racial grievance -- and other group grievances -- has long since become an institutionalized part of American life, literally and figuratively. There are advocacy groups, think tanks, foundations and scholars who sometimes have produced groundbreaking work but who also have served to reaffirm the idea that American society is a federation of opposing, static and permanently aggrieved identities. Rather than push us beyond race, the institutionalization of racial identity as defined by grievance perpetuates the divisions of the past. The one new thing Obama’s speech added to the dialogue was the inclusion of whites to the list of aggrieved (and angry) parties.
For all the “complexities of race” Obama sought to grapple with last week, his explicit equivalence of his white grandmother -- who he said had sometimes expressed fear of black men and uttered racial stereotypes -- with the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., his race-baiting former pastor, was the most unfortunate.
“I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother,” he said. But the comparison obscures the fundamental difference in the relationships. Forget the casual moral equivalence he makes between a pastor’s provocative public rants and his grandmother’s private utterances; what’s more important is that grandmothers are inherited while pastors are chosen.
At least one way to explain that choice is that by allying himself with Wright (who presided over his wedding and baptized his daughters), Obama sought to anchor and legitimize himself in Chicago’s black community, which might not have otherwise welcomed an Ivy Leaguer raised in Hawaii by his white mother and grandparents. Without challenging Obama’s claim that Wright “helped introduce [him] to his Christian faith,” his choice was also invariably a political one, and a very bad one at that.
It’s all fine and good that Obama has “condemned” the worst of what he calls Wright’s “wrong” and “divisive” comments, but his refusal to “disown” his former pastor is academic. Part of Obama’s seductive appeal is that he sees political action in terms of sweeping gestures and crusades. Idealistic young people in particular like the idea of being caught up in a wave of change. Obama even ended his race address with yet another of his patented calls to “come together.” In his vision, whites and blacks (and the rest of us!) would move beyond racial discord by fighting common injustices.
But just maybe the complexity of race in contemporary America no longer requires the massive collective action it did half a century ago when blacks in the South were living under Jim Crow, a legal apartheid. Just maybe we don’t have to suffer through yet another national debate on race -- President Clinton launched his fruitless Initiative on Race in 1997 quoting, as Obama did, the preamble to the Constitution. Just maybe more progress will be made if average, fair-minded, decent people simply chose not to associate with -- and lend their credibility to -- haters, extremists or sowers of racial discord. Obama could have taken that simple path any time over the last 20 years. He chose not to. Now it’s too late.
From The New York Daily News…
Obama’s speech on race is proof that we shall overcome
By Stanley Crouch
Before he did it last week in Philadelphia, no one could have imagined that Barack Obama would sing the blues so powerfully. With the same soul power that bluesman Albert King once described, Obama brought the grits. He revealed an inner music of spirituality, of confrontation, a statement of aching tragic depth, and resilient affirmation.
The greatest thing that black people have offered the world is further proof that people do not have to be turned into swine by their most merciless troubles. On the other hand, black people have also proven that even some of those whom you love the most for their humanity are so blinded by the strife of the past that they cannot fully live in a present so remarkably different.
When the specter of his pastor was first raised, Obama had tried to compress that last fact by smiling and saying that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright was like an uncle who said things with which you did not always agree. That was neither fully the truth nor why Wright was disinvited from Obama’s announcement of his candidacy.
As we all now know, Wright is capable of “going off” and Obama did not need that so easily misunderstood — or misused! — element revealed at the beginning of the campaign. I assume that Obama believed, with good luck, he would have built up a strong enough presence to handle the reiteration of the Wright problem with absolute honesty when the Republican attack dogs began to howl for his head.
Obama was shocking the country and the pundits when he began to win in states like Iowa and Idaho and seemed to have slipped the noose of race that Bill Clinton tried to put around his neck after South Carolina. Clinton spoke like the veteran boxer who expected to easily vanquish a young challenger but resorts to hitting below the belt upon realizing that he’s in for a real fight.
Race didn’t stick at that point. Too smart not to know that it was coming, Obama began to ready himself. A highly civilized and sophisticated man, Obama started to ponder, to plan and to shape a speech that would explain what those on the conservative right did not want explained; they wanted to find the place on him where a mortal wound could be struck. They gloated that he could run but he could not hide. They would get him with YouTube.
Not quite. They actually handed Obama the best defense weapon and it was all that he needed because his intent was not to supply a bunch of slogans but to deliver a vision grand enough to address the tragic valleys and the optimistic accomplishments made both difficult and possible by the thoroughness of our American humanity. So he spoke for 40 minutes and said it all.
Nearly 3 million downloaded that speech because Obama has made Americans interested in ideas, in nuance and in the purely human realities we all understand quite well, however much we may pretend that nothing of the sort has ever crossed our minds or the minds of our dearest friends. We all have people close to us whom we respect in every human way but find quite foolish on a select body of important subjects.
I doubt there are Americans who do not know a Jeremiah Wright, a person for whom they feel great fondness but who also makes them cringe. That fact alone shapes much of our racial trouble, as do the many ways that it reappears in one context after another, and with one ethnic group after another, all distinctions included.
The greatness of our country is that those of us who are not afraid of each other now outnumber those who are.
Still, pain and trouble will never abandon us and the irrational will always nip at our heels. But in Philadelphia, across the street from where the Constitution was hammered out and prepared for future generations to make better by improvising upon its fundamental principles, Barack Obama made it palpably clear that, as the song goes, we shall overcome.