Al Sharpton criticizing Barack Obama for urging non-violence in the Sean Bell verdict protest puts into dramatic relief the major racial conflict of our time – and it is inside the African-American community, not outside. Outdated racial profiteers like Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and now the formerly obscure Reverend Jeremiah Wright are clinging for dear life to their reactionary views that have impeded progress in their own community for years.
Unfortunately for all of us, Obama — whose instincts should have been better on this matter — has found himself trapped between appeasing these race baiters (and their constituencies) and taking what is truly a progressive (note the use of the word) stand against them because of his twenty year association with Reverend Wright. The candidate’s speech on racism, so lauded in the press, actually worsened the situation by implying an equivalency between the reverend’s excrescences and his own grandmother’s fear of being mugged. That Obama could even think this way makes us wonder about his ability to lead us out of these particular woods.
And woods they are indeed. The situation is close to tragic and this election year shows a real chance of running off the rails in a way few of us would have predicted. It has a potential for pushing race relations seriously backwards in a society that was already relatively open handed. People do not like being accused of racism when it is not there. The original attraction of the Obama campaign is that it was post-racial and now it is anything but.
This is not the fault of America or of the American people. It has been caused by the race baiters and the spinelessness and opportunism of Barack Obama. He made his compact with the race-baiting devil twenty years ago and now, in the immortal words of Reverend Wright, “it has come home to roost.”
Now obviously I have not been a fan of Senator Obama for some months, and to pretend that I have been would be monumentally disingenuous. But still he is obviously a man of tremendous gifts as a thinker and a speaker. So far, though, he has also shown himself to be a coward. He has taken the line of expedience on this matter at almost every turn, measuring his words and saying just enough to get by for the next time. This may preserve his political campaign, may even get him elected President, but it is hideous for our country.