Can’t we all just get along?

Rodney King and the four-letter word we don’t want to talk about

By Jack Hoffman

There aren’t enough superlatives to describe the brilliance and eloquence articulated by Barack Obama in his recent speech on race – a speech, even acclaimed by many of his detracters. And criticized by those who for one reason or another never heard parts of the entire speech and already had some pre-conceived agenda. Oh, sure you can grab a line or two and have some questions about its meaning, but to actually change the political winds from a few outtakes out of thousands of sermons by a former pastor I find quite shallow.

Before the ink was dried, the speech was on the hate mongers script to define Obama’s credibility by comparing him with the incendiary remarks of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright: A potential president who showed us honesty, bravery, and courage on a hot and dangerous topic called race, but just as important he showed character and loyalty by not throwing someone under the wheels who had so much meaning in his life and thousands of others.

In today’s cynical and skeptical political climate where some of our political leaders sell their very souls for votes and a few bucks, I found that Barack Obama did indeed show us he would have the character and intelligence to responsibly answer the phone at 3 a.m.

In a later interview, Obama suggested that “he had hoped in his speech to accurately describe the “chasm of misunderstanding” that continues to foster racial division and to offer a way to “get out of that situation.”

I hope his speech will not become a footnote of history but may someday take its place in a future “Eyes on the Prize” documentary.

His political motives were simple. After all, who would want to navigate into this dangerous territory? His poll numbers were declining and the Wright issue needed to be addressed. It was important to stop the bleeding and convince some of his supporters who were beginning to have doubts about his ability to take a hit and punaddressing his constituency as adults and not 6’th graders. But just as important, he had to turn the page away from a media that subliminally and relentlessly wanted this controversial issue out there.

When I thought of the candidness of Wright’s anger, I asked myself: How can I and so many of us understand what it’s like to be an Afro-American who has lived through the Jim Crow days and civil rights strife of the ‘50s and ‘60s, never mind a heritage of slavery? Like Reverend Wright who came home as a Marine veteran and might have been denied lodging and entrance to an eatery, because of the color of his skin. I always wondered about the emotional pain a black man might have had and the embarrassment I felt being an American walking into an area marked Negro Section Only of a Miami Dog Track. How did a Mexican American feel picketing in Los Angeles and being spat upon while carrying a flag of Mexico? A Japanese American who was interned in a concentration camp on American soil because of his heritage during World War II? A women who was passed over for a job because of her sex and denied an equal wage for the very same reason? A Native American who hears over and over the lessons of Wounded Knee? And even a Jew who saw his family burned in the ashes of hell and entered the United States after World War II and having to end up in the Oswego Internment camp in New York?

Racism and bigotry in all forms are a black hole that is enveloped by hate, ignorance and fear. It isn’t genetic, and like any other environmental diseases, it will take time and education to rid our society of this evil.

Regrettably, America has had a sordid past that still haunts us in so many ways. The questions that we as a nation need to ask is not the past but now and the future. Are we going to judge someone’s political success by the color of his/her skin and not by the organizational skills, credibility and brilliance? That’s as bigoted as anything in that sorrowful past. Are we so shallow that our choice for the next president may be determined by some reverend’s controversial remarks, making the nation’s ills less important? Can we face the challenges of a highly competitive world being so closedminded?

I might just get angry too, if in the final analysis the criticisms we are hearing on the Rev. Wright’s comments by some are just another excuse for the real reason they will not vote for Obama. If we miss this golden opportunity to elect a man like Obama, maybe – just maybe – Reverend Wright was right about America. For all our sakes, I damn hope back. What was most refreshing was his