Barack Obama's sweeping speech about race yesterday has evoked a curious response among some political observers. While some have praised the speech and some have called it the most important speech on race in the last 40 years, others have said that the speech had the effect of making Obama the "black" candidate. I find that last statement quite funny. It's as if those commentators were oblivious to the fact that Barack Obama is black. He is today what he was the day he announced that he was running for President.
The question posed by the commentators yesterday was whether the speech changed anyone's mind about voting for Obama. The truth is that the speech was never going to change anyone's mind. He made that speech in order to try and get the debate back on track. The press are the one's who are focused on the race issue, not Obama or his supporters. His speech yesterday gave the people that were inclined to vote for him exactly what they needed to hear and it also gave those who were not inclined to vote for him exactly what they needed as well. How you interpret the speech is based solely on your view of him going into the speech. If you found him an inspiring figure before the speech, then you felt uplifted by his words and his message. If you found him to be a candidate whose entire campaign was based on race and someone who is unfit for job of President, then you felt that way after the speech as well.
What Obama did yesterday was speak to the American experience. Most, if not all people, have been exposed to racist , sexist , or some form of ignorant speech from people who are close to them. There are still deep divides in this country, some of which will frankly never be healed. What Obama did yesterday was to call America on this. He said there are still a lot of people in this country who have negative deep held beliefs concerning their fellow Americans. That is the simple truth of America. One which almost every American is aware of.
Many commentators somehow seemed to be shocked by this Revelation. They claim that people in middle America were not ready to hear this. And that they will have a negative reaction. The conservative commentators seem to be saying that before yesterday's speech Obama was viewed as "one of the good ones" and now in the aftermath of the speech, it is clear that he is not or at least will no longer be perceived that way. Now he's just another "black" candidate. They can now feel comfortable in lumping him in with Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. They feel that somehow he has pigeon-holed himself into a corner.
For the first and probably the only time, I'm going to quote Jesus who said (allegedly) "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free". That is what Obama's goal was yesterday. Tell people the truth so that he can now be free to discuss the real issues of the campaign. Obama is a "black" candidate, he has always been a "black" candidate and he will always be a "black" candidate. Yesterday did nothing to change that fact, either in a positive or negative way. Will the speech make flocks of people in from the foothills of Tennessee suddenly see the error of their ways? Will it make millions of college kids suddenly realize that Obama is not white? Will it make people who actually decide their votes on the issues, suddenly change their votes? The answer is no. Will this issue provide fodder for the Republican attack machine in the fall? Will this speech give right wing conservatives what they feel is a semi-legitimate reason for their opposition to Obama? Will this speech be dissected by the right wing press to Obama's detriment? Are the 527's ready to pick apart Obama based on his association with Rev. Wright? The answer is yes.
Has anything thing changed since yesterday? Is Obama still black? The answer is nothing has changed since yesterday. However to some, I guess Obama is blacker than ever.