Obama: now I truly believe

A few weeks back, I blogged about a realization that I had - that so many very different people with different expectations were projecting things on to Obama about race. And that eventually, when he has to answer to it, some people are going to feel disappointed and angry.

Honestly, I didn't think it was going to happen until after he was elected president. The fact that Obama is a long-time member of an "Unashamedly Black" church and the sermons of Rev. Jeremiah Wright are a matter of public record. So I was surprised that these things would all of the sudden reignite. After a couple of days of controversy, the candidate was forced to give a speech on race in America, and to defend his association with his minister.

What a tough place to be in. Time and time again, Obama has surprised me with his grace and intelligence, cutting right to the heart of the matter, ignoring the petty, and raising the conversation to a higher level. His "speech on race" was certainly no exception. But more than just eloquent, it finally removed all doubts for me about his substance. You see, even though I desperately wanted to believe Obama's hopeful message, ultimately, when the chips were down, I didn't know for sure that he could make the hard decisions.

It would have been easy for Obama to denounce Rev. Wright and go on. It would have quelled the fury in the white communities. And if some blacks were angered, it probably wouldn't have been enough to lose him the election. It would have been easy for him to give us an excuse to avoid really addressing race and racism, instead of the scapegoating we normally do - the sacrificial goats we offer up to avoid this painful subject. But he didn't do that. He came out and walked the hard thin edge of truth, the one that recognizes the legitimacy of anger but does not demonize anyone. He explained the source of Rev. Wright's anger and distrust, even as he denounced the ways in which they were expressed.

And in my favorite part of an amazing speech, he pointed to the complexity of the situation:

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. These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Who among us does not have a racist relative whom we nonetheless love?

Obama refused to run away from the issue of race. He pointed to the economic and social disparities that still exist as a result of slavery, even as he called us to move on. We need not recite the injustices of the past while failing to address the injustices of the present. And then he called on us to rise above our fear and distrust, towards our common desires. Do not descend into accusations about who said what. "Not this time."

But I have asserted a firm conviction -- a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people -- that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

Awesomeness. Now, I truly believe. I believe that he will make the hard decisions when necessary. And I believe that he is the one, uniquely situated in our times to lead us to a more perfect union. Not a savior, mind you, but a true prophet.

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