Political raceSenator Barack Obama, a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, is directly confronting racial tensions.
In the past, U.S. politicians have tended to steer clear of discussing race in public. It is such a sensitive matter.
Obama, however, chose to make public America’s deep-rooted racial tensions and prejudices.
Obama was speaking at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall on Tuesday. He began his 40-minute address by saying that the U.S. Constitution was written 221 years ago “in order to form a more perfect union.”
But he said the document was in fact “stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.”
While the answer to the slavery question is already embedded within the U.S. Constitution, Obama said, “And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States.”
Meanwhile, Obama has a serious problem to deal with, one that could destabilize his campaign. Video clips have emerged of his spiritual leader, Pastor Jeremiah Wright, shouting “God Damn America!” and blaming U.S. foreign policies for 9/11. “America’s chickens are coming home to roost,” Wright said.
Obama decided to tackle the pastor problem directly. While criticizing Wright’s remarks, Obama said, “I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother.”
He said, “The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through ― a part of our union that we have yet to perfect.”
The U.S. voters will eventually evaluate Obama’s decision to directly challenge the racial issue. They should consider the risk he has taken ― his comments could result in a political backlash.
However, Americans are blessed for having such a courageous politician. People want to be touched by a politician. We are moved when a politician fights taboos and speaks about dreams and hopes with passion.
This is something Koreans should envy.