Barak Obama’s Tuesday speech, designed to distance himself from anti-American comments made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, highlighted a positive aspect of American individualism. From the speech:
There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there….Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”
Forgive me for leaving out Ashley’s personal story, but the relationship between her and the elderly black man might provide one of the most important insights into race relations in America. We know that a young white woman can have a negative impact on an elderly black man; we also know that a young white woman can have a positive impact on an elderly black man. Even when definable groups are culpable in racial tensions, relationships are ultimately between individuals, not races. Obama highlighted that fact, and surely he has gained admirers for doing so.
The Obama campaign might want any reference to the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright to go away, but the speech that was supposed to put the controversy to rest needs to be talked about more and more.
Read the full text of Obama’s speech here.