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Did Obama Overreach On Race

By elevating the discussion of his relationship with Rev. Wright into a larger discussion of race relations, Obama runs a real risk. The speech today could change the frame so people begin to examine Wright’s words as those of a lone black man raging against the machine. On the other hand, they could be viewed, especially by white America, as evidence of a much more radical view.

As I’m sitting in the Minneapolis airport watching CNN coverage of the speech, I hear some talking head say Obama has done a good job by challenging us to think – something politicians don’t usually do. However, that assumes race relations are something people want to confront intellectually. I’m not sure they are.

People generally discuss race in charged terms, as Wright did. Affirmative action is rarely debated on merit but is typically framed in conversations as one race or the other using the levers of power to its advantage. Rare is the discussion of the root cause of the issue except to acknowledge the historical background.

I think Obama may have done better by sticking to his first defense and putting this down as the charged language of one man who had been through a lot rather than making it an ideology cut on racial lines.

How many people, in the wake of 9/11, adopted similarly charged language to address our attackers. ‘Nuke them til they glow’ and ‘make the Middle East a parking lot’ were popular phrases for those discussing Muslims.

Now juxtapose that anger to a man who had seen the worst of the civil rights movement. Add to it a healthy degree of lingering historical anger. Give it voice through a man staring at a church full of parishioners who have to deal with such issues daily. You begin to understand the anger of THAT man. (Sorry for the caps, bold and italics not available on my BB)

Apply it more generally, however, and you may alienate caucasians who really don’t want to come to terms with that level of hostility aimed at them. You also leave an opening for Hillary’s people to create a whisper campaign that you are a closet radical race warrior.

Suddenly, it becomes easier for people to perceive you as some sort of Manchurian candidate – but not in a "he’s secretly a Muslim terrorist" way. Instead, the perceived threat becomes much more real: Elect him, and we’ll spend 4-8 years in open race warfare.

Time will tell if Obama overreached on this one. His support among caucasians should have been climbing. If in PA he suddenly takes a huge step backward, I think this increased racial tension may be the reason.

(Note: this was submitted via Utterz and my Blackberry. Typos are virtually guaranteed.)
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Written by Michael Turk