Obama flaunts dreaded 'r' word

July 16, 2008|By Gregory Kane

Darn it, I knew I should have gone to Cincinnati.

I mean, I sure would have loved to have been there when Sen. Barack Obama spoke before the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and repeatedly used the dreaded "r" word throughout his speech. The word wasn't "racism." It was "responsibility," the word that has been an Obama theme lately. The word that Obama used when he chastised irresponsible black fathers on Father's Day. The word that caused Jesse Jackson to have such a hankering for removing Obama's family jewels.

"NAACP, I'm here to report: I'm not going to stop talking about it," Obama said in an article by Sun reporter Kelly Brewington, who did go to Cincinnati. "Yes, we have to demand more responsibility from Wall Street. But we also have to demand more from ourselves."

Brewington's article said NAACP delegates reacted to those remarks with "thunderous applause." Can you imagine what would have happened if a white Republican candidate had told the delegates that "you have to demand more from yourselves"? He - or she - would have been called all kinds of racist so-and-sos.

Forget a white candidate. What would have happened if a black conservative had told NAACP delegates, "We also have to demand more from ourselves"? I doubt that the same words Obama spoke, coming from the mouths of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas or author Shelby Steele, would have elicited the same response. The truth is, blacks with views like those of Thomas and Steele don't get invited to speak at NAACP conventions. That would be too much like admitting there is a diversity of opinion among blacks. It would be like admitting black liberals don't get to monopolize the debate among black Americans. In other words, it would be something the "nonpartisan" NAACP just doesn't do.

The NAACP delegates who wildly cheered Obama for remarks demonstrated a curious mind-set that black Americans have developed in recent years: Statements from white or black conservatives that might elicit demands for an apology become, in the mouths of black and white liberals, flashes of sheer brilliance.

Several years ago, when the debate over reparations for slavery was in full swing, I wrote that most reparations money paid to blacks would, within a week, find its way into the cash registers of white or Asian merchants. I got 'buked, scorned and treated like a Ton Ton Macoute. Within a matter of days, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan was in town talking about reparations and said the same thing I wrote, practically verbatim.

He got a standing ovation, probably from some of the same folks who had called me an Uncle Tom and a Sambo.

You can bet there will be no slanderous comments about Obama being an Uncle Tom or a Sambo - the man is a Democrat, after all - and maybe now that the dreaded "r" word has come from the mouth of a bona fide black liberal, black Americans will take heed. Because when Obama said, according to Brewington's article, that "in the end, it doesn't matter how much money we invest in our communities, or how many 10-point plans we propose, or how many government programs we launch - none of it will make any difference if we don't seize more responsibility in our own lives," the man was absolutely right.

Now of course Obama's talk is going to be dismissed by some as a candidate who's telling white voters what they want to hear so he can get elected. It's a curious charge; what's Obama supposed to do? Try not to get elected? At least Obama hasn't sunk to the level of President Lyndon B. Johnson, who campaigned against Sen. Barry Goldwater in 1964 by telling American voters about the war in Vietnam, "We're not going to send American boys thousands of miles overseas to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves."

Obama's saying government programs can only do so much. He's not the only Democrat who's come to that realization. Mayor Sheila Dixon said the same thing when she spoke at the Call2Action5000 rally held on Fathers' Day. Not surprisingly, she endorsed Obama long before he became the Democratic presidential front-runner.

"I think his comments were very timely," Dixon said yesterday about Obama's remarks at the convention. "What's happened over time is that people feel it's the government that should resolve the problems of how to raise your children and how to educate your children." She went on to criticize what she feels is an excessive reliance on welfare, which started, Dixon said, as a temporary emergency measure.

"It wasn't designed to have fourth and fifth generations on welfare," Dixon said.

It sounds like old-school Democrats cut from the cloth of Hubert Humphrey, Robert Kennedy and Henry "Scoop" Jackson might be making a comeback.



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