In his Big Speech defending his 20-year membership in a church headed by a racist, anti-Semitic, sexist, conspiracy-believing pastor, Democratic candidate Barack Obama says America needs a frank "talk" about race.
For crying out loud, we talk incessantly about race! Pick up a newspaper -- any newspaper -- or turn on cable news and wait a few minutes. Race -- usually something about how blacks feel, how blacks think, how blacks and whites see things differently, yada, blah, etc. -- comes up.
Obama's plea reminds me of one of my "talks" about race -- this one more than 30 years ago. Back in college, I dated a young lady whom today I would call a "victicrat."
One day she came back from her sociology class. "We discussed race today," she said cheerfully, "and boy, did they get an earful." She then proceeded to tell me how she attacked "the white boys" for slavery, Jim Crow and the "continued oppression of blacks."
When I called it unfair to condemn her classmates for oppressing blacks, she said, "That's what they said, too, but we let 'em have it."
I then said, "What's so amusing?"
"What do you mean?"
"Your smile. You sure look like you're having fun. Turn around. Look in the mirror."
She turned and looked in the mirror hanging on the wall. Her expression of joy even surprised her.
"You really like putting down white people," I continued. "What, is this some sort of payback for slavery?"
We argued into the night. I saw an America full of promise and hope, and she saw only barriers with little sign of improvement.
Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright, similarly seems downright joyful in attacking America, blaming the government for AIDS and drugs, and attributing the Islamofascist attacks of 9/11 to America's racism.
Wright believes that, in the year 2008, it remains hard out there for a black guy. So, too, do many members of the media, who called Obama's speech a "refreshing" call for a dialogue to deal with the "chasm" and "divide" between America's blacks and whites.
But consider the "talk" about race by former slave turned educator/author Booker T. Washington in his book "Up From Slavery" -- written in 1901, a mere three and a half decades after the end of slavery:
"I used to envy the white boy who had no obstacles placed in the way of his becoming a Congressman, Governor, Bishop, or President by reason of the accident of his birth or race. I used to picture the way that I would act under such circumstances; how I would begin at the bottom and keep rising until I reached the highest round of success.
"In later years, I confess that I do not envy the white boy as I once did. I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed. Looked at from this standpoint, I almost reach the conclusion that often the Negro boy's birth and connection with an unpopular race is an advantage, so far as real life is concerned. With few exceptions, the Negro youth must work harder and must perform his task even better than a white youth in order to secure recognition. But out of the hard and unusual struggle through which he is compelled to pass, he gets a strength, a confidence, that one misses whose pathway is comparatively smooth by reason of birth and race.
"From any point of view, I had rather be what I am, a member of the Negro race, than be able to claim membership with the most favoured of any other race. I have always been made sad when I have heard members of any race claiming rights and privileges, or certain badges of distinction, on the ground simply that they were members of this or that race, regardless of their own individual worth or attainments. I have been made to feel sad for such persons because I am conscious of the fact that mere connection with what is known as a race will not permanently carry an individual forward unless he has individual worth, and mere connection with what is regarded as an inferior race will not finally hold an individual back if he possesses intrinsic, individual merit. Every persecuted individual and race should get much consolation out of the great human law, which is universal and eternal, that merit, no matter under what skin found, is, in the long run, recognized and rewarded. This I have said here, not to call attention to myself as an individual, but to the race to which I am proud to belong."
American blacks live in a post-slavery, post-Jim Crow world, with a growing, thriving black middle class. We live in a country where, for the most part, hard work, focus, ability and some luck determine success. Why, then, the continued anger, negativity, and finger-pointing, in a country to which much of the world -- if it could -- would happily relocate?
So, let that talk begin.