Mary Katharine Ham

There are things I like about Barack Obama. Until the most vitriolic of the Jeremiah Wright sermons surfaced, Obama's post-racial rhetoric was appealing to me. I believed that he believed it, and that his candidacy really did have the power to lift the nation and the Democratic Party, which has trafficked shamelessly in racial demagoguery for decades, above the "racial stalemate" he speaks of.

The new revelations of Rev. Wright and the fact that Obama chose him as a close spiritual adviser for 20 years makes it nearly impossible for me to buy what the Messiah is selling.

His distancing speech was more a justification speech than anything else. Rev. Wright and other, older black citizens are understandably still angry about discrimination they experienced, he said, and those frustrations are given voice at dinner tables and in fiery sermons. This is all right, Barack posits, because white people are angry, too, for much less justified reasons, like affirmative action.

Barack Obama is uniquely positioned to talk about race in America in a new way. It would have served his post-racial aspirations to do so today. He did not take that opportunity.

He was more eloquent than most, and less overtly divisive than other black leaders would have been, but the message was the same. Black people are angry because they were mistreated, and hateful people like Rev. Wright are only guilty of not understanding that the country can change, and has changed. Obama gives Wright a pass on perpetuating the pernicious notion that the Man is keeping his parishioners down, despite the fact that one of those parishioners is quite conspicuously running for President of the United States of America and winning.

The truth is that the firm belief of preachers and leaders like Wright in the perpetual victimhood of the black community, the sheer audacity of their hopelessness, has arguably done more to injure the black community over the past 20 years than many other things, including white racism. How many young black men, pray tell, has the good Reverend convinced that the American dream is irredeemably corrupted by white racism, and therefore not worth pursuing?

The ability to rise above all that racial resentment cannot be achieved by one politician taking the high road and covering over the sins of those who divided before him. If Obama were serious about post-racialism, he would have spent many of his words today castigating men like Wright, who preach the very division he wishes to rise above.

But what does he ask in this speech and of whom does he ask it? How will we form a "more perfect union," according to Obama, and who needs to do the forming?

Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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