Conflating Rhetoric and Race

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Mar 18, 2008 8:16 PM
Today, Barack Obama said he "could no more disown [Rev. Wright] than [he] could disown the black community."  With that -- unjustly, in my view -- he seemed to associate all black people with the rhetoric of his pastor.  How unfair to the many, many black people who love America without qualification or reservation. 

Would it be acceptable for a white conservative male to adopt the stance that he could not disown a minister spouting anti-American, racialist rhetoric (coming, of course, from a white point of view) without disowning the "white community"?  Of course not, and rightly so.  Dissociating oneself from one minister, white or black, need not (and should not!) be equated with dissociating oneself from that minister's (or one's own) race.

The more I think about Barack's maneuvers in this situation, the more likely it seems -- as I alluded to this morning -- that Michelle Obama has played a role both in his association with Wright and his efforts to disclaim the remarks without disclaiming Wright himself.  Her own rhetoric (America is "downright mean"?!)  shares some thematic similarities with Wright's, in fact.  Her involvement would also explain why, as Jim Geraghty wonders, the Obama daughters were exposed to Wright's poisonous rhetoric.