Saturday, January 26, 2008

Not True that Obama is Only Now Mentioning Race in South Carolina

The media consensus is that Obama is now making a direct appeal to black voters in South Carolina, for the first time, and that prior to the last few days, Obama hasn't mentioned race. But this is far from the truth. Even more off the mark is that Hillary Clinton has injected race into this campaign in this last week.

Obama has always made indirect, symbolic references to his race, and had others, such as prominent African-Americans, refer directly to his race, and how his candidacy is so historic. There's nothing wrong with Obama mentioning his race in an effort to connect with fellow African-Americans, but why is the media so reluctant to acknowledge that race has always been a part of Obama's campaign?

Everyone also seems to be forgetting Oprah's stumping for Obama in December, and not recognizing how much race was a part of that. Oprah's and Obama's words were often about race, not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's interesting how the media has given Obama a free pass, praising him for not mentioning race and seeming to rise above it, when really, he's been mentioning it all along.

Has everyone forgotten Oprah's December appearance in South Carolina to praise Obama before thirty-thousand mostly African-Americans? As reported on, In December,"30,000 people packed into Columbia, South Carolina's Williams-Brice stadium to hear the talk-show queen explain why she believes Obama is the man with the "vision" for America." She entered the ampitheater to the rhythmic chants of a song "Freedom! Freedom!". Most of these 30,000 were African-Americans, coming straight from church. Oprah stewed her speech with religious talk, saying "It is Amazing Grace that brought me here," and that she was "stepping out of her pew" by recommending a candidate. Then she said, "You know, Dr. King dreamed the dream. But we don't have to just dream the dream anymore. We get to vote that dream into reality by supporting a man who knows not just who we are but who we can be."

In New Hampshire, Oprah, the woman who can get millions of women to buy a book based on her recommendation, introduced Obama with a reference to the book, “The Autobiography of Jane Pittman,” an African-American novel. In a moving rendition, she said how the slave Jane Pittman asks of each new baby, "are you the one?," the one who will free her. Oprah answered, "Obama is the one." This had both messianic and racial undertones: she was pitching Obama as savior to the mostly black audience. Obama then took stage and aligned himself with Oprah, saying that for both of them, their appearance on the stage was “improbable.” Why improbable? Because of their race.

Obama has always made references to Dr. Martin Luther King. In his New Hampshire speech Obama said his catchprase, “Yes We Can,” was also the call of “a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.” He refers to his candidacy as “historic” without directly mentioning race; instead, prominent public figures, like Colin Powell, mention his race for him. Powell said last week on Tavis Smiley that citizens across the country can "enjoy this moment where a person like Barack Obama can knock down all of these old barriers that people thought existed with respect to the opportunities that are available to African Americans.”

So it's puzzling why media coverage seems to agree that only now is Obama making a direct appeal to African-Americans.

No comments: