I watched Obama's acceptance speech last night on television, and it was a very effective speech. Perhaps I was being a bit clueless, but the links between the Reverend Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech and Obama's speech were not clear to me until they were pointed out, at great length, by the media afterwards. Regardless, it was a very well-done speech.
With all these comparisons between Obama and King, let's keep a few things in mind. First, King was making a speech from a position of authority. He already was exactly where he needed to be: the nominal head of the Civil Rights movement, and the voice of conscience for the nation. Obama, on the other hand, is trying to get somewhere: namely, the White House. As such, every single word of the speech (or any speech by any candidate) was crafted with that thought in mind, and must therefore be taken with several grains of salt.
I must admit that I really like Obama. I am fiercely independent, politically speaking. But I find in Obama an effective individual, a dynamic speaker, and a charismatic leader. However I question the wisdom of attempting to channel King. King spoke to all of America that day so many years ago. Since then, however, he, his words, and his dream have been appropriated by specific communities with specific political agendas. By tying himself to King, Obama throws himself wholly into the camp of these people. Instead of being inclusive, he is highlighting his differences. This is a move that brings me pause.
The more people cheer Obama and call this a "historic movement," the more I have second thoughts. As in every instance of integration and unity, the remarkable moment is not that in which the first woman or minority achieves a position previously believed unattainable. Rather, the moment truly to cheer is when a woman or minorty achieves a position of status and power, and no one bats an eyelash. The more people express their amazement at an African-American candidate for President, the more it draws attention to the fact that opportunity and status for African-Americans is more the exception than the rule.
I have not made up my mind on who to vote for in November. I still want to hear what McCain has to say. I also want to know more details of how Obama expects to be able to pay for all the initiatives he has laid out. However I am most certainly not writing him off. I will very likely vote for him. If he is elected, I will be happy. However, if this occurs, I will be looking for a few more changes to follow in quick succession.
First, the abolition of Affirmative Action nationwide. Obama's ascension to the highest office in the land will prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that African-Americans have "made it" in America, and are able to achieve anything. At that point, maintaining racially discriminatory programs will be a slap in the face of every minority in the country. It will be a way of saying, "Obama made it, but you can't without some special assistance." Of course, there should still be scholarships and programs to assist poor students, but these need to be race-blind.
Second, there needs to be no more silly talk of "Reparations." It was always nonsensical to argue that the current generation of whites owes money to the current generation of African-Americans for crimes committed against them over a century ago, no matter how horrible and egregious these crimes were. Israel does not seek financial reparations from Germany in compensation for the Holocaust. It is also patently false that a handout helps anyone (of any race) for longer than it takes them to spend it.
Third, African-Americans no longer get to play the "race card" in any situation. For a perfect example, check out this article:
An African-American mayor is accused of corruption and malfeasance by a white governor. As part of his defense, Kilpatrick (and the media) promptly plays the race card, accusing the governor and her supporters of having a "lynch-mob mentality," suggesting that the governor's motives are racially-based. If Obama's candidacy truly represents a watershed moment in race relations in America, then all this BS ends the moment Obama takes the podium in January and is sworn in.