"So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town, when theyhear that an African-American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed, when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time."
Senator Barack Obama, March 18, 2008, Philadelphia
(read the entire speech in today's NYTimes )
Like a specialist who combines brain surgery with psychoanalysis, Dr. Barack Obama reached into the souls of white folks yesterday in Philadelphia and displayed, as if in anatomy lab, ugly and wiggling, still very much alive, the viscera of white anger about race in America.
And at the very heart of that tangle was fear about crime in urban neighborhoods. Obama named two other iconic sources of white political heat (and not surprisingly, the very stuff of racial wedge issues in American politics) busing and affirmative action, but busing itself was very much about fear of crime and the outrage that white parents felt (and feel today wherever its active) they were being forced by government to expose their kids to risks of crime in neighborhoods they had sought to separate themselves from.
For white Americans since the 1960s, urban crime has appeared as a kind of civil war or insurgency directed against them. In return they have authorized a war on crime that has often been nothing short of a real war against minority/majority inner city urban neighborhoods. That reaction and response have dominated American politics and government for two generations. (see my book if you want that elaborated on a bit).
But Obama's insight is so keen that he sees as even a greater burden on the white soul, the perception that this fear reaction and response is itself racist (essentially what Rev. Wright noted in his 3-Strikes sermon).
In far less then the analytic 50 minute hour, Dr. Obama took white Americans right down to the heart of our racial neurosis and offered us a path toward healing.
Stop the war on crime, which is not a reflection of white racism, but a source of racial division.