Friday, March 21, 2008

Susan Estrich

On Obama's speech:

Obama supporters describe themselves as being moved and touched, and their candidate as being brave and nuanced and forthright. They breathed a sigh of relief this week, convinced, more than ever, that America needs Barack Obama to be President.

Talk to Obama critics and you wonder, for a minute, if they heard the same speech. It reminds me of nothing so much as the days of the O.J. Simpson trial, when we – black and white parents, who were sending our children to school together - discovered we simply couldn’t talk about the case, so different was what we saw and heard as to leave all of us shaking our heads in wonder and disbelief that our friends, with whom we agreed on so many things, could see this thing so differently.

What the critics are saying, sometimes out loud but also in quiet whispers, is that they don’t understand how a man who gives speeches about moving past the racial divide would choose a racist minister to be a member of his family, about why, with all the churches in Chicago, Obama not only picked this one but remained true to it, about how he could not have known what others knew, could not have heard what others did.

The critics will tell you that blaming white America for spreading AIDS to blacks is not the same as an elderly white woman admitting that she is afraid of black men, and that there is a difference between standing by the grandmother who raised you and standing by a religious leader who preaches hate.

Even Jesse Jackson admitted a few years ago to the sad truth that he was afraid of young black men. Most young black men don’t commit crime, but a disproportionate amount of crime is committed by the minority who do.

Being afraid of black men is, unfortunately, rational even if it is also racist, in the sense that it involves judging people negatively for no reason other than the color of their skin. Blaming white America for spreading AIDS to the black community is not only racist, but hateful, precisely because it lacks any rational basis.

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