Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Unity's Great Inspiration and Complicated Path to Resolution-Commentary on Barack "A More Perfect Union" Speech

Michael Partis

March 20, 2008

Obama's rhetorical ability is among the most skilled ever. Indeed, his speech on forming a "more perfect union" was prophetic. It forces us to see and create a transformative agenda for uniting a divided America (a unity we desperately need to more forward), wrestle with the questions on how to address the methods of bringing us together, and deal with the socio-economic policy issues that needs intricate planning and analyze in order to address all citizens.

For Barack to clearly & unequivocally state that racism must be addressed not only by citizens but by the United States government was a legendary proclamation. He clearly named that racism still exists and that this directly causes and perpetuates inequality and injustice in American society; and cited how racism's historic practices has led to a continuation of systematic injustice & inequality. Barack clearly named Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans as being apart of this racially "disadvantaged" group. These decisive statements from a legitimate Presidential candidate marks a moment many who were following Senator’s Obama’s campaigning were waiting for: for Barack Obama to take a stance on race relations in the United States.

Walking the tightrope of the political major party landscape is extremely challenging; which makes his speech all the more powerful. And by juxtaposing racial inequality with the struggles of White working-class and poor, Obama does an eloquent job of trying to show a divided nation is commonality.

Arguably, the most powerful message in the entire speech was not his words on racial unity, but his outright critique of corporate business practice. While it is not the first time he has put corporate business in the crosshairs, this was indeed is strongest message towards them. In fact calling out major corporate industry's employment practices was his boldest move, naming globalization and out-sourcing as the root of American losing jobs---not immigration or affirmative action. It is clear the most sought after vote in this election is that of the White male; and criticizing corporate capital puts the bull's eye squarely on that population. In an election where we are hearing how super-delegates will determine the Democratic nomination, where “electablility” is a critical factor, and the question of can the nominee turn "red states blue" seems to be the DNC's most pressing concern, Barack's critique will not put him in that electorate's good graces.

Barack's talk about multiracial coalitions, unity, commonality, addressing the division of race, reconciling the past, and putting people before profit sets forth a progressive agenda to heal America's racial scars, embrace a fuller democracy, and recognize a racial, ethnic, and cultural plurality that will characterize 21st Century America.

Questions still remain though. Some critical issues are:

Private vs. Public

-Barack said "separate but equal is NOT EQUAL," reiterating the assertion of Brown vs. Board of Education while stating that American schools are STILL racially segregated and unequal. Many of the elite Private schools at the elementary and secondary level---disregard on the collegiate moment for a moment--- involve systems of "legacy," elitism, privilege, and classism that pushes free-market societies to intense moral analysis.

Residential Segregation
-while America may hold growing multi-ethnic and multi-cultural areas, racial segregation is still stark in many neighborhoods. Even as the South Bronx sees an influx of Mexican immigrants, or the Grand Concourse section of the Bronx experiences a growing numbers of African immigrants adding to the areas number of African-American, Caribbean, Central American, and Latino/Latina populations---does the historically affluent Riverdale or Throgs Neck sections of the Bronx see the same change in demographics? America still has a racial inequality problem in residence. This will only make unity more difficult.

The Global Consequences of our Domestic issues

-Complicated systems of race, class, and gender privileges have split apart the country and severely impacted policy. While Obama's speech outlined the great work we have to do in addressing our country’s racial, ethnic, cultural, and economic issues, how does that affect American foreign policy? How do the ways we perpetuate injustice (through discrimination & racism) affect how we deal with the world?
-While Rev. Jeremiah Wright's comments may have been inflammatory and controversial, it points to a real foreign policy's issue; an issues that has been neglected by numbers of American Presidential cabinets post WWI---are we exploiting foreign countries, uplifting them, aiding, or augmenting their dependence on the "First World." What is our image to the rest of the world? And what are the real consequences of this image? While Senator Obama did not address specifics foreign policy measures in his speech, his "more perfect union" must think about healing the U.S.' relationship with sections of the global world. Because along with racism, sexism, and discrimination: imperialism has been one of America's biggest problems as well.

These remaining questions are not to criticize Obama for not addressing them, but to speak to how we have to analysis his agenda and ACTIVELY TAKE A PART IN IT. The greatness of Barack's speech is that it simply illuminates the complicated problems America faces IF it is to move towards a more just country.

Michael Partis

1 comment:

Ian said...

On residential segregation:

"The political philosophy of Black Nationalism only means that if you and I are going to live in a Black community -- and that’s where we’re going to live, 'cause as soon as you move into one of their -- soon as you move out of the Black community into their community, it’s mixed for a period of time, but they’re gone and you’re right there all by yourself again."

-Malcom X "The Ballot or the Bullet" 1964.

While that drew a lot of laughter from the crowd, it was a rueful, knowing laughter.

I think it remains to be seen how the current housing crisis will affect racial integration in community--both inside cities and in that vast sprawl of suburbia.

Though I've got to say I am less than optimistic. It's far easier to see how this will have a reverse-effect.