There I was, listening to Barack Obama's Great and Eloquent speech, but I had not yet learned from the Anointed Wise Men that it was Great and Eloquent. Since I was not yet privy to this information, I just continued listening, while doing my own spontaneous evaluation of his message. About three-quarters into his speech, it occurred to me that this was simply the same old, same old. It sounded like the standard boilerplate liberal stuff to me.
How stunned I was to learn a couple of hours later that my evaluation of the speech had been all wrong, that I had, instead, heard one of the Greatest Speeches of the century. By then the Anointed Wise Men, in the form of media pundits, politicians and various self-professed philosophers had weighed in, and were explaining to us simpletons the deeper meanings and nuances that I guess people like me were just too dense to catch.
It seemed to me that he was delivering just another black grievance wail. “You don't know what it's like to walk in my shoes.” Another litany of black sorrows. I thought, Isn't that taking us 10 steps back? Here I thought I was sensing a growing mood among blacks in the country, where the messages of people like Booker T. Washington were getting a hearing in places where such messages previously had been disdained. Even younger blacks seemed to be picking up on some of the themes of responsibility.
People identified with the political left, like Bill Cosby and Juan Williams, who were making strong cases for black introspection and the need to put an end to blame, were getting widespread media play. Include with them forthright speakers like authors John McWhorter and Shelby Steele, who were constant voices on the radio and TV talk circuit, exposing the airwaves to heavy doses of Do-for-self and Clean-up-your-act themes. These, and other such prominent voices, I hoped, could not be ignored forever by the general black public.
Over these past couple of years, I sometimes believed that promising inroads were being made. But Obama set me straight. It's still a horrible world out there for a black man. That persecuted soul is still standing out there, on that street corner, trying to catch that elusive taxicab. And he still faces the indignity of all those mean white folks who pass him in public with fear in their hearts.
Obama also reminded me that whites still are not off the hook. No, they have plenty of work yet to do with respect to blacks. They've got to do something about those resentments that some of them harbor over all those special programs set up for the coloreds. Since their grievances are intangible ones, mere “distractions” (in Obama's words), unlike those of blacks that are real, whites must learn to direct their anger to the proper places. And, yes, they must still concern themselves with providing “ladders of opportunities” for blacks, as well as worry over any “current incidents” of discrimination.
According to the Anointed Wise Men, Obama came up with many original ideas. Like, let's all have a discussion about race. But didn't President Clinton initiate a year-long discussion sponsored by the President's Advisory Board on Race, which featured lots of conferences, forums and panels, that met in all parts of the country? What happened to all that talking? Don't those discussions count?
At any rate, Obama has taught us that blacks can settle back into their old grooves, assured that their troubles cannot be resolved until we all “come together” and engage in an “honest dialogue” on race. This re-hash is all we get from the inspirational candidate? From the Visionary?