I agree with you all and the basic content of your excellent posts. Clearly Wright is hurting and can continue to hurt Obama if he chooses at this point and he has become a very selfish and irresponsible loose cannon in the process. That is obviously something that should not be happening and I said as much in my earlier post. I'm just as angry as the rest of you about that irrefutable fact because even though I'm sometimes justifiably critical of Obama's approach, I too fiercely support him 100% for the Presidency. Even with his own limitations Barack is by far the best and most honorable candidate running this year.
However my earlier post about the 'Divide & Conquer' dynamics of this entire affair goes back not so much to the mundane and obvious fact that Obama's political enemies and opponents were going to engage in such manipulative tactics because that is indeed the brand of ruthless and corrupt politics that both the Republican Party and the Clinton Machine 'excel' in. What I was and still am deeply chagrined and troubled about is the fact that Obama and Wright didn't have the foresight, concern, and maturity directly after the fabricated "controversy" first broke last month to simply sit down like the brothers and colleagues that they were and calmly hash out a mutually respectful and effective compromise on how they each would publicly respond to the crisis (remember that a real crisis is both a problem to be solved AND an opportunity to solve it-- as the Chinese say).
All Barack and Jeremiah had to do was sit down over a cup of coffee and "agree to disagree" about certain political statements that the Reverend was alleged to have made (again quoted out of context for the most part in the sound bite videos that appeared), and Barack could have simply said to Reverend Wright that he not only strongly disagreed with some of his remarks and would be compelled and duty bound to say so publicly but at the same time assure Wright that he wouldn't disparage and embarrass him personally or dismiss his historical record of service to the church and the larger black community in Chicago. In exchange for these assurances Obama could have then extracted an ironclad promise from Wright that he in turn would not go the national media and either repeat these same statements (the ones Obama openly disagreed with), nor would he say or imply things to the media that in any way suggested that Obama was being dishonest or opportunist in his critical political response to the airing of the sound bite tapes. As long as these mutual requests were made in a straightforward manner that was calm, sober, and mutually respectful of each other's humanity, public reputation, and record of service, the two men could as I said before agree to disagree about certain, specific aspects of their individual political needs, desires, and agendas. This would allow Obama to clearly and unambiguously distance himself politically from some of Wright's statements and political positions but would also make it possible for Obama and Wright to still maintain a reasonably cordial personal relationship.
In other words both men could have and should have come together as mature individuals and mapped out a mutually beneficial strategy (within unavoidable limits of course) that would save the face and reputations of both men whether others agreed or disagreed with one or both of them or not. The truth is that both men were clearly set up and baited in this affair both before and after this travesty and BOTH MEN TOOK THE BAIT. On the street as you well know the ugly vernacular phrase for taking the bait under such contrived and obviously manipulative circumstances is known as being CHUMPED or even more crudely PUNKED OUT. And that regrettably is what happened in this situation. That is not only the absurdity but the TRAGEDY of it all. BECAUSE IT DIDN'T HAVE TO HAPPEN THE WAY IT DID.
Thus both men have to take full and complete responsibility for a media travesty that had Obama and Wright simply relaxed their individual egos, fears, ambitions, and anxieties over what they were being baited about they could have jointly resolved the issue by TRUSTING EACH OTHER enough to approach the mutual resolution of the manufactured crisis i in a way that would maintain the integrity and independence of both men while still addressing the problem at hand. Failing to deal with it in this manner (because fear, opportunism, ambition, selfishness, and resentment took precedence over respect, civil disagreement, and comradely support) only assured that Obama and Wright would BOTH lose in this situation. Of course they may not see it that way themselves at this point but I assure you in the long run that's exactly how their mutual abandonment of each other in this situation will play out.
PART II: AND THE UGLY BALL ROLLS ON...
A great, disturbing, and very accurate piece on racism and its real character in this country TODAY...Stay tuned...
The Trouble With Transcending Race
Why the Double O's are standing on shaky ground.
Few black Americans have occupied the rarified status of Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama, two "racially transcendent" blacks whom white admirers find appealing and admirable. But it seems the pedestals on which the "Double-O's" have been perched are very wobbly these days. Pennsylvania shined an ugly light on Obama's very real problem with white working-class voters. And, since she endorsed him, Oprah's approval ratings with her adoring white public have dipped, too.
Could it be that because of unpleasant and race-loaded issues like the "scary" and "angry" Rev. Jeremiah Wright (Oprah went to his church, too), flag pins and uppity comments about "bitter" white voters, that Oprah and Obama no longer seem so special or different from, you know, other black people? Are they starting to seem kind of ordinary black?
In the quest to continue the interracial honeymoon, Obama has always had higher hurdles to clear than Oprah. He is a black man, not a black woman. And his road show is not merely a feel-good gabfest on how to "live your best life." He wants to run the free world. And, in that context, for some, race becomes impossible to ignore. An exit poll conducted during the Pennsylvania primary last week found that 19 percent of all voters said that race played an important role in how they voted, and that 13 percent of those voters where white and voted for Clinton -- or depending on how one looks at it, against Obama..
But in a surprising instance of collateral damage, people's considerations about Obama seem to be hurting Oprah, too. A new national survey shows Oprah's favorability rating among television viewers has dropped noticeably since she endorsed Obama. A widely cited article in The Politico last week tracked several polls over the past 20 years showing Oprah with consistently high favorability rankings – At one time 78 percent of Americans held a favorable opinion of her and in one survey she ranked second only to Mother Theresa – until she endorsed and campaigned for Obama.
"Ten days after she went on the stump for Obama, Oprah's favorability ratings dropped to 55 percent, the lowest level of favorability ever registered for Oprah in opinion surveys," the article states. "Oprah's negatives also spiked, with one in three respondents (33 percent) reporting unfavorable impressions of her."
So what is happening?
If some white people are rethinking their feelings for Oprah and Obama, it's because those people's unrealistic expectations of the two have been betrayed. Oprah and Obama were idealized blacks. They were supposed to be above reproach, neutral on all matters of race, unencumbered by the tiresome legacy of American race relations, colorblind in their politics. They were not supposed to associate with people like Jeremiah Wright, let alone consider them friends.
They were supposed to reflect blackness in the way that made white people comfortable, a blackness that lacked any hint of anger, resentment, or dare we say it, "bitterness." They were also supposed to pretend their blackness didn't matter. Oprah could be the black girlfriend who white women felt good about themselves for having, Obama could be the black candidate they felt good for supporting.
Whites have long felt comfortable with black people entertaining them. Politics is not entertainment – at least not intentionally. Still, it's hard not to wonder if the massive white crowds that came out for Obama's speeches early on weren't also seeing him as some kind of eloquent performer, and now it's sinking in that Obama really isrunning for president and not for American Idol, and that he comes, like all Americans, with some racial baggage. Could this be why so many white people are now asking, more than a year after Obama launched his campaign, if they can really trust him and basing those doubts not on his political record but on the speeches of his minister?
If Oprah's troubles are, indeed, somehow linked to Obama -- and not merely to Ellen DeGeneres' hard-earned hot streak -- it's a sad statement on race in America. Oprah's not seeking keys to the White House. Can the country only stand one transcendent black person at a time? A sampling of recent blog posts suggests that something bigger than Ellen is at play:
"She spent her entire career promoting women, yet for the first time in history, a woman is running for prez, and she rejects Hillary for a man ," said another reader. "…Oprah is a fraud. I lost all respect for her."
"Oprah is a backstabber in more ways than one. So are the rest of the black people who turned their backs on Hillary…..."
"The support of white women made Oprah her billions. While she has every right to vote and campaign for whomever she wants, she stabbed all women in the back. She used her clout against the first viable white woman. Hope she sinks into oblivion. I will never forget."
Perhaps the last comment was the most telling. It reflects the patronizing attitude that white support should be appreciated and met with unquestioning loyalty and gratitude by blacks who receive it.
In this odd political season, nothing is certain. Obama, now emphatically distanced from Rev. Wright, may find a way to connect with those elusive, working-class white voters – and, more importantly, with superdelegates. Oprah for one, unlike Obama, has proven her staying power. She is a billionaire and will remain one even if some of her fair-weather fans stay mad.
But the undeniable truth is that black celebrities and politicians are held to ridiculous standards of acceptability. As long as white people are defining those standards, "transcendent" black leaders will continue to walk a racial tightrope, and everyone is destined to end up disappointed.
Majorie Valbrun is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist.
Also on The Root:
Andre C. Willis on the Double O's religion lite. Martin Luther King Jr. says why he loves Oprah in an imaginary Q&A with Michael Eric Dyson. Jimi Izrael on the Oprah Effect.
Return to The Root Homepage