There isn't much that I can add to the commentary on Barack Obama's speech on Jeremiah Wright and race. It was a well-crafted speech with some astute observations but, at least for those who are not staunch left-liberals, it confirmed rather than dispelled the questions raised by his association with Wright.
Certainly he disavowed Wright's comments but that was to be expected and was never the question. The burden upon him was to explain why he attended a church at which the pastor was given to hateful race-baiting and crackpot theories of racial injury. Why did use that church as a political base? How could he have this pastor as a spiritual father?
His initial response was to deny that he had ever heard such things but, upon reflection, seems to have recognized that he had to back away from that. It seems likely that someone will place him in the congregation during one of Wright's inflammatory sermons. He must, in any event, know that it's possible for someone to do so.
So he tried to explain why a good man could say the things that Wright did, but the burden upon him was greater than that. The problem is not that Wright is angry but that he counsels anger. It is not that he was formed in a more racist America. It's not even, as Obama says, that he makes the mistake of seeing the country as static and unable to change. It's that he sees it as having not changed. For Wright, the Man's foot is still firmly on the neck of the oppressed and some type of subtantial intervention is required.
And, it turns out, so does Obama. He doesn't want to phrase it in racial terms (although he seems committed to substantial race-based policy)but his America is, despite being the only place that his story is possible, a fundamentally unjust place in which millions are shortchanged. White people who fail to understand that are, he thinks, manipulated by talk radio and conservative spin.
The upshot here seems to be that Obama doesn't share Wright's harsher views (or at least wouldn't put them in the same way) but can understand them because they are rooted in what he sees as a fundamental truth about the country.
His claim to be willing to have a conversation about race seems completely disingenuous. His equation of Geraldine Ferraro to Jeremiah Wright (and his creepy invocation of his grandmother)obscures rather than clarifies. One of the reasons that we don't talk about race in this country is that we have adotped an elaborate etiquette designed to assuage white guilt and black suspicion that makes anything approaching candor impossible. Obama has been more than willing to enforce that etiquette.