Barack Obama continued to address the Rev. Wright controversy on the major news networks last night. Here he is on MSNBC:
Part of what we’re seeing here is, Rev. Wright represents a generation that came of age in the 60s. He is an African-American man who, you know, because of his life experience, continues to have a lot of anger and frustration, and will express that in ways that are very different from me and my generation. Partly because I benefitted from the struggles of that earlier generation. And so part of what we’re seeing here is a transition from the past to the future and I hope that our politics represents that future.
I hadn’t seen this statement when I responded to Random’s comment on my previous post. But I was putting forward a similar argument — obviously because I think it is an accurate characterization of the facts.
Hilzoy offers an apt analogy:
I do not feel, myself, like lecturing African Americans about the precise level of anger they should feel towards this country, or the extent to which they should identify with it. My ancestors were not kidnapped and brought here against their will, nor were they enslaved, or sold away from their parents or children, or raped by their alleged owners as a matter of course, or branded, etc. etc., etc. Nor, once freed, were they subjected to what can only be described as terrorism for a century. The likes of me do not face persistent residential discrimination, and while, as a woman, I do face some discrimination in employment, I think it’s considerably milder than what African Americans have to deal with.
I could, of course, go on (and on, and on, and on.) But the general point is: I really don’t feel like talking about just how angry African-Americans should be about all this, any more than I would want to tell a rape victim that she is, frankly, just a little too upset by her experience.
But Barack Obama does not share Jeremiah Wright’s incendiary anger. Here, for example, is a passage from Dreams From My Father:
Ever since the first time I’d picked up Malcolm X’s autobiography, I had tried to untangle the twin strands of black nationalism, arguing that nationalism’s affirmative message — of solidarity and self-reliance, discipline and communal responsibility — need not depend on hatred of whites any more than it depended on white munificence. We could tell this country where it was wrong, I would tell myself and any black friends who would listen, without ceasing to believe in its capacity for change.
(pp. 197-98 in the 2004 edition; emphasis added)
Dreams From My Father was written more than a decade ago, when Obama didn’t have a career in politics to protect.
The evidence supports the claim that Obama is making: i.e., that this controversy represents the difference between the generation of African-Americans that came of age during the 1960s, and the next generation — Obama’s cohort.