Trinity’s Annual Fund Director Paige Murphy wrote this remarkable commentary on Barack Obama’s speech on race and the larger issues he addressed:
“The fact that Barack Obama had the courage to deliver this speech during such a pivotal time in his candidacy speaks volumes about what he is willing to personally sacrifice for the good of this country. He could have simply run away from Pastor Wright and moved on. He decided that it was more important, for the good of this nation’s future, to be real, and say what most people will not. It’s a risk, but I think it’s also the characteristic of a great leader.
“Of course, there will be those who will not be moved by any speech, any words, any attempts to discuss the wounds of racial division that have plagued this nation since the English landed on this soil. This nation will forever be haunted by the destruction of the native people of this land, slavery, and Jim Crow. These events made America what it is today, and we cannot and should not deny it. Doing so would be an insult to those who have worked to overcome persecution, and to those who fought and died (White and Black alike) to make everyone truly equal. We cannot and will not build a better future unless we face our past.
“The seething anger of people such as Jeremiah Wright is a direct result (in my humble opinion) of just such denial that has been occurring for decades. Some people say that Blacks need to just ‘get over it’ (slavery) and move on, but these same people deny the lingering effects of almost 300 years of evil acts, followed by another 100 years of oppression (1865-1965) that have been embedded in the fabric of American culture, politics, and the economy. Our inability to deal with how Blacks came to be Americans and our strong ability to sweep the ugliness under the rug angers the generations who endured it.
“I watched my grandfather dying in the hospital of painful liver cancer 10 years ago. As his mind wandered, he mumbled about how “the White man used me up.” I had never heard my grandfather use slurs or express hatred, but as he lay dying, he was tormented by his life under segregation in the south, since the larger part of his life was this experience. How horrible for these to be his last thoughts. Thankfully, as we prayed, the grace of God replaced these memories with happier times and Grampa passed on in peace. I am sure that many older African Americans are tormented by such memories. You can’t just ‘get over it.’
“Senator Obama has done a service to this divided country. He has reminded us that we are divided and that we need to deal with it head on. He has tried to communicate that racism has a legacy, and that we are all a part of that legacy. He did not blame Whites of today, but I believe that we all have an obligation to try to see each other’s points of view, but not to deny them their feelings. Most of us have a relative or friend who says things that are bigoted, prejudiced, or just ignorant. We should deal with that person to end the misinformation. If anyone thinks that Sen. Obama is going to be able to heal hundreds of years of wounds, they just don’t get it, but he certainly can be a catalyst for change if people are willing to change.
“We must also realize, and Sen. Obama was courageous enough to bring it up, that there are cultural differences in how we deal with the legacy of racism. There are certainly discussions in barber shops, around kitchen tables, at happy hour, among all racial groups, that are heated and controversial. This is a way for people to deal with their frustrations, but it does not imply hatred or intolerance. Maybe these discussions need to happen across racial lines and get out in the open. It will be painful at first, but the ultimate result can be healing.
“I am sure that there will be many people who will not listen to the speech, but I believe that EVERY American who is truly interested in getting beyond the racial issues that are alive and thriving, has an obligation to listen to the words of this important speech. All children should hear it so that they understand where the legacy of racism is rooted so that they can make their own decisions and not be influenced by their parents, relatives, or the media. We need to get real, face our problems, many of which are rooted in fear, and build a future that is open to all people.”
Thank you, Paige, for such an eloquent statement.
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