President Obama’s ‘being honest’ remarks suggest another speech
by Don McKee
August 30, 2013 12:44 AM | 1533 views | 0 0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Don McKee
Don McKee
President Barack Obama’s speech marking the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington rightly paid tribute to the courage and sacrifice of the leaders and the foot soldiers in the civil rights movement that changed America.

“On the battlefield of justice, men and women without rank or wealth or title or fame would liberate us all in ways that our children now take for granted, as people of all colors and creeds live together and learn together and walk together, and fight alongside one another, and love one another, and judge one another by the content of our character in this greatest nation on earth,” he said.

That’s true, I believe, for most Americans, but, unfortunately to the contrary, some of his supporters — if not the president — have played the race card in politics at times and accused those opposing them for one reason or another of being racist, in effect.

He seemed to contradict himself when he said the “measure of progress for those who marched 50 years ago….was whether this country would admit all people who were willing to work hard, regardless of race, into the ranks of a middle-class life …. It was whether our economic system provides a fair shot for the many, for the black custodian and the white steelworker, the immigrant dishwasher and the native American veteran.” That, he said, “remains our great unfinished business.”

Is this country not admitting people willing to work hard into the middle class? And does the economic system not give a fair shot “for the many?” Obviously, Obama does not think so. The implication is that hard-working people and “the many” are being held back by the country and the economic system.

Yet he went on to acknowledge, “Since 1963, the economy’s changed. The twin forces of technology and global competition have subtracted those jobs that once provided a foothold into the middle class.” It’s a better explanation than his earlier assertions.

Obama did make a confession that should be the subject of another speech.

“If we’re honest with ourselves,” he said, “we’ll admit that during the course of 50 years, there were times when some of us, claiming to push for change, lost our way. The anguish of assassinations set off self-defeating riots.

“Legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse-making for criminal behavior. Racial politics could cut both ways as the transformative message of unity and brotherhood was drowned out by the language of recrimination. And what had once been a call for equality of opportunity, the chance for all Americans to work hard and get ahead was too often framed as a mere desire for government support, as if we had no agency in our own liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child and the bigotry of others was reason to give up on yourself. All of that history is how progress stalled. That’s how hope was diverted. It’s how our country remained divided.”

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