By Patricia Wilson-Smith
For those of you who may have wondered why I’ve been largely silent on the Rev. Wright issue, here’s the truth – the whole thing has been way too disheartening for me to deal with head on. Until now.
Because now I feel I have to. Any of us who has a voice, even a small one, who does not loudly weigh in on this debacle will be as culpable as the media and the Clintons in Senator Obama’s defeat, if such an unlikely thing were to occur.
I am an educated black woman, who was raised in the black church. I have black family members and friends who have strongly held views on everything from slavery to whether or not as consumers we can truly influence the price of gasoline. And as I have walked the streets in support of Senator Obama, I have heard from more than my share of blacks their frustration and disgust over what they perceive as an endless history of injustices brought down on the heads of people of color by this country. Some I have spoken to have achieved some semblence of the American Dream; some still struggle to gain ground on even a meager existence in this country. They’re Americans – they pay taxes, and they work hard, but they’re fed up, and sometimes just as controversially vocal about it as Rev. Wright has been.
Some that I’ve spoken to along the way have said from the very beginning that “America is not ready to elect a black man President”. I can remember hearing those words, and thinking that those people were so short-sighted. Especially in the glow of the Senator’s huge win in Iowa, I vehemently defended this country and the people in it, saying that Americans were changing, and that Senator Obama was the kind of man who could bridge divides that had long existed, that he was uniquely qualified to do so. And let’s face it, he has done that – and if all things had been equal, I believe Senator Obama would already be the nominee. But instead, me and people like me are left scratching our heads, wondering how it is that at this late date in the primary season, when Senator Obama has won more pledged delegates, more of the popular vote, and more states, we could possibly be pondering the possibility of a Clinton upset, all because of a preacher who not unlike thousands of preachers around the country both black and white, takes political and social license with his sermons on Sunday.
It’s appalling. Despite my desire to believe differently, I can no longer deny that in giving this story life, and continuing to breath life into it on a daily basis, the media has put Senator Obama in a position to have to defend the one thing that he cannot and should not have to – his blackness. All because of the irrational fears that some have that he might hold some deep-seated resentment for this country that might someday pepper his policies should he become President.
Now, I’m afraid that any black man who dares run for high public office will always be vetted on a much deeper level; that the fear-mongers will always contend that SURELY an educated, politically successful black man must harbor some festering anger that will somehow show itself eventually! Never mind that our current President dumped us head-long into a war that there is no clear way out of (a war that Senator Obama was wise and sound of judgement enough to oppose from the start by the way)! Nevermind that the Republican candidate has a temper that he doesn’t even try to hide, and that Billary have proven themselves to be congenital liars and political opportunists so selfish that they don’t care if they destroy the Democratic party to win the nomination – Senator Obama is black.
Senator Clinton has definitely done her part to keep the Rev. Wright story alive, but at this point, I have to place the blame for all this firmly where it belongs – on the media. I think what gets me most about all of the non-stop media coverage of Rev. Wright is how show after show after show keeps asking the same questions about which sermons Senator Obama heard and didn’t hear. How they keep playing the same clips of Rev. Wright over and over again, giving a ridiculous amount of attention to the perspective of one man (who by the way is not running for office), without lifting a finger to get to the real heart of the matter. The fact is, the media has done more to perpetuate the unfounded fears Americans have about Senator Obama than anyone else, and that includes the Clintons. And in doing so, they have put our dirty racial laundry out in the open for the entire world to see. Left unchecked, the media will be guilty of robbing this nation of the opportunity to re-invent itself in the eyes of the rest of the world; it will cause events that will disillusion the millions of young voters who have been awakened, and who now recognize that their future depends on our ability to break the political log-jam we’ve been in for decades. If we don’t do something soon, the media will rob us of our first chance in a long time to have a truly great leader.
It is clear by now that it is easier for the media, and others in this country to believe that Senator Obama, a man who has proven himself time again to be a uniter, is somehow really some angry black man, bent on making the nation pay for its crimes against humanity. Rather than see the Harvard-educated family man, legislator, and community organizer, they would rather use those with whom he’s associated to diminish him into some caricature of a man that is white America’s greatest fear. To believe the truth, to believe that we are actually witnessing the candidacy of a man who has what it takes to transform the way we think about ourselves as a nation, and who has the courage to force us to look at ourselves in an honest, truthful way is just too much for some. And so now, I’m thinking that those early nay-sayers might have been more right than I wanted to believe, and that makes me so sad.
It boggles the mind – are we really supposed to believe that all the work that Senator Obama has done over the years, working in poor neighborhoods, when he could have gone straight to any high-dollar law firm in the country, toiling in the Illinois State Senate, working tirelessly to bridge divides between the left and the right when he could have just as easily become a partisan yes-man – was all so that he could eventually become President of the United States of America and foist his deeply hidden divisive and racist political views on the country?!? Is THAT what we’re all supposed to believe?
It’s amazing that it’s come to this, especially at the hands of the Clintons, because when it comes to character, Hillary Clinton is the polar opposite of Senator Obama. During the ABC debate in Pennsylvania hosted by George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson (and I use the term “debate” loosely here), we learned once and for all what kind of man Senator Barack Obama is. The two moderators, armed with a myriad of pointless questions to be directed at Senator Obama regarding controversies long dispelled, lobbed only one tiny stink bomb at Senator Clinton regarding here blatant Bosnia-sniper-fire lie, then gave Senator Obama an opportunity to slam her for it. And he could have. Some say he should have. But instead, he tossed their bait back into their faces, opting instead to plead for a return to a real debate about the issues. I was stunned. I was awe-struck over the magnanimousness of his response, and I was reminded anew of why he must become our next President.
But unfortunately, we continue to be so distracted by the spectacle of a Rev. Wright, and by the zig-zagging polls, and the hundreds of pundits and endless cable news interviews, that we’ve completely lost sight of where we are as a nation and what we’re trying to become. Meanwhile, people are suffering through a broken economy, a new surge in violence in Iraq has produced the bloodiest month for U.S. soldiers in almost a year, and our reputation around the world and our ability to compete continues to erode. But there’s something else that hasn’t changed – when asked again and again whether or not this nation is headed in the right direction, Americans have responded with a resounding “no”. The problem is, due to the political skill of the Clintons, and the voracious appetite the media has for salacious stories, many Americans have been tricked into believing that it’s perhaps safer to go with the lying, polarizing, do-anything-to-win-because-I-deserve-it, candidate than to have faith in the purity and hope of Senator Obama’s vision. And that is just sad.
But – even though there is an unmistakably bitter, stinging tone to this piece, I still have hope. Because I know that the media, though very influential, cannot by itself turn the will of the American people. I know that the Clinton machine is running scared, having been knocked off it’s axis by a movement, one fueled by the longing this nation has for unity and truth in its politics, and the desire to be proud of its leader again. And I know what YOU should know – that the Republican party would rather face a dozen Hillary Clintons than one Barack Obama, inspirational leader, record-breaking fundraiser, young, brilliant, energetic political force that he is. And so to allow ourselves to let the media, the Clintons, or anyone else move us off message, or deny us what we know is best for this country, would be a much bigger travesty than anything Rev. Wright could ever serve up in his pulpit.
North Carolina, Indiana – make it right. Don’t let the media tell you how to think, or how to cast your vote. It’s time to end this, and it’s time to end this now, for the sake of the party and of the country. Senator Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States, and we will begin to bridge the divides that have held us back as a nation for so long, but only if we are collectively brave enough to stop the madness that has engulfed us over the past several weeks. Knowing the true nature of Rev. Wright and Senator Obama’s relationship will not help me reclaim the job I lost through down-sizing just days ago. And it won’t help my friend, who’s company closed its doors without notice last week in order to file bankrupcty. It won’t help anything, or anyone – only a real leader with the bravery to tell the truth, do things differently, and stand up to the political bullies that we’ve been saddled with for too long can do that. And I don’t have to tell you who that leader is.