Barack Obama is criticized by some whites for his association with Rev. Wright, and by some blacks for abandoning Rev. Wright. He is 'too black' for some whites and 'too white' for some blacks. If he had not attended a predominantly black church and listened to the concerns, the anger and frustration of black people over 20 years, it's unlikely blacks would have bonded with and trusted this half-white man as their representative. Yet by attending a black church for 20 years and listening to the concerns, the anger and frustration of black people, he is somehow tainted in the eyes of some white people who suspect he is secretly an extremist.
The trouble with trying to transcend race, as Obama (and Oprah, to some extent) are discovering is that "transcendent" black leaders walk a racial tightrope, and everyone -- black and white -- is destined to end up disappointed with them, writes Marjorie Valbrun on "TheRoot.com."
Obama's hope -- indeed the very foundation of his campaign -- is that there are enough white people who will not hold his associations with an angry black minister against him, and that there are enough blacks who will continue to support him though he has now "dissed" and separated himself from a respected authority figure in the black community, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
White Republicans and white Democrats who vote against Obama primarily because they aren't comfortable with and aren't open to listening to or understanding black people have something in common with black separatists and black nationalists. None of them have much use for Obama, as evidenced by Glen Ford's article, "Obama's 'Race-Neutral Strategy Unravels of Its Own Contradictions" in BlackAgendaReport.com:
"Barack Obama's strategy to win the White House was to run a 'race-neutral' campaign in a society that is anything but neutral on race," he writes. "The very premise - that race neutrality is possible in a nation built on white supremacy - demanded the systematic practice of the most profound race-factual denial, which is ultimately indistinguishable from rank dishonesty. From the moment Obama told the 2004 Democratic National Convention that 'there is no white America, there is no Black America,' it was inevitable that the candidate would one day declare the vast body of Black opinion illegitimate."
In a nation founded on racial oppression, Ford writes, Obama's vision of "race neutrality" is impossible. Rev. Jeremiah Wright recognizes this "truth," and Ford believes most black Americans agree with the Rev. Wright, not Senator Obama. Other articles at Black Agenda Report express extreme cynicism about Obama, that "he looks like us, but he's certain to betray us, to represent a white agenda, not a black agenda." To this perspective, Obama is destined to sell out black interests, encourage assimilation, integration, loss of black cultural identity, and black Americans are foolish to place so much hope in a man who has to appeal to the white majority. The writers' assumption is that black interests and white interests are innately divergent. Obama, in contrast, believes that black interests and white interests are fundamentally the same.
If Obama loses the nomination or the election because of his relationship with Rev. Wright, "racists on both sides of the divide will rejoice at having taken down the biggest threat to their belief system since Martin Luther King....and young people like myself will burrow deeper into to the holes we were in before Barack Obama dug us out," a Generation Y reader writes to AndrewSullivan.com
Mac Secrest, for years a white professor at a prominently black institution, North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC, doubts that most black Americans agree with Wright's most extreme views (equating U.S. wartime efforts in World War II with terrorism, and suggesting that the U.S. government incited the 9/11 attacks). He writes that when blacks embrace separatism and black nationalism, they lose economically, politically and socially. Yet he recognizes that black separatism and nationalism emerged because of segregation and the slowness of whites to allow blacks to integrate into the American mainstream, and so one can understand why blacks of Rev. Wright's generation, in their anger and frustration, embraced black separatism and nationalism. Read his commentary here.