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Obama's Prophetic Speech on Racism Back in 2008


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    The craziness defining the 2016 Primary season has had me thinking a lot about anger, racial identity, and white resentment and apparently I'm not alone. NPR Politics did a recent podcast discussing race and the 2016 election and one of the journalists brought up then Senator Obama's "A More Perfect Union" speech where he discussed the racial tensions that are still persistent in this country and seemed to predict the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders as a result of it.

    I encourage you to watch the entire speech, but here's one quote that stuck out to me:

    "In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time."

    If that doesn't explain the typical Trump supporter then I don't know what will.

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    Thanks Jared. I recall his speech, and how he used it at the time to address the Reverend Wright controversy. I understood at the time that speeches such as this one with a large personal component to them, are almost entirely written by himself. This was a speech he gave long before he was nominated so it has his characteristic style without a speech writer's editing.

    I think President Obama understands the American people and their diverse and often conflicting views on issues better than anyone. His frustration is dealing with an opposing party that doesn't put country first...that and the "low information voter". While we are on the topic, here's another notable quote from one of his other campaign speeches in April 2008:

    “You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them,” Obama said. “And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

    That phrase of clinging to guns and religion was used against him. But he is right on for a large segment of America.

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    I hope you'll consider watching my new video, "The Welfare Recipient." It's about racism, welfare, Jackie Robinson, Colin Kaepernick, Donald Trump. You will either love this video or hate it. Please leave your feedback either on here or in the comments! youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=Rp34ctVIQtU
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    You don't hear much about Colin Kaepernick, but he was the spark that started an awakening in our society.

    He inspired Trump to decry players who "took a knee" during the national anthem ("fire the son of a bitch") but a few years later, Roger Goodell admitted that he league needed to pay more attention to what its players said.

    (In 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem to call attention to racial inequality and police brutality. The protest set off a firestorm of controversy with politicians, including the U.S. president, saying Kaepernick’s gesture was unpatriotic.

    In a video posted online in June of 2020 , NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL was wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier but did not mention Kaepernick by name.)

    George Floyd's murder last summer finally got the America people to say "enough is enough", and the tear gassing of peaceful demonstrators (in what is now Black Lives Matter Plaza ) hardened public opinion against white racists.

    NASCAR got into the act, too, after a noose was found in Bubba Wallace's garage - and Michael Jordan will have his own team this season.

    If you watched the game closely, you may have even noticed a sign that paid homage to Emmett Till, who was murdered in 1963.

    Amanda Jordan became the first ever poet to perform at a Super Bowl, and her speech reinforced some of the message that she delivered at Biden's inauguration.

    There were numerous images last night about ending racism, and the show also included an ad that said that the NFL was pledging $250 million to combat systematic racism.

    Although not tied to racism, the other memorable image from last night was President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden paying tribute to the victims of COVID - some thing Trump NEVER did at any point on the last year.

    Good riddance!

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-minneapolis-police-nfl-donation-idUSKBN23I3IN

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    Obama's More Perfect Union speech of 2016 addresses many of the same society problems being addressed by President Biden as he continually says he will be a president for all Americans. However, the words also need to be put into the context of the economic and societal conditions at the time. Obama was acknowledging the grievances of part of the white electorate that saw their blue collar jobs, primarily in the Rust Belt, disappear largely to technological advancements, but also global competition. The "blame game" at the time was not only outsourcing of jobs overseas, but also immigrant labor. Obama's initiatives for job retraining didn't seem to make much difference.

    Today, it is harder to tell exactly what the grievances are given the make-up of the rioters who stormed the Capitol, many of them white affluent professionals and businessmen believing in Qanon outrageous conspiracy theories. Their only grievance seems to be directed at anyone who questions the motives of their "messiah". It is a cult in which fascism seems to be a driving political factor.

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    Schmidt Wrote:

    Thanks Jared. I recall his speech, and how he used it at the time to address the Reverend Wright controversy. I understood at the time that speeches such as this one with a large personal component to them, are almost entirely written by himself. This was a speech he gave long before he was nominated so it has his characteristic style without a speech writer's editing.

    I think President Obama understands the American people and their diverse and often conflicting views on issues better than anyone. His frustration is dealing with an opposing party that doesn't put country first...that and the "low information voter". While we are on the topic, here's another notable quote from one of his other campaign speeches in April 2008:

    “You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them,” Obama said. “And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

    That phrase of clinging to guns and religion was used against him. But he is right on for a large segment of America.

    Schmidt:

    When passing through southern New Mexico on the way to Colorado in November, I saw a billboard that said:

    LGBT = Liberty, Guns, Bible and Trump.

    Obama may have offended some people, but he was (and is) exactly correct.

    On that journey, we saw LOTS of Trump/Pence signs, and very few people at the Safeway store in Show Low were wearing masks.