Obama's Speech - Did He Throw His Granny Under A Bus?

10 years ago

Many people across the continent were moved by the powerful speech that Senator Obama gave in Philadelphia on Tuesday, but if you were someone who hadn’t read his memoir, or gave much thought to what his upbringing as a biracial child being raised in a white family was like, his story about his grandmother must have been surprising:

I can no more disown [Jeremiah Wright] than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.”

A few months ago, a co-worker was telling me about a friend of hers, a single white woman who was planning to adopt a child from Ethiopia. She was telling me about the arduous struggle her friend had gone through (two years) and how expensive it was. Me being the not so-tactful person that I can be in discussing race, asked her if her friend had gone though any counseling about raising a black child in a predominately non-black environment; if she was aware that adopting and raising a child of color was not the same as adopting a white baby. My co-worker was perplexed. “Who cares as long as the baby has a loving parent? Why does it matter?" She looked at me, disgusted that I would even raise that idea.

Because of the world we live in, baby, I thought. I didn’t bother to argue with her, simply wishing that when the child arrives in Canada, that all the luck in the world be bestowed upon her. Perhaps because of my own personal experience, I am pretty adamant in the thought that just because you might have the best of intentions, love is never enough.

Obama’s admission about his grandmother was interesting to me – hell, his whole speech was interesting. Do I think he played it safe? Hellyeah. I would bet anyone that if you were privy to a private conversation between him and his ‘militant’ Michelle, that what he really thinks about race in America, Senator Clinton and her race-baiting techniques and Rev. Wright, it would make you blush. Let’s keep it real, yo.

So I thought that, besides his moving words about race in America that he was straight up when he said in a diplomatic way, yes, white folks, some Negroes do have a valid reason to get a bit salty at times, that he knew, despite his ‘Magic Negro’ persona, about how covert racism can be insidious. How racism can live within our families, be present in the hearts of our loved ones -those who we feel have only good intentions towards us. But those of us who have racist adoptive parents, grandparents and other extended family members who love ‘us’ but hate those ‘ni@#ers and c%^&ks’ know better. We understand the duality, the ignorant dismissals to our protests when we question their racism. “Oh, you are okay, you’re not like the rest of those__________.”

As we already know, a number of bloggers reported on the speech – more than I initially thought would. Some of them, like
Scared Scoop
has a not-so pleasant reaction to Obama calling granny out on her ignorance:

First of all, I was put off by the fact that Barack would even bring his family members into the equation, and I was further put off by the fact that he would divulge personal, and what should be private issues concerning someone who stepped in to raise him when his own family would not from what I understand.

Others like
Patterico’s Pontifications
are hell bent on trying to brand Rev. Wright as a racist by using Obama’s recollection as a way to deter accusations about Wright:

Obama’s memories of his grandmother are vivid and detailed and yet he can’t recall ever hearing Wright engage in derogatory rhetoric over the past 20 years. Is it possible that, despite documented examples of Wright’s inflammatory rhetoric, Obama simply can’t remember whether Wright said anything derogatory about an ethnic group? Given his strong mind and keen memory, that seems highly unlikely.

But even some writers like Salon's Joan Walsh who seem to be leaning more to the ‘left’ do not think that Obama should have used his grandmother as a comparison to Wright’s propensity to share opinions, that in my experience are widely held by a number of people…..but not the types of opinions that are usually shared in front of a large group of strangers ( I do not think those videos were meant to be broadcast across the world).

Instead of perhaps exploring the story that he told – even though his motives might be a tad questionable – it opens – or at least should open a dialogue about the intricacies of racism within North American society. But if we can’t even have a discussion about race, though how can we even talk about the subtle-isms of racism within our own families?

In his speech I agree that he used that story as an (unfair, but that’s another story) comparison to Wright’s pronouncements, but I also believe that he said it to show the naysayers that despite his previous hesitancy in speaking about race in America during this campaign that his personal experiences have played a role in forming the man who is standing in front of them. I hope that it will eventually raise a dialogue among people who have multiracial families to examine just how racially ‘tolerant’ and sensitive they are towards their loved ones.

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