Lost in all the coverage of Barack Obama’s interview that aired on Meet the Press today were his comments on race relations. Host Tom Brokaw asked Obama about the differing views between whites and blacks about racism in America.
Obama said that the biggest problem we have in race relations is dealing with our past legacy of discrimination, “The biggest problem that we have in terms of race relations, I think, is dealing with the legacy of past discrimination which has resulted in extreme disparities in terms of poverty, in terms of wealth and in terms of income. Our inner cities are a legacy of what happened in the past.”
He said that we have to figure out if we are willing to make the investment necessary to deal with this legacy, “And the question is less assigning blame or rooting out active racism, because that’s not the reason that those inner cities are in such bad shape, but rather figuring out are we willing to make the investments to deal with that past history so we can move forward to a brighter future? And that involves investing in early childhood education, fixing the schools in those communities, being willing to work in terms of job retraining. And those are serious investments.”
“It also requires some responsibility on the part of the black community, and that’s why I’ve talked about, for example, the need for fathers to re-engage in the lives of their children. We can’t have more than half of African-American children growing up without knowing their dads or having an incidental contact with their dads and expect that that’s not going to have some sort of impact,” Obama continued.
I know that his campaign is trying their best to avoid the issue of race to the point of almost being phobic about it, but the numbers are there in the polls. There is a racial divide in Obama’s support, but he is in a rare position to be able to talk about issues like the inner city and race. His campaign is worried that talking about these issues will harm his campaign, that it will either remind voters of his race, or make him look too liberal.
Racism does still exist in this country, and electing a black president won’t make it go away, but Barack Obama has a chance to talk about issues that have been ignored in our national political dialogue for decades. He sort of ducked the question, by saying that most of the people in America are good, but Obama’s candidacy has raised the subject again, and this is good for our nation.