I thought Obama's speech last night was brilliant.
It was about as lefty as he could get and not alienate the middle. It hit all the major policy points. He got more and more church toward the end, tapping into that great black preacher oratorical tradition. And he even deftly worked in touchy issues like abortion and gay marriage and Israel.
So it's amusing and frustrating to me to listen to the Talented Tenth folk whine about not enough talk about Martin Luther King Jr. First of all, the Martin King of 1963 is not the Martin King who was assassinated. And yet Barack is very much like that early Martin King, but you whine that he don't show more love for black people? This is the first time that I truly felt that he embodied that early Martin spirit and it was felt.
I don't know that speaking to that outright would have been right. I think it mighta sounded a bit arrogant and over the top and ingenuine (much like that stupid ass tribute to former generals and the parade of "regular folks." boo. just. boo.)
I'm tired of the Talented Tenth lionizing Martin and that one damn speech (which ain't even his best). Personally – if I never hear anything about "I Have A Dream" again in my life, I'd be happy. Martin was a far more complex figure and came to have great disdain for America's slow progress on equality and fairness and grew to have, what I would consider, a more decolonized view of race relations in America. "I Have a Dream" reflects none of that, because it represents a younger, more optimistic (even naive) Martin.
Further, if we whine that he didn't mention Martin's name, then I wanna whine that he didn't mention Malcolm. Or Medgar. Or Bayard. Or James Baldwin. Or Booker T. Or Sister Souljah. Or all the rappers he had to disavow. Or Rev. Wright.
Martin is not a proxy for all black people or black political tradition. Especially not the "I Have A Dream" Martin. Fuck! We do blackness a disservice to reduce our black political tradition to Martin, and then reduce Martin to an early incarnation that doesn't accurately reflect his intellectual complexity.
I'm as critical of Obama as the next man, but context is key, folks. This speech had to do a lot of things really well in a short amount of time. I think he talked about everything he needed to talk about in as succinct a manner as possible. I'm with the civil rights establishment when he's doing single-issue speeches and none of them address black people or issues that have a unique "black" dimension (like criminal justice reform). I get that. That makes me crazy with anger and disappointment.
But for a big, political speech like this, he has to touch on a lot and lay out a vision. I think he did that. I don't know that there is much more he could have done.
So John McCain has chosen Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate. On first glance, this looks like a shrewd fuckin move.
But my issue with this campaign has always been that since this is all some historic shit, all the old calculus may or may not work the way it did in the past. Race and gender work in ways that we simply don't understand fully (mostly, because we pretend they don't exist and/or are simple).
Yes, because she's a woman it means that Hillary voters might get siphoned off. How many? Don't know.
Yes, because she's a young beautiful woman, Hillary voters (and women in general) might get their hate on and still vote for Obama. How many? Don't know.
Yes, women are not single-issue voters so a woman on a ticket with bad policies will not necessarily be enough. To what degree? Don't know.
Yes, history tells us that when push comes to shove, White women will vote with their race, not their gender. Now they have the chance to do both. How will this play out though? Don't know.
I'll say this though. After this election is over, I'm so gonna look forward to all the books bout how gender and race affected the outcome.
Because, then we will know. A little.