Professor Richard Thompson Ford wrote a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed about Senator Barack Obama’s March 18 speech about race in America:
Last week, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama made explicit the implicit promise of his campaign: that he is uniquely positioned to bridge the nation’s ideological divisions, in part because he is uniquely positioned to bridge the nation’s racial divisions.
His speech explaining his relationship with the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright was characteristically inspiring, but more importantly, it was a blunt and honest assessment of modern race relations. Racial injustices have generated understandable, if often misdirected, anger on the part of blacks, and the attempts to remedy those injustices have generated understandable, if often exaggerated, resentment among whites.
Race relations have devolved into a tit for tat of racial scandal, accusation and defensiveness (“You’re a racist.” “No, I’m not. You’re just playing the race card.”). Obama skillfully put Rev. Wright’s comments in this context and explained his refusal to repudiate Wright as a refusal to ignore the legitimate grievances that inspired Wright’s anger.
This was a gutsy move: It’s possible that much of Obama’s support among white voters came from people who saw Obama’s candidacy as a free pass on racial justice issues. Instead of a free pass, Obama offers an arduous path, slogging through our unresolved racial anxieties. But he does offer a way through. Evoking the real progress toward racial justice this nation has made in the past, he insists that we can continue to improve if we are willing to engage each other and work though our irrational prejudices and anxieties…