Friday, July 11, 2008

Obama’s Other Reverend Problem

It’s not the first time that some in the black community thought that presumed Democratic nominee Barack Obama was not white enough and the Rev. Jesse Jackson just added some fuel to that quiet fire.

Jackson thought his microphone was off while he was on a FOX News program when he answered UnitedHealth Group executive Dr. Reed V. Tuckson’s question about the Democratic senator’s speeches on faith-based programs.

“See, Barack’s been talking down to black people ... I want to cut his nuts off,” he whispered to Tuckson and ultimately to the nation as well.

Of course Jackson quickly apologized to Obama once he learned that his comments were recorded and were going to be aired. And of course Obama accepted Jackson’s apology. After all, whatever hard feelings the two may have for each other, Obama is still a politician and he realizes that Jackson will help him carry the black vote.

But this is not the first time that Jackson attacked Obama. Jackson said in an interview last September that Obama was “acting like he’s white” for not bringing more attention to the Jena 6 case.

Will these recent racial attacks from Jackson hurt Obama’s run for the Oval Office? Since he weathered the Rev. Wright controversy basically unscathed, this should not damage his chances for the White House.

But quiet rumblings about how black Obama is and where his loyalties should be have plagued him for a long time. In November 2006, black columnist Stanley Crouch wrote a piece called “What Obama Isn’t: Black Like Me.” He said that because Obama’s black father was from Kenya and his mother was white, the senator does not understand the struggles the typical black American has faced since the days of slavery.

What many do not understand, especially Jackson, is that Obama’s parental background will help bridge the differences between the two races. If one thought that being black in America was hard than imagine how tough it is for a biracial man trying to find his identity and not wholeheartedly accepted by either community. Jackson’s attacks are evidence of that.

And while it’s typical for a candidate to cater to one particular group to gain votes that does not mean that candidate has to exclude other groups, which is something that Jackson does not understand. This country is a rainbow of people that needs to be addressed and recognized by anyone running for president.

Obama has his many faults but he cannot help his background anymore than we can. The question shouldn’t be: “Is Obama black enough?” The question needs to be: “Is he right enough for this country as a whole?”

Because if the former question is given more importance than the latter, than that is a racist question that will further divide this country no matter who says it.