Friday, July 21, 2006


Fell On Black Days

From a purely rhetorical standpoint, Bush gave a pretty good speech Thursday to the NAACP.

It was interesting to call the civil rights movement America's "
second founding." However, given what America looked like before and after the Civil War, I might be tempted to consider that the true second founding. Look at the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments.

The Civil War is one reason why historians consider Lincoln an "honorary" Founder.

However, it's not too bad to recognize the importance of the civil rights movement in the nation's history.

On the other hand, I found this line interesting: "I believe in opportunity scholarships to be able to enable parents to move their child out of a school that's not teaching, for the benefit of the United States of America."

Um, well, yeah, but it should be, first and foremost, for the benefit of the child, right? Patriotism is all well and good, but really now...

The speech also made nice points about education, home ownership, asset accumulation, HIV-AIDS, etc.

However, it was this morning, while being interviewed by a liberal morning radio host from Florida, that I suddenly had an epiphany and I now have a more neutral or less positive view of the speech.

The host asked, "Why didn't we hear anything about Iraq? Why not talk about immigration or affirmative action and other issues?" My immediate reaction was, "Well, when a president is giving a speech in an environment expected to be unfriendly, the speaker will want to stick to the topics with which he is most comfortable and puts his administration in the best light."

That's what I said and I believed it.

However, after I got off the phone, I reconsidered. The host had a legitimate point. No president wants to take the chance that he will get booed. But, hey, Bush was already there, so why not put his full cards on the table?

Alas, it seems that what we have now when it comes to addressing black audiences, there are now partisan panders: The Democrats will talk about the Voting Rights Act, affirmative action, poverty, etc. Now, the Republicans have their preferred panders -- education (No Child Left Behind), home ownership, AIDS in Africa, etc.

Yada, yada, yada.

But, why couldn't Bush have actually raised the Iraq issue -- which is the central political issue of his presidency and the most important public policy topic of the moment?

Couldn't the president have said something to the NAACP like this:

"This is an issue upon which I know your organization seriously disagrees with my administration. I know you don't agree with my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from Iraq. However, I want to recognize the men and woman of the U.S. military -- many of them from communities of color, many of your sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives. They have made a similar choice as my first Secretary of State Colin Powell -- and saw the armed services as an ideal vehicle to success in America.

"Entering the service is a major decision itself and a major sacrifice for the families involved. And, yes, I recognize and honor the ultimate sacrifice that many of them have made for this nation. I understand that -- I want to say that I thank them for their service to their country and I thank you for the support that you give your loved ones as they fight to keep America secure and the world free from terrorism. "
But, unfortunately, neither Democrats nor Republicans can see black people as people living in the same world as everyone else, with common concerns. Part of the problem, of course, arises from organizations such as the NAACP with its focus on race above all. But, as I believe I pointed out with my impromptu speech insert, it is possible to recognize race in society, but in a broader context than just areas of political and social deprivation. Just as it is possible to recognize the contributions that black people have made and continue to make in ways far removed from mere "civil rights."

UPDATE: The Washington Post's Colbert King has some similar thoughts.

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