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Obama On Race (Updated)

[cross posted at Daily Kos]

You don't think of Iowa as having any significant sort of minority population. So when Sen. Obama held a forum on urban issues at a Des Moines high school, it got my attention. He talked about what it takes for a teenager to succeed at a job (only a black candidate could make the comments about "Pookie" that Obama did). Then it got serious:

[P]eople turned silent when Annette Brown, an African-American woman, told Obama of her struggle to integrate into the community, after moving to Des Moines from Chicago.

"I come from a diverse background. I have people of every race in my family," Obama responded. "When we were at Thanksgiving, you looked around and everybody tried to figure out, how do all these people fit together? I see a lot of different perspectives.

This is so much better, and believable, than his cringe-inducing contention that being 10 years old in Indonesia uniquely qualifies him for foreign affairs.

And one of the things that I truly believe is that the vast majority of Americans want to do the right thing. They want to live together. They believe in diversity...They believe everyone is American. I truly believe that is where America wants to be."
Who else talks like this? No one. In an era where fear-mongering is the standard means to getting elected, Obama's appeal is refreshing. This is the kind of talk that attracted me to Obama in the first place.

Is it enough to win him the nomination and the election? I've said it before: if Giuliani is the nominee, race will be THE issue whether it is overt not (look for "Pookie" to reappear one way or the other). That said, I'm entertaining the idea that perhaps Obama, not Clinton, is the best Democrat to run against the Republicans.

"But here's the thing that I've said before and I'll say it again. We do have a legacy of racism in this country, and we see it in our daily lives. There's a reason why African Americans are more likely to be incarcerated. There's a reason why Hispanic Americans are more likely to be without health care and in low-wage jobs. It has to do with the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and discrimination.

And even if people aren't discriminated against now...that legacy still persists. And one of the things that we have to do is finally acknowledge that legacy and go ahead and try to make it right. Not by calling each other by names, not by acting suspicious towards each other, but rather simply saying, let's go ahead and solve this problem in this generation, so it doesn't persist for the next generation."

The phrase "Only Nixon could go to China" floats in one's mind. I'm just saying.

In any case, America has always been about embracing the disenfranchised -- It's even inscribed on the Statue of Liberty -- and so we necessarily a pluralistic nation, too. If we are to be united, then that's where it starts. E Pluribus Unum, baby.

I like this guy.

UPDATE: ...but can he, you know, throw a punch? Richard Wolffe has some commentary.

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