An analysis: Barack Obama talks Black

This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected.

Barack Obama gave a speech on race this morning in Philadelphia that many consider to be his most direct campaign speech dealing with the “issue.” Given the pretext of the speech, the talk seems to be one that was forced into necessity more by the media, Obama’s supporters, and detractors than by Obama’s desired to address race Blackness in this campaign and in this country head-on. I have always felt that had this been something that Obama wanted to do out of his own volition, he would have done so long ago, thus pre-empting the ignorant racial undertones of attacks made against him, and laying a foundation for healing in this nation that started with race and class, and grew to overcome the entire of spectrum of challenges this nation and this world face.

Nevertheless, the time has come for this conversation between Barack Obama and the Democratic American electorate. In this speech Barack Obama succeeded in opening the door to a legitimate, meaningful, and potentially productive dialogue of understanding, empathy, and unity among people from diverse backgrounds and experiences. By Barack Obama actually publicly acknowledging that not only is there a race issue, but one that must be dealt with, he is responsibly using his position and status and recognition to create an atmosphere of abundant possibility and environment of empirical hope that builds much needed problem-solving momentum in all areas that change must occur.

During this election cycle, I’ve seen the candidates I’ve supported strongly fall by the wayside for various reasons. I contributed money to both the Kucinich and Edwards campaigns, as I saw those candidates as the two that most closely exemplified my brand of Progressive, populist politics. I have done work on behalf of the Obama campaign, building websites to organize supporters for him in South Carolina, New Hampshire, and Iowa out of respect and admiration for Obama and his supporters, many of whom are friends of mine. This, however, is the first bit of hope I’ve gleaned from Obama. My challenge to him and others who support him to take ownership how race is framed and use this opportunity as a stepping stone to reconciliation, to actual, effective, visibile change in the hearts, minds, lives of everyday people, and to a brighter future for all to enjoy.

Late is better than never.

One Love. One II.


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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

10 responses to “An analysis: Barack Obama talks Black”

  1. Villager says :

    I agree with your analysis of his speech. We are talking about it on the Electronic Village as well. I think he nailed it in three areas: (a) his relationship with Rev. Wright, (b) race relations in America and (c) how his campaign for presidency gives us a choice in dealing with the race issue…

    peace, Villager

  2. Lula says :

    I would have preferred an answer and question session to this speech. Sincerely.

  3. Brandon Q. says :

    Lula, I think there will be enough time for questions in the days and weeks to come but I am curious, what would you have asked Obama? If anything, I am still mad at the silence of Black pastors who sat on the sideline while Wright was being attacked. I know Wright can hold his own but bile attacks on the Black church are simply unacceptable. Obama is not running to be pastor in chief and regardless of how you feel about Obama, I believe the attacks on Wright were really an attack on Black empowerment and self-determination.

  4. dumi says :

    I was sincerely impressed by the speech. It was one of the most nuanced and accessible speeches on race that I have ever watched. He seriously raised the bar on discussion of race by including the historical, the present, and the future. He successfully imparted a vision to the American public, if they cared enough to listen, that is connected to the past and the future at the same time. Hats off to Sen. Obama.

  5. Sakara says :

    I don’t think the Barack was never going to talk about race, I think he was waiting for everyone else to talk about it, and for the opportunity to present itself to discuss it in a way that pointed to another person’s ignorance while highlighting what race in America means…just don’t think he thought that person would be his pastor. If he would have gotten into the race debate a year ago, or made it an “issue”, that would have blown up in his face. He was going to deal with it at some point, because he had to address what members of the Black community were asking “what does he think”, “what is his position”, “does he get it”?
    I thought the speech was brilliant. There was something powerful about listening to him describe his White grandmother, and the slave and slave owner blood in his Black wife, among the many other pointed details. It was historic in the sense that we’ll never see a speech like it again; and everyone was listening to this one. It’s given folks food for thought.
    I also appreciated that he used the word Black, as opposed to African American…we all know we Black folks 😉

  6. Julie Fanselow says :

    Hi Brandon,

    It was great to meet you at the NOI Summit. I name-checked and linked you from my day job blog at Democracy Space.

    That was a moving experience Tuesday, standing in a mutliracial group as we watched Barack’s speech before the race Matters panel at TBA. I look forward to much more collaboration and diversity in the blogospheres going forward.

    Peace!! And hi to Garlin in Seattle, too.

  7. Mackgewlz says :

    Like Flava Flav would say back in the dayz YYYYYEAH BOIIIIIIIIIIII showem what ya got!

    Im behind Barack Obama 100% he got my vote

  8. Steven M DeVougas says :

    I think the speech was great and will definitely go down as one of those historic moments in American history, as I can never remember a candidate being that candid about race in America. And while I will openly admit that I was not quick to throw my allegiance to any candidate at this stage in the game, I will say that Mr. Obama has gotten some serious “man up” points with me. It was a very politically deft speech and he pulled off a very sensitive subject.

    But the nagging question in my mind is whether the country is ready to heal its racial wounds? Are we really ready? And where does one even begin? Look at how we treat immigrants, how we are treating Muslims and Iraqis. What I take from Mr. Obama’s speech is that there is a ton of work to do.

    I agree with Brandon and I am personally offended at how the media has handled Mr. Obama’s religious affiliation. I have never recalled any other candidate’s religion being that much of an issue. They almost put him in a position where he had to choose between his spiritual advisor and running for president. It is misunderstandings like this and the lack of respect and context for people’s religious beliefs that serves as major impediments to this racial healing. Every black person in America knew what Rev. Wright meant by his comments. But the media and the country would rather pass the blame than take accountability.

  9. if_I_were_a_tree_I'd_hug_myslef says :

    Multiple choice…

    Whose words are these?

    “It is useless to reopen wounds that seem scarcely healed;…useless to speak of guilt regarding men who in the bottom of their hearts, perhaps, were all devoted to their nation with equal love, and who only missed or failed to understand the common road.”

    A. Barack Obama
    B. Adolf Hitler
    C. Josef Dzhugashvili

    Answer is B. Adolf Hitler wrote it in Mein Kampf, Volume Two (per Shirer, from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.)

    The statement might have been be attributed to A, easily.

    C could have been eliminated by anyone who pays attention; Uncle Joe wasn’t one for flowery speeches, and didn’t care even to give lip service to healing.

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