Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Obama's had a few too many 'Sister Souljah' moments

Original Link: http://www.modbee.com/opinion/national/story/344023.html


Addressing a congregation at the Apostolic Church of God, one of Chicago's largest black churches, on Father's Day, Obama said: "Too many fathers are MIA, too many fathers are AWOL, missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men."

This was his "Sister Souljah" moment. Just as President Clinton, during his 1992 campaign, tried to reassure whites that he wasn't too cozy with blacks by denouncing a rapper, Obama was appealing to whites by condemning his own.

And it's not the first time for Obama.

Early in the campaign year, Obama used one of the oldest racial stereotypes in a speech to black South Carolina state legislators: "In Chicago, sometimes when I talk to the black chambers of commerce, I say, 'You know what would be a good economic development plan for our community would be if we make sure folks weren't throwing their garbage out of their cars.' "

Then, the day before the Texas primary, he let loose again, in a predominantly black venue: "Y'all have Popeyes out in Beaumont? I know some of y'all, you got that cold Popeyes out for breakfast. I know. That's why y'all laughing. ... You can't do that. Children have to have proper nutrition. That affects also how they study, how they learn in school."

How would people respond if Sen. John McCain threw out stereotypes like these?

Then there's Obama's disgraceful treatment of Muslim Americans. He's already had to apologize after his campaign told two Muslim- American women wearing headscarves that they couldn't stand within camera range at an Obama rally in Michigan.

But he hasn't apologized yet for telling Rep. Keith Ellison, the Muslim-American congressman from Minnesota, that he couldn't speak for Obama at a mosque. Obama's been to many a church and synagogue on the campaign trail, but he has studiously avoided mosques.

Yes, I know he's worried about the unfounded rumors that he's a Muslim, which he's not.

But he can only run so far before he has to stand his ground and say, as Ellison suggested, "I'm not a Muslim, but there's nothing wrong with being Muslim, and I'm not afraid of being in the company of Muslim Americans." For now, Obama treats blacks as a prop to be scolded. And he treats Muslim Americans as a prop to be kept under wraps.

This kind of behavior simply won't do for the man who wants to be the first black president.

Gray is a writer and activist who managed Jesse Jackson's 1988 presidential campaign in South Carolina. He wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of commentary on domestic and international issues.

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