Um. Jeez.

Obama’s big speech in Philadelphia zoomed in and out with brave deftness and surprising candor. He denounced Rev. Wright’s comments but not Rev. Wright. He talked about his white grandmother’s casual racism. He touched on America’s sad racial history (in great detail), but said that the country was not “irrevocably tied to it.” And maybe more amazingly, he managed to discuss race in the most public way with real nuance. Color us impressed.

But do you think it worked?

[Update: The NYT has video of Ashley Baia, the mustard-sandwich woman who volunteered for Barack Obama in South Carolina last fall.]



Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs and reports on race and ethnicity for NPR's Code Switch team.
  • I was concerned about this speech because I was afraid he would end up alienating blacks who agree with Wright to some extent, while he tried to soothe the white consciousness.

    He addressed everything. The concerns of whites, blacks, immigrants, etc. He even subtly addressed the questions about his religion.

    I think it was quite possibly one of his best speeches ever.

    Did it work? Well, he did that thing where he acknowledged black issues as not being only in our minds, but at the same time made sure that whites wouldn’t feel guilty.

    And when he said he couldn’t disown Wright anymore than he could disown the black community or his white grandmother… just… wow.

    Of course, there will always be people who will be dissatisfied with the fact that he’s still tied to Wright, spiritually.

  • LH

    I think it will work with anyone who hadn’t written him off. I appreciated that he condemned Wright’s comments but not Wright himself, but more that he gave the comments context. That’s what has been missing in the analysis I’ve heard thus far.

    I appreciated also that he addressed white anger, which is no less real than the anger blacks feel. Though he didn’t seek to justify people like his grandmother, he didn’t condemn them, either. Putting aside political expediency, I thought that was quite human of him.

    Obama turned what looked to be certain disaster into triumph. I like that in him.

  • Shawn L.

    Leave it to Obama to take turn this whole Reverend Wright situation on its ear and deliver this generation’s Gettysburg address. My gawd. So this is what a statesman looks like.

  • quadmoniker

    I totally agree. I almost can’t believe the skill with which he brought a potential scandal back to the theme of unity. And giving such an honest, nuanced assessment was the bravest thing I might have ever seen a politician do. I thought the speech was really excellent, and I think it’ll be successful.

  • GVG

    Does anyone know where i can find a video of the FULL speech? None of my usual sources have anything other than small snippets.

  • quadmoniker

    GVG: I think you can watch it on his campaign website:

  • The MSNBC video is on the the New York Times website, and presumably at MSNBC as well.

    Also, it’s on his campaign’s homepage:

  • GVG

    Thank you G.D.. Without the rhetoric of the reporters covering it. What do you people think of the things the pastor actually said and validity of the statements or lack thereof?

  • This guy just contextualizes everything and makes false equivalence between nutty conspiracy theories and America-hating racism versus ordinary and forgivable fears of black criminals and unfair, racist affirmative action programs.

    His message is simple: vote for me and you’re doing your duty to end racism. Pretty ego-centric, to say the least.

  • DrZRM


    Of course I understand the controversy in the press, but I’m not convinced that Rev. Wright said much of anything wrong. That said, BO does a hell of a job spinning this.

    Also available at

  • Oh no! Context! We can’t have that!

    I know we don’t see a lot of it these days, but damn.
    And, Mr. Roach, which speech were YOU listening to?

  • GVG… nah. Wright is mostly right.

  • I think Jon Stewart put it best: “So, at 11 AM on Tuesday, a prominent politician spoke to Americans about race as though they were adults.”

  • I gotta tell you, he looked mad presidential while he was up there speaking..

  • Pingback: Obama’s speech « Critiquing Racial Dialogue()

  • Big Word

    Seeing all you cynics, well, heartwarming? I’m in the Obama camp now.

  • Tasha

    I think America had an orgasm.heh

  • I think his speech did help put the Reverend Wright controversy behind him becuase most pundits are talking about his speech instead of his pastor.

    Whenever you give a speech that becomes the dominant story for two days during campaign season…that’s a hell of a speech.

  • We had our own take on the speech, though yours seems more generous than ours. I think it’s rude to rewrite it on your blog ( I only offer this comment because PostBourgie has been unusually (and thankfully) critical of Obama – at least compared to some others. We (Onyx Cranium) or should I say I, was also impressed, but “blown away”. Overall, it gave him some credibility and some backbone even though there was plenty of political pandering mixed in. He is in a race for the White House afterall.

    And I recognize that for those already behind him, it just confirmed why they were.