Obama on Faith, Race

I have some more quotes from Obama’s Audacity of Hope:

More on Faith.

“Solving [society’s] problems will require changes in government policy; it will also require changes in hearts and minds. I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities, and that our leaders must say so in the face of the gun manufacturer’s lobby. But I also believe that when a gangbanger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels somebody disrespected him, we have a problem of morality. Not only do we need to punish that man for his crime, but we need to acknowledge that there’s a hole in his heart, one that government programs alone may not be able to repair” (215).

I wish he stuck with this line instead of saying that people cling to faith because the government doesn’t help the economy. Money and government programs don’t fill every soul. Contra Karl Marx, religion is not a product of poverty, for it meets needs that money cannot satisfy.

On Race.

“I maintain, however, that in today’s America such prejudices [of whites towards African-Americans] are far more loosely held than they once were–and hence are subject to refutation. A black teenage boy walking down the street may elicit fear in a white couple, but if he turns out to be their son’s friend from school he may be invited over for dinner. A black man may have trouble catching a cab late at night, but if he is a capable software engineer Microsoft will have no qualms about hiring him” (236).

I think a lot of people are initially suspicious of “the other,” but they let their guard down once they realize that those different from them are human beings, with their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences. That’s why my schools (except for the Jewish ones) emphasized diversity: We need to get to know one another, since otherwise we are segregated, and people who are segregated regard each other with suspicion. So African-Americans shouldn’t just eat with African-Americans, and Asians shouldn’t just eat with Asians, and white sorority girls shouldn’t just eat with white sorority girls.

I never really liked my schools’ attempts to force diversity down people’s throats. I’d like to sit with someone from another race because I like that person and want to learn more about him or her. I don’t want to do so because some sanctimonious, politically-correct authorities tell me that it is my duty.

Like often associates with like, since people usually prefer to be around those they don’t have to explain everything to. Personally, I’ve often gotten along with minorities better than I do with white people. Some of that may relate to a common feeling of being out of place. I’m not saying that there was never tension, but, by and large, I found them to be more open and accepting of me.

The part about Microsoft reminds me of what a libertarian professor of mine said in a class about Atlas Shrugged, the Ayn Rand classic. It was Martin Luther King day, and he was saying that discrimination can hurt a business, since it shuts out the productive minorities who can contribute to the company. I can see his point. But I was still skeptical when I first heard it, since I could picture whites in the 1950’s South not frequenting a business because it hires minorities. Heck, I can envision that in parts of America today!

“That simple notion–that one isn’t confined in one’s dreams–is so central to our understanding of America that it seems almost commonplace. But in black America, the idea represents a radical break from the past, a severing of psychological shackles of slavery and Jim Crow. It is perhaps the most important legacy of the civil rights movement, a gift from those leaders like John Lewis and Rosa Parks who marched, rallied, and endured threats, arrests, and beatings to widen the doors of freedom. And it is also a testament to that generation of African American mothers and fathers whose heroism was less dramatic but no less important: parents who worked all their lives in jobs that were too small for them, without complain, scrimping and saving to buy a small home; parents who did without so that their children could take dance classes or the school-sponsored field trip; parents who coached Little League games and baked birthday cakes and badgered teachers to make sure their children weren’t tracked into the less-challenging programs; parents who dragged their children to church every Sunday, whupped their children’s behinds when they got out of line, and looked out for all the children on the block during long summer days and into the night. Parents who pushed their children to achieve and fortified them with a love that could withstand whatever the larger society might throw at them. It is through this quintessentially American path of upward mobility that the black middle class has grown fourfold in a generation, and that the black poverty rate was cut in half” (241-242).

I’ll let this quote speak for itself. I found it very inspiring! We succeed through diligence and responsibility, yet we are rarely alone when we do so. We have a lot of people to thank!

“When laid off from their jobs or confronted with a family emergency, blacks and Latinos have less savings to draw on, and parents are less able to lend their children a helping hand” (243).

When I was at Harvard, I had to attend a few sessions on racism, sexism, and homophobia. I hated those sessions because I was the only straight, white male in the group, except for the facilitator, who was your typical white liberal with a guilt complex. They talked about their problems, but I felt that I had problems too. After all, like the women and the black and the homosexual in the group, I too had experienced rejection and mockery and disregard for my opinion and suspicious looks from other people. But they didn’t matter at Harvard because I wasn’t a minority. (Well, I was a conservative at Harvard, which made me a minority there, but you know what I mean.)

I had a hard time grasping the idea of power. The unit was entitled “Power and Responsibility,” and its point was that I have all this power because I’m a straight, white male. Women and minorities, however, are supposedly powerless.

I still don’t understand how exactly I am powerful, but someone in the group said something that clarified things a little. She said that powerful people have someone to call when they get in trouble. Powerless people, however, do not.

And I acknowledge that, in that sense, I have some “power.” Whenever I’m in trouble, my family has the resources to help me out, at least temporarily. I can’t imagine what it would be like if it didn’t.

So these are my musings for the day. Enjoy the beautiful weather, depending on where you are!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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