The Spectacle Blog

Obama and Farrakhan

By on 1.15.08 | 10:08AM

In his column today, Richard Cohen raises an issue that Barack Obama will no doubt have to confront:

Barack Obama is a member of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ. Its minister, and Obama's spiritual adviser, is the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. In 1982, the church launched Trumpet Newsmagazine; Wright's daughters serve as publisher and executive editor. Every year, the magazine makes awards in various categories. Last year, it gave the Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeter Award to a man it said "truly epitomized greatness." That man is Louis Farrakhan.

As somebody who lived and worked as a community organizer in the South Side of Chicago, Obama couldn't help but cross paths with members of the Nation of Islam, and in his 1995 memoir, Dreams from My Father, he wrestles to understand the sentiment that lead blacks to embrace a leader such as Farrakhan, while making it clear that he doesn't share their contempt for whites.

This passage from his book provides a good idea of where Obama was coming from:

Ever since the first time I'd picked up Malcolm X's autobiography, I had tried to untangle the twin strands of black nationalism, arguing that nationalism's affirmative message -- of solidarity and self-reliance, discipline and communal responsibility -- need not depend on hatred of whites any more than it depended on white munificence. We could tell this country where it was wrong, I would tell myself and any black friends who would listen, without ceasing to believe in its capacity for change.

In his book, Obama also mentioned with sarcasm that he sometimes picked up the Nation of Islam's newspaper, The Final Call:
because my attention was caught by the sensational, tabloid-style headlines (CAUCASIAN WOMAN ADMITS;WHITES ARE THE DEVIL). Inside the front cover, one found reprints of the minister's [Farrakhan's] speeches, as well as stories that could have been picked straight off the AP news wire were it not for certain editorial embellishments ("Jewish Senator Metzenbaum announced today...")...

I don't think that Obama in any way harbors the hatred of whites and Jews that Farrakhan does, but like Cohen, I think that Obama needs to publicly condemn Farrakhan's message in the strongest possible terms, distancing himself from his own spiritual advisor, Rev. White.

The biggest fear I would have with an Obama presidency is not that he won't be true to his call for inclusiveness, but that his magnanimity will quickly descend into moral relativism, something especially dangerous in an age of Islamic terrorism.

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