Obama Has a Dream

My wife forwarded me an email from one of her work colleagues and a mutual friend noting that the Democratic National Convention will be August 25-28, which means that Barack Obama’s acceptance speech should come on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Quite naturally, the party will play up the historic symbolism and the national media will play along. It’s a great story, after all. A black man being judged by the content of his character. Freed from “the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination,” the black man will finally no longer be “languishing in the corners of American society” nor “an exile in his own land.”

In many ways, of course, all that’s true. Except that, as Dave Schuler has noted numerous times on OTB Radio, Barack Obama himself is not a child of that legacy. He was sired and abandoned by a black African and raised by his white mother and white grandparents in Hawaii and Indonesia, not Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, or “the slums and ghettos of our northern cities.” He didn’t live in the continental United States until after graduating high school in 1979. He simply wasn’t shaped in any meaningful way by the civil rights struggles.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Race and Politics, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    All true.
    But look closely at this whole campaign of Obama’s, and the one thing you’ll ote is it is long in imagry, and short on specifics. this is simply more of the same. And because of the image it projects, they’ll eat it up.

    Now, the question becomes how this imagry will affect the people who are not ‘true believers’.

  2. Elmo says:

    And lost in all the recent dust being kicked up by the Dems. And pathetic cries of rethugs/racism (again even, in my yesterday atomic newspaper), vis a vis the upcoming Presidential election. Is the country as a whole has grown. Has changed. Together. We are a long way from where we used to be.

    And really it doesn’t have much of anything to do with Barack. Or his candidacy (libwuhl whinging to the contrary). My up and down vote will be on issues. I admire his political skills (though it seems he has veered off into rather standard, run of the mill politico territory these days).

    He is gaining strength and skill on the campaign trail. Still doesn’t change the man, or where he stands (waaaaay out in left field). I rather felt Barack to be a lock, only a month ago. Now ….

  3. Triumph says:

    He simply wasn’t shaped in any meaningful way by the civil rights struggles.

    Exactly–no one who taught constitutional law, sued the state of Illinois to enforce federal voting rights, successfully represented African American voters in a redistricting lawsuit against the City of Chicago that resulted in a ruling that the city violated the Voting Rights Act could possibly have been “shaped in any meaningful way by the civil rights struggles.”

  4. Elmo says:

    The libs can try, and try, and try … to make this election about color. It of course suits their (microcosmic) world view. And won’t change the world’s macro realities. Not a whit. Pathetic, willfull blindness, in service to emptiness.

  5. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Triumph, do you mean the Democrats that run the state of Illinois and the Democrats that control Chicago violated federal voting regulations. Really, Democrats? Tri, which Jim crow laws were enforced on Obama? What civil rights marches did Obama participate in? Got any photos with Obama and a noted or unknown civil rights leader? How much time did Obama spend in lockup by some southern sheriff for breaking some segregation law. Just how many underprivileged go to Princeton and Harvard? B. Hussein Obama is an empty suit. Idiot.

  6. yetanotherjohn says:

    Obama is running on the color of his skin, not the content of his character. Any attack on the content of his character (his judgement, experience, stands on issues, etc) is usually either decried as a racist attack or side step with no defense of his stance (to be fair, he takes a lot of non-defensible stances).

  7. Floyd says:

    Triumph;
    So how much was he “shaped” by a career of groveling sycophancy aimed at party leaders who attached the strings of control and obligation?
    Don’t be deceived…This is a manufactured candidate,a “soulless toady”, who’s loyalty is the absolute property of the cynical power brokers “behind the curtain” of the Democrat Party.

  8. Roger Veritas says:

    Ask Obama or his staff to respond to the allegations
    Larry Sinclair has been making.

    Larry has claimed that Barack Obama’s drug
    practices are much more recent than he claims.

    Larry has also subpoenaed Barack
    Obama, David Axelrod, and the campaign for phone records in connection
    with an execution-style murder of Donald Young.

    § Donald Young was the choirmaster of Obama’s much maligned
    Trinity church.

    § Donald Young had been in contact with Larry until his
    death.

    It turns out that Donald was also gay.

    Parties unknown executed Donald and several other members of Chicago’s gay
    community.

    Why is Larry doing this?

    http://larrysinclair0926.wordpress.com/

  9. duckspeaker says:

    Idiot.

    Obama is running on the color of his skin

    soulless toady

    drug
    practices

    execution-style murder

    This is getting downright silly.

  10. Mike P says:

    “He simply wasn’t shaped in any meaningful way by the civil rights struggles.”

    Sorry, but this seems way off to me. A mixed race kid who looks more black than white (and who identifies himself as black man) in America is going to be party to the legacy of the civil rights movement (and the reactionary racism it spawned). This is simply another formulation of him not being black enough.

  11. James Joyner says:

    A mixed race kid who looks more black than white (and who identifies himself as black man) in America

    But he grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia. Hawaii, while an American state since shortly before Obama was born, is a Polynesian state where blacks and whites are the Other. But there’s no legacy of African slavery, Jim Crow, or any of the other baggage of the old times.

    He didn’t show up in America proper until he was ready for college. And even then he was in California and then the Ivy League. To the extent that he took the bus, I’m rather sure he sat in whichever seat he wished without it ever occurring to him to do otherwise.

    This is simply another formulation of him not being black enough.

    Black enough for what, exactly? I’m saying his age and circumstances of his upbringing give him a different experience set than, say, Jesse Jackson. That’s part of his appeal, frankly.

  12. Paul says:

    Let him have the job. He will learn or burn. None of the idiots running are worth a crap but lets get this over with and watch whats left of this country crumble!

  13. Mike P says:

    James, he does have a different experience than your example of Jesse Jackson does. I’m not arguing that (though your mention of “other”-ness in re: Hawaii shows that he could know what discrimination feels like). I’m saying that some people don’t want to draw that kind of distinction and will merely shift their dislike of Jackson onto Obama (with all its attendant baggage). So, in that way, Obama is going to NOT be judged on the content of his character, but rather he’ll be seen as “just another black politician”. Put it this way…just because you don’t think he was shaped by the civil rights struggle doesn’t mean that his race becomes a moot point in the minds of voters. There are obviously lots of reasons that someone might not want to vote for Obama that have nothing to do with race. And I see in your most recent post the argument being advanced that meta-narrative of an Obama loss will simply be that he lost because of race (or won despite it). I certainly hope that neither is the case. I’d like him to win because of what he stands for and what he is presenting the public. But I think that it would be naive to act like there won’t be a substantial racial component to the voting this fall (as there could have been a sexist tilt had Hillary won the nomination).

  14. James Joyner says:

    So, in that way, Obama is going to NOT be judged on the content of his character, but rather he’ll be seen as “just another black politician”. Put it this way…just because you don’t think he was shaped by the civil rights struggle doesn’t mean that his race becomes a moot point in the minds of voters.

    I don’t disagree.

  15. anjin-san says:

    Well I am a white guy who grew up in Marin County in the 60s, and I still feel like a bit of Dr. King’s legacy is mine. It’s a measure of how great a man MLK was.

    I don’t think any of us is entitled to tell Obama that he is not part of King’s legacy.

  16. Roger Veritas says:

    Obama is a white man in a black suit. In a funny way he is Elvis in reverse. He looks black but talks white. Elvis was reviled for his Black style of singing that evil Rock and Roll.
    Elvis love to attend southern Black churches where he learned his singing skills. Obama learned the power of the sermon from Crazy Uncle Jeremiah Wright.

    His heroes are our heroes, at least the one he holds up to most of in public and on Camera are mostly white. FDR, JFK, Hell even Ronald “I can’t remember my own son’s name” Reagan. Now its Teddy Kennedy. Ultimately he isn’t W. That was for the most part anybody’s campaign message. He also successfully “framed” Hillary as an “old” candidate of the establishment. He didn’t run on specific policies. He ran on dreams, hopes, wants.
    He kept it simple and millions bought/donated to the cause and all they may get are some bad dreams and sleepless nights.

    He also speaks softly and carries a big “African American” voting block.

  17. Elmo says:

    Truth be told … the racial componentry of the current campaign (as in today), falls squarely at the feet of the D e m o c r a t s [North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky (as in … not Republicans)].

    Whatever genealogical/melanin percentages one may wish to tabulate/quantify of/for Senator Fluffy [as different from any discussions of street/urb/cred (or of course … lack thereof)].

    The Dems nominating him is like bringing a pair of toe nail clippers to a bazooka fight. You can paint Obama any color you like. And freely, gleefully continue to make any and all scurrilous accusations [about those on the other side of the aisle (no doubt the kitchen sink will be tossed in before November 4)].

    It will not change Senator Fluffy’s ideas, his ‘solutions’, or lack of heft and experience on the international stage (nor of course will Obama modulating the tone/tenor of his campaign. Or how loudly and indignantly he flagellates his own chest) .

    TTFN

  18. Robb Shecter says:

    This is getting downright silly.

    Agreed — the lack of moderation by the blog owners dramatically reduces the value of the discussion. I was about to post a reply to the content of the post, but then caught sight of the comments, and realized that there is no coherent conversation.

    At least moderate out the uncivil comments or those that show disrespect to the original post by seeking to change the topic of conversation!