Let’s face it. This Jeremiah Wright kerfuffle isn’t about 9/11-as-blowback or even the phrase “God Damn America.”
This about race.
To this point in the political process, Obama has presented himself as the Tiger Woods of politics. Post-racial. Full stop.
A Kenyan, Kansan, Hawaiian with an Amerasian half sister. Who winks when he jokes about whether Bill Clinton is really “a brother“.
He’s not Jesse Jackson. He’s not Al Sharpton. He’s not, “It’s a black thing; you wouldn’t understand.” Indeed, he’s the black man America does understand. Americans in Kansas and Wyoming and Nebraska and Utah.
And so it is naturally disorienting for many casual observers of politics to see Obama, this post racial icon, within the deeply racialized context of a black church on Chicago’s South Side where the preacher — Obama’s spiritual mentor — inveighs against “The United States of White America.”
I’m really interested to hear Obama’s speech tomorrow.
There’s a lot riding on his being able to effectively communicate what his church is to him as a black man, who Wright is as a pillar of that community — beyond the infamously inflammatory sound bites, and how the spiritual awakening he came to in the black-and-white context of Wright’s church informs a campaign that seemingly seeks to transcend those aching divisions.
If it’s a risk to make a speech like this, the rewards of getting it right are manifold. Just think back to the fawning reaction Mitt got for his Mormon speech.
I think it’s a safe bet that Obama’s stemwinder on race will blow Romney’s religion talk out of the water. Whether it’s going to be enough to extinguish the firestorm Wright’s comments started remains an open question.