If the Obama campaign needed further warning – other than what a handful of bloggers like me have been trying to do – about the political danger of advocating reparations for the “legacy of discrimination” engendered by slavery, then they should read this shot across the bow from the Wall Street Journal today.
(Pictured above: The H.M.S. London puts a warning shot across the bow of a slaving dhow in 1881.)
The author picks up on the recent comments made by Senator Obama at a conference of minority journalists in Chicago, just after he returned from his victory lap in Europe and the middle east. As I pointed out in an earlier blog about this, Obama raised the question of reparations itself before anyone from the floor even suggested it, and then tied it into the idea of funds for job creation and education.
As I have pointed out here many times before this suggests that he is inching towards the explicit proposal of his education advisor Linda Daring-Hammond for “repayment of the education debt” allegedly owed to people of color for centuries of slavery and discrimination.
The idea is also endorsed by Obama’s long time education politics ally Bill Ayers, the notorious former terrorist from the Weather Underground. Of course, Ayers is no longer a terrorist but he continues to argue, as he did in part to justify his bombings in the 1970s, that America suffers from “white supremacy” and that white Americans enjoy a “white skin privilege” relative to other Americans.
Senator Obama has linked the “R” word to education in the past, during the South Carolina primary but this is the first time he has done so as the “presumptive nominee,” so it takes on a different significance.
One would have thought that the presentation at the Unity ’08 meeting would have been the perfect opportunity to point out that racializing education and jobs issues, when almost all Americans are suffering from the impact of globalization and the recession, is the wrong direction.
Obama could have argued that while black Americans do indeed suffer from the legacy of slavery and discrimination a reparations program would be politically divisive and not likely to represent more than a drop in the bucket towards solving the problems faced by our minority population.
What is really needed is robust and dynamic industrial planning to get the economy back on track, to reduce the widening income disparity and lost economic opportunity that impact most white as well as minority Americans.
He could have used that progressive and inclusive message to clearly distance himself from the race based education politics of Ayers and Darling-Hammond.
In other words, he could have buried the “R” word as an issue in this campaign. Instead, as the Wall Street Journal piece indicates, he has simply fanned the flames.
Will this be one more example of the Senator having to engage in a flip flop on a critical issue?