In contrasting the message of Dr. King to the dime-store philosophy of Senator Obama, Mr. Williams seems genuinely dissappointed that Obama has not lived up to the hope that many put in him to truly move the conversation past the simplistic rhetoric of racism.
Some notable quotes:
While speaking to black people, King never condescended to offer Rev. Wright-style diatribes or conspiracy theories. He did not paint black people as victims. To the contrary, he spoke about black people as American patriots who believed in the democratic ideals of the country, in nonviolence and the Judeo-Christian ethic, even as they overcame slavery, discrimination and disadvantage. King challenged white America to do the same, to live up to their ideals and create racial unity. He challenged white Christians, asking them how they could treat their fellow black Christians as anything but brothers in Christ.
When King spoke about the racist past, he gloried in black people beating the odds to win equal rights by arming "ourselves with dignity and self-respect." He expressed regret that some black leaders reveled in grievance, malice and self-indulgent anger in place of a focus on strong families, education and love of God. Even in the days before Congress passed civil rights laws, King spoke to black Americans about the pride that comes from "assuming primary responsibility" for achieving "first class citizenship."
Last March in Selma, Ala., Mr. Obama appeared on the verge of breaking away from the merchants of black grievance and victimization. At a commemoration of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights, he spoke in a King-like voice. He focused on traditions of black sacrifice, idealism and the need for taking personal responsibility for building strong black families and communities. He said black people should never "deny that its gotten better," even as the movement goes on to improve schools and provide good health care for all Americans. He then challenged black America, by saying that "government alone can't solve all those problems . . . it is not enough just to ask what the government can do for us -- it's important for us to ask what we can do for ourselves."
I imagine it was speeches like that which led some otherwise sane people to ignorantly embrace the idea of Barack Obama as the new MLK, the one man who could bring the races back together.
But what a difference a year makes...
But as his campaign made headway with black voters, Mr. Obama no longer spoke about the responsibility and the power of black America to appeal to the conscience and highest ideals of the nation. He no longer asks black people to let go of the grievance culture to transcend racial arguments and transform the world.
Instead the senator, in a full political pander, is busy excusing Rev. Wright's racial attacks as the right of the Rev.-Wright generation of black Americans to define the nation's future by their past. He stretches compassion to the breaking point by equating his white grandmother's private concerns about black men on the street with Rev. Wright's public stirring of racial division.
And he wasted time in his Philadelphia speech on race by saying he can't "disown" Rev. Wright any more than he could "disown the black community." No one has asked him to disown Rev. Wright. Only in a later appearance on "The View" television show did he say that he would have left the church if Rev. Wright had not retired and not acknowledged his offensive language.
Williams closes on a somber note:
As the nation tries to recall the meaning of Martin Luther King today, Mr. Obama's campaign has become a mirror reflecting where we are on race 40 years after the assassination. Mr. Obama's success has moved forward the story of American race relations; King would have been thrilled with his political triumphs.
But when Barack Obama, arguably the best of this generation of black or white leaders, finds it easy to sit in Rev. Wright's pews and nod along with wacky and bitterly divisive racial rhetoric, it does call his judgment into question.