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Virtual Talmud

The Future of Race Relations

As a post-baby boomer, it is interesting to me to see how much of today’s conversation about racial relations is still rooted in the 1960s experience and rhetoric of the civil rights struggle, and the disenchantment that followed. Many in the black and Jewish communities look to this period either with hope as a sign of what it is possible to achieve, or with disenchantment as proof of the other group’s faithlessness. The fact that so much of our dialogue–and so many of our organizations–are still rooted in this 40-year-old narrative makes it extremely hard to move forward: there’s just too much past to reconcile.
Obama cannot, as he was finally forced to acknowledge, transcend race. But as a child of the 1970s and 1980s, Obama can at least begin to reframe our conversations about race by bringing them out of that closed framework and into today. Personally, I thought his speech was very powerful and important, not least of all because he finally named some of the realities on the ground today rather than rehearsing old grievances. Yes, we need to recognize history, but we also need to move past it so we can clearly see and address the deep fissures and challenges our country is facing around race right now, rather than replaying the battles and resentments of yesterday.

Obama more or less acknowledged this need when he asserted that Rev. Wright’s comments belong to the experience of a past generation. The conversation needs to shift now to a younger generation who can speak out of their own experience (for some fascinating insight into how this tension is playing itself out in the African-American community, you can listen to this debate between NAACP Chair Julian Bond and activist Kevin Powell). As Americans, we need to frankly face and address issues of disparity, fear, and resentment as they exist today if we can ever hope to move forward.

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posted March 26, 2008 at 9:51 pm

1/ His speech (in his smoking-affected baritone):
Yes my pastor is a racist loony
But my own grandmother being a typical white person is also a racist loony
Vote for me and I’ll make everyone feel better.
2/ So many things are so off-limits when talking about race that we will never have a real ‘conversation’ about race.

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posted March 26, 2008 at 11:55 pm

Its ironic that Obama is being accused of being part of a racist church. Lets all take a look at racism within the church. Churches in South Africa pushed for apartheid harder than the government. How can anyone call a church God’s house when his own black children have not been allowed to step inside many churches. Let the long hand of Karma handle your hypocrisy.

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Joe Williams

posted March 27, 2008 at 4:42 am

As a 54 year old black man I’ve experienced racism every day of my life!America a so-called christian nation,goes to church on Sunday and continues thier worldly ways. Lying politicians,so-called people of honor.As long as man has control of this system of things in this world you will never see racial harmony in this world!! As the BIBLE says in John 5:19 the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.Satan,who,offered Christ the kingdoms of the world!We as a people cannot look to man,who, as the bible says in Psalms 146:3&4,Do not put your trust in nobles,nor in the sons of earthling man,to whom no salvation belongs. His spirit goes out,he goes back to his ground;in that day his thoughts do perish.Clearly,whoever winds up being the president he or she will still be part of a political system,which is under the control of satan!The reasons for all the misery and strife in this world is because we don’t follow GOD, but the world!!!!!!!!!!Rev. Wright was wrong on some statements but not all! The whole world is under GOD’s judgement not just America.

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posted March 29, 2008 at 10:02 am

I was born in shadow of Lookout Mountain in the first half of the last century and have lived my whold life in the South. While much of what we hear comming up in the wake of this debate is reminiscent of the ’60’s and ’70’s, the roots of the fear, anger, distrust and dispair we hear in Wright’s words, as well as the malevolence we see toward Obama and other folks of color have roots which run back far further in order to threaten the sanity that has had the audacity to speak so candidly on this subject. Obama has said very eloquently that the time for looking backward to what was should be allowed to pass and a time of looking forward to what can be should rightly take its place. For that to happen, he asks that we recognize that we have far more in common than our differences. I find the willingness of a national leader to call upon the better qualilties that we share, instead of playing upon our most base fears and prejudices, to be a welcome and much needed change. When he spoke of perfecting the world, he was speaking to us. We should be able to hear these words and recognize their importance.

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posted March 29, 2008 at 10:31 am

Joe Williams – Friend, please don’t take this as a criticism. There are many who read the Bible and understand it to be telling them that G-d, in control of all things, picks our President. Others, see all things worldly as evil by default, including our President. Both views miss a critical point – at least in so far as Jews see the world. The choices we face offer us two opportunities; either to choose wisely, or to choose foolishly. This is the nature of good and evil. Evil does not exist to suck you into some spiritual black hole from which you will never emerge. It exists, as Mt. Everest existed for Sir Edmund Hillary – to be overcome. The effort to overcome evil builds strength and character and makes the next struggle with it a bit less difficult. There are such things as right choices percicely because neither good, nor evil, is all that there is.

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posted March 30, 2008 at 12:32 am

I am taking the longest route to conversion it seems. However I can remember when I first asked my Rabbi (whom I love dearly and hold in highest regards), about conversion he asked me why would I want to do that. He instructed me that if I followed my Christian religion whole-heartedly that I would still have a part in the life to come. After two or three more requests for conversion he finally asked why would I as a black man want to be a Jew? The only people on this earth hated more than a Black man is a Jew. I would be essentially asking for a double hatred and greater resentment. The point was driven home to an even greater degree when I went to Temple for Yom Kippur observance, there in front of the Synagogue across the street was a police officer essentially guarding the Synagogue because of the threat of terrorism.
I can truly say that we are better together. Jews was amongst the greatest supporters of MLK, and have been consistently the light of morality in a very dark world.

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Scott R.

posted March 30, 2008 at 3:07 pm

We’re very happy and honored to have you join us. You sound like a real mensch.:)

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posted March 31, 2008 at 9:06 am

At one time I would have voted for the demorcates ,simply because my family coming to America in 1911 did ,escaping fasism and the likes. But over the years I have changed. My Grandparents and parents would roll over in there graves. I can not vote for a known thief nor a racist. Simply because it has been in the family to vote for a democrate. And hope for the best in voting the old partyline. I have looked into the back ground of both of these two and really was quite suprised that everything I found out(last summer)about this Obama and his church has come out. With more to come. THis church is against Israel and the jewish people. And has hit to core of the hate He would bring the White house. The party has become more and more socalist. Which both of these two are pushing for higher tax and larger goverment. And remember Hitler also called for change.

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posted March 31, 2008 at 3:40 pm

While it wold be nice if Obama had seized the day and provided an advance in race relations, he used the speech to promote Class Warfare inviting poor whites to join in the Victimization Philosophy that has plagued so much of the Black Community.
De Tocqueville remarked on men’s passion to be Equal in Slavery rather than work for the fruits of Liberty. The Victimization Philosophy of Class Warfare places blame outside the individual and forever blames The Other. The essence of bigotry is to blame others for one’s troubles. Southern bigots in the 1950 did not burn crosses because they had fait in their own abilities to improve and advance. They projected their deficiencies onto others, especially Blacks and Jews. Stimulating Class Warfare capitalizes on this same Blame Others mentality and in another form of bigotry.
Obama’s race speech was a large step backwards due to his missing the opportunity to take a large step forward. Obama is not a healer nor is he a Bringer-Together. His Class Warfare Approach in divisive and he is stimulating the worse in American culture.

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posted March 31, 2008 at 11:50 pm

Dear Rabbi Waxman: I have always enyoyed the Virtual Talmud. I had no idea it was on the verge of extinction. It may have vbeen partly my fault for not everhqving posted a comment in praise of much that I have read here. Is there any way I can yell loud enough to reverse this process? You are too young to die!

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posted March 31, 2008 at 11:58 pm

I never really finished my previous blog. I just want to add my expfression of approval for your praise of Obama’s Philadelphia speech. I had heard rumors of his attachment to a few unsavory characters like Farrakhan (sp?) and was ready to give up on him, but his explanation of the hisorical and cultural background of the aptly named Jeremiah (!) Wright was very clear to me and I accepted it eillingly.

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posted April 1, 2008 at 3:52 pm

Obama started out looking like Jimmy Carter and he seems to be morphing into Richard Nixon.
If people listened to what Obama actually says (and stopped being blinded by the color of his skin), they would realize that Obama is showing himself to be an unsavory character. Not only did his race speech turn into a call for Class Warfare, but it was Obama who first interjected race into the campaign.
When the White independent voters in New Hampshire did not vote for Obama in the high numbers the polls had predicted, it was the Obama Camp that charged that White voters were racist. In alleging racism, they alluded to when Mayor Tom Bradley ran for governor in California and the polls had incorrectly predicted his land slide victory. More likely than not, both New Hampshire and California reflected the phenomenon that when a land slide victory is predicted, a lot of voters stay home. Then, the Obama Camp began pushing the ludicrous notion that Hillary was racist because she said that the nation needs both civil rights leaders like MLK and political power like LBJ. (No, I am not a Hillary fan.)
Today, the media reports that Obama has accused McCain of wanting to stay in Iraq for 100 years. This is pure demagoguery. McCain was making the valid point that after a successful conclusion of military operations, it is often necessary to have a military presence for decades. He referred to both Japan and Korea. Obama was distorting McCain’s position just the way most demagogues divert the public away from honest discussions of real issues.
Like Richard Nixon and more recently Donald Rumsfled, Obama engages in lies. He lied about being in church when the Rev. Wright made his inflammatory comments. When that lie was about to be exposed, he changed his story but denied about supporting Rev Wright’s position. We know, however, that Obama could not have sat in his pew going “tsk tsk tsk.” Obama had joined that specific church in order to gain “creds,” and he wasn’t going to jeopardize his nascent political career by opposing Rev. Wright’s agenda. As people are learning, the Rev. Wright’s theology is not all that unusual in the Black Community. Had Obama criticized the Rev. Wright, Obama would have been out of place and he would have earned no “creds.” The idea that Obama did not know what Jeremiah Wright was preaching and that Obama was not in sync with that brand of theology is not credible.
Just as it took months for The Mark Furhman Tapes to emerge, it will take some time for the tapes of Obama “me-too-ing” Rev. Wright to be disclosed, but we know what somewhere, someone has to have those tapes. Who knows, maybe we will have another mid-night break-in.
Obama is not a matter of White or Black – he is as much White as he is Black. Race has nothing to do with his qualifications. He fails MLK’s Test of Character and as such he isn’ the Jewish candidate as far as I am concerned.

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