On, March 18, 2008 presidential hopeful Barack Hussein Obama gave a speech designed to ease racial tensions over the anti-American, hate filled rants of his pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Although the speech was criticized for its length and it diverged into nothing more than a campaign speech towards the end, it none the less contained one of the most important passages ever uttered regarding race in today's America.
Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.
There is no doubt racism still exists in this country. But, there is no denying that the face of racism has changed. It now flows across all racial divides. The days when our society needed social programs like affirmative action are at an end. Hopfully, as time goes on, we can look back at this speech as the day in which Americans of all color realized they can't just sit back and wait for someone to hand them the American Dream, that the opportunity exists for all Americans if they'd only reach out and take it.