Almost 40 years after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, the first, viable black presidential candidate speaks out on the slain civil rights leaders legacy. Speaking at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. King once served as pastor, Sen. Barack Obama talked about the racial politics of the 2008 presidential election, personal responsibility, and, achieving the goals set forth by King.
But it will be Obama's pointed remarks on bigotry around homophobia, anti-Semitism and xenophobia within the black community—especially the black church community that he was addressing—that will be remembered:
For most of this country's history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man's inhumanity to man. And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays - on the job, in the schools, in our health care system, and in our criminal justice system.
And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we're honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King's vision of a beloved community.
We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.
Every day, our politics fuels and exploits this kind of division across all races and regions; across gender and party. It is played out on television. It is sensationalized by the media. And last week, it even crept into the campaign for President, with charges and counter-charges that served to obscure the issues instead of illuminating the critical choices we face as a nation.
If we're honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King's vision. These are dynamic words, and, in this part, the senator and presidential candidate is fulfilling MLK's legacy to judge men and women on the content of their character. The much-needed reference to homophobia—at such an historic location—is a strong reminder of an ugly subject that needs more discussion in the black church community. It's also an olive branch extended to the LGBT community, especially black LGBTs, the second this week, after the Barack Obama campaign's much-criticized decision to enlist "ex-gay" (or is it "re-closeted"?) pastor Donnie McClurkin. Since then, Obama has stressed his strong positions on gay rights.
On the other hand, it's not fair that Obama, by virtue of his skin color, should be one of the few (black) leaders and the only presidential candidate to do this. "Addressing bigotry in any community that has suffered oppression at the
hands of the majority can, and must be done," observes Pam Spaulding at Pam's House Blend. "Particularly in a year
where we have both a woman and a black man with a credible chance of
winning the nomination and making it to the White House."
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Gay Rights Ally Yolanda King Dies at 51 [R20]
"MLK Would Favor" Gay Rights [R20]
Live Blog: Coretta Scott King Funeral [R20]
MLK Observances Include Coretta Scott King [R20]
Gay-Bashing" at Bermuda Mega-Church [R20]
Obama on Omar on "The Wire" [R20]
Why Obama is Losing Black Voters [HuffPo]
Welcome to the Campaign, Barack [HuffPo]
Deb Price on Blacks LGBTs and Obama [R20]
Report: Barack Obama Campaign REJECTS Michael Eric Dyson and TWO Black Gay Pastor [R20]
Obama Tries Distance from "Ex-Gay" McClurkin [R20]
Obama Campaigns with Ex-Gay Donnie McClurkin [R20]
Bishop: "No Faggots or Sissies" [R20]
Democratic Debate Addresses Homopohobia, Race [R20]
Democratic Candidates Debate Gay Issues [R20]
Behind the Gay-Friendly Faces [Advocate]
Hillary: The Advocate Interview [R20]
Obama on McClurkin to "The Advocate" [R20]