Saturday, March 15, 2014

AFRO 298 First Assignment

President Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech and Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” both discuss race in America. There are many similarities with the two pieces of writing. Both men express an optimistic point of view for the future of America, while critiquing their opposition. Dr. King and President Obama appear to both stand in the middle of what Dr. King refers to as “moderate Whites” and “Black Nationalists”. For Dr. King, these White moderates are ones who care more about “order” and do nothing to fight for civil rights, while the “Black Nationalists” are the Blacks who do not practice nonviolent protest and instead participate in a form of more radical political expression.

Even though President Obama does not use the terms “moderate Whites” or “Black Nationalists, it is evident that they both still exist in present day, just in slightly different forms. The “moderate Whites” for Barack Obama are those who resent the Black community. Resentment builds 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 e told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced” (Obama). President Obama also sees the opposite side, which includes Reverend Wright, and he distances himself from that side as well. He thinks the fault in Reverend Wright’s point of view is that he does not recognize any of the progress that has been made while lacking hope for future progress.

Both of these men stand in middle of the two sides in order to create a unified America. While Dr. King talks about all of the obstacles America must overcome to achieve freedom and equality, President Obama mentions how the progress that Dr. King fought for has not been fully achieved yet. The 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case was seen as a just law by Dr. King, when distinguishing between just and unjust laws. He makes the argument that this just law is something that needs to be obeyed, and is not being followed properly within Birmingham and other areas in America. In his speech President Obama says, “segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s Black and White students” (Obama). By recognizing that segregation still exists even though legally it is outlawed, President Obama is addressing an issue that many Americans turn a blind eye to.

Lastly, the men show their commitment to equality through unity when they seek a solution to the racial problems and tension facing America. President Obama’s solution is for the Black community to see hope for the future, and for the White community to acknowledge that many of the problems of the Civil Rights Movement still exist and hinder the Black community from reaching their full potential. This solution attempts to unify Americans, which is also what Dr. King’s solution is. Dr. King creates unity within America with his powerful statement, “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly” (King). Both President Obama and Dr. King see that in America, you not only need to have hope for future progress, but you also need to recognize the need for it.

1 comment:

  1. As I begin to read President Obama’s “A more Perfect Union” I was immediately intrigued in his comparison of the Civil Rights Movement and one of the task he sat out to accomplish by running for office. I believe that this simple comparison said a lot about Barak Obama before he became President Barak Obama. It showed his pride in who he was and also it showed his dignity and bravery. He stated “ What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part- through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk- to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.” He compared this notion, previously used in the 1800’s, to his task “to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America”. This evaluation done by President Obama showed that he not only understood and realized what weapons would be thrown against him, but he was ready to fight the fight. In the running of President Obama there was a lot of racism and judgment against him, but as he stated “ In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans”. President Obama knew that he had to appear before the people as more than just a color, and that he did.
    This speech by President Obama can very much relate to that of Martin Luther King Jr. While in Birmingham Jail, King wrote a letter to his “Fellow Clergymen”. In this letter King stated his reasons for being so far from home, there in Birmingham, in the first place. He states “I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” In the statement King showed initiative. He was not just fighting a battle of black versus white, he was fighting the battle for Justice. This exact concept is what relates President Obama to Martin Luther King Jr. Both men understood their battle and understood furthermore that these battles were beyond physicality.
    Furthermore, there is relation between the two in there idea of choosing their battles. Dr. King stated “Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work.” This showed that King understood that every fight is not worth fighting for. He addressed situations that would make a difference and a statement. This same idea shows in President Barak’s running for candidacy. If President Barak was to stop and address every racial battle that he was confronted with, he would have had no time to run for President of the United States.
    From both speeches, I understand that it is a time and place for everything. There will be a million and one battles that will come your way but everyone is not worth fighting.
    President Obama: “But Race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now.”
    Martin Luther King Jr.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”