Taking the Opportunity to Talk About Race

An interesting article from last week’s New York Times covers the national response to Senator Barack Obama’s speech on race outside the context of its political success or failure. The article quotes Rev. Joel Hunter, the senior pastor of a white evangelical mega-church in Central Florida, who described Obama’s speech as a kind of “Rorschach inkblot test for the nation…It calls out of you what is already in you.” As a clergy member he wants to be part of the healing and reconciliation that the moment affords, but adds, “unless it’s raised in a very public manner, it’s tough for us in our regular conversation to raise it.”

So we’re raising it in a very public manner. And we’re not alone. Why? Because, as the article details, around the country there is a sense in many quarters that there is a window of opportunity to talk about these issues like adults–this coming from personalities as divergent as the crew from The View, to Bill O’Reilly to Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine. The Time’s article quotes a student from Tufts University in Boston as saying, “We need to have some sort of follow-up conversation…even among groups that do no interact on a daily basis, and this speech has created a space for that. Whether individuals choose to engage is their own choice, but the opportunity is still there.”

It is heartening to see that our instinct to provide a public forum to react to the substance of Senator Obama’s speech is one that is being echoed country-wide, as detailed in the article. I hope that if you’ve been seeking the opportunity to Jonetta Rose BarrasIra Formanwrestle with what has been “called out of you” by the speech, you’ll join us on Thursday, March 27 for our dialogue on the themes of the speech with Ira Forman, Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council and Jonetta Rose Barras, political commentator at WAMU-88.5.

Rapid Responsa: An Open Discussion About Barack Obama’s Speech on Race & Resentment takes place Thursday, March 27 at 7:30 pm at the Washington DCJCC. Click here to RSVP.

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