Racial Division And Conflict

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Racial Division And Conflict

Sen. Barack Obama, hoping to silence the firestorm over race that has engulfed his presidential campaign since his pastor's anti-American sermons began circulating Friday, today called for America to "move beyond some of our old racial wounds" to unite around issues. In what was billed as one of the defining speeches of his campaign, Obama said Rev. Jeremiah Wright's comments expressed "a profoundly distorted view of this country -- a view that sees white racism as endemic and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America." Obama said Wright's comments were "not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity, racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems -- two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health-care crisis and potentially devastating climate change." The nation's problems, Obama said, "are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all."

Seeking to recapture the message of racial unity that marked his campaign kick-off more than a year ago, Obama spoke to supporters at the National Constitution Center, a museum in Philadelphia honoring the nation's founding. Standing at a podium in front of eight U.S. flags, Obama sought to distance himself from Wright's racially-tinged remarks without denigrating the man who has been his pastor for nearly 20 years, officiated at his wedding and baptized his two daughters.

Wright, who retired last year from the Trinity United Church of Christ, alleged in inflammatory sermons that blacks are mistreated by white culture and that the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attack was retribution for past U.S. crimes, such as the bombing of Hiroshima during World War II. But Obama also said that the videotaped "snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and YouTube," or the "caricatures being peddled by some commentators," distort Wright's appeal. "The man I met more than 20 years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another, to care for the sick and lift up the poor." Wright, he said, "is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine ... and who for over 30 years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work on Earth by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy."

Talking about his own racial heritage -- son of a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya -- Obama said that his wife Michelle "carries within her the blood of slaves and slave owners -- an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters." Noting that he has relatives "of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents," Obama said that "for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible."

As for Wright, ...
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