In his own words

Barack Obama was on Meet The Press today, hosted by Tom Brokaw.  Brokaw engaged him in a brief dialogue on race.  Since we focus on that a lot here, I thought I’d give you that part of the transcript. 

MR. BROKAW:  Let me ask you about race.  We have some recent polling on that, and, as you know, it’s a whispered if not unspoken issue in your campaign. “Racism against blacks widespread in America?” That’s the question.  When African-Americans were asked that question, they said yes, 78 percent to 20 percent.  Racial justice in America was the second half of this question. Again, we asked this question of African-Americans.  Is it biased against blacks?  Sixty-seven percent to, no, 27 percent.  Do you see those numbers the same way?

SEN. OBAMA:  You know, here’s what I’ve said based on my life experience is that there have been profound changes since I was born, ’61.  When I accepted the Democratic nomination, it will be the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech, and here I am in a position to accept the Democratic nomination.  That, that is a profound change that we should celebrate.  We’ve still got work to do.  And there is no doubt that discrimination still exists in various parts of American life.  There’s no doubt that–I think, I think…

MR. BROKAW:  What about the margins that we saw in that poll?

SEN. OBAMA:  Well, I, I think that when you say it’s widespread, people think of, “Well, I’ve, I’ve had an experience,” and, and they maybe extrapolate all across this society.  I think that’s a mistake.  I think the vast majority of Americans are people of goodwill.  They want to do the right thing.

The biggest problem that we have in terms of race relations, I think, is dealing with the legacy of past discrimination which has resulted in extreme disparities in terms of poverty, in terms of wealth and in terms of income. Our inner cities are a legacy of what happened in the past.  And the question is less assigning blame or rooting out active racism, because that’s not the reason that those inner cities are in such bad shape, but rather figuring out are we willing to make the investments to deal with that past history so we can move forward to a brighter future?  And that involves investing in early childhood education, fixing the schools in those communities, being willing to work in terms of job retraining.  And those are serious investments.  It also requires some responsibility on the part of the black community, and that’s why I’ve talked about, for example, the need for fathers to re-engage in the lives of their children.  We can’t have more than half of African-American children growing up without knowing their dads or having an incidental contact with their dads and expect that that’s not going to have some sort of impact.

MR. BROKAW:  How many more times have you heard from Jesse Jackson about his comments about your speech to black families?

SEN. OBAMA:  I haven’t heard too much from Reverend Jackson.  I, I–look, the fact is, Reverend Jackson used to preach similar issues and recognized the need for responsibility.  What I’ve said is, it’s not an either/or proposition.  Those of us who are fortunate, those of us who are in positions of power, the society as a whole, we’ve got to take responsibility for creating ladders of opportunity for people.  People who are poor, impoverished in inner cities and rural communities and, and barrios all across the country, they’ve got to be responsible for grabbing hold of those ladders and using individual initiative to walk up those ladders.

For the full transcript and a link to the video, go here.  Brokaw and Obama discussed Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, and VP running mates (no info, sorry), among other things.

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