Thursday, January 31, 2008

Obama on the black-brown divide and immigration

As blogs and punditry go, I know this blog is a little fish compared to the DailyKOS's, Huffington Post's, Andrew Sullivan's or Drudge Report's out there. Then again, punditry is not what this blog was set up for though we touch on politics from time to time.

Still when I read a CBS News blog post by Maria Gavrilovic on a Barack Obama campaign stop at a Los Angeles technical college earlier today describing his speech to a "predominantly African-American and Latino crowd," the heart soared. Again.

No. It wasn't necessarily because he used the word "gay" in his speech (as in gays are part of the community that he hopes to represent when he becomes the President of the United States), which he did. In front of what some would consider a non-gay friendly environment. Yet again (btw - blogger Chris Crain has an interesting post on Barack's usage of the g-word in his speeches).

No, it wasn't that.

It was that in a week that saw media ratchet up the interpretation that Latinos might not vote for Obama based on his race (I wrote about it on Tuesday), here's what Barack told the mostly black and Latino crowd:
Over the past few weeks, we've heard some cynical talk about how black folks and white folks and Latinos cannot come together. We've heard it before. We've heard talk about the so-called black-brown divide, and whenever I hear this I take it seriously because im reminded of Latino brothers and sisters that I worked alongside on the streets of Chicago more than two decades ago.

We have to stop letting those in power turn us against each other. No place do I see this more than in our immigration debate. I am tired of people of people using this as a political football. We need to solve this problem.
And on his father's immigrant experience:
My father when he came here, he didn’t look like you know - he didn’t look like he stepped off the Mayflower. But we have to remember the history of immigration in this country. When the Irish first came, people were anti-Irish, when the Italians first came, people were anti-Italian and so we’ve got to remember our own past history. And let me remind everybody that not everybody who came in through Ellis Island had their papers in order.
Yes, I get that he's going for the Latino vote in California. But this is damn fine oratory at that.

I know some gay immigration rights activists out there are not happy that Obama, as a Senator, has yet to endorse the Uniting Americans Families Act or UAFA (which would allow for US citizens to sponsor their foreign-born same-sex partners for immigration as heterosexual partners can through marriage). Neither has Hillary Clinton. And there definitely should be more pressure on both raise their commitment on behalf of bi-national couples.

Let's hope that Senator Ted Kennedy, who is a UAFA sponsor and recently endorsed Obama, can bring the Illinois senator there.

But imagine a candidate invoking the immigration issue not only to appeal to Latino voters but also to urge better relations between African-Americans and Latinos. Pretty amazing.

UPDATE: Hillary in tonight's debate on undocumented immigrants -
"I was in Atlanta last night, and an African-American man said to me, 'I used to have a lot of construction jobs, and now it just seems like the only people who get them anymore are people who are here without documentation.'"
If that's not racial wedge-driving at its most shameless, I don't know what is. I actually gasped when she said it and was not surprised to see Pat Buchanan of all people praising Hillary on MSNBC after the debate for her stand on immigration.

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