While Obama can do much to guide white Americans toward a better racial future and a greater appreciation that poor kids are not, as he says, "someone else's children," his most exciting potential for moral leadership could be in the African-American community.Remember the 1998 movie "Bulworth," where Warren Beatty plays a U.S. senator suffering a nervous breakdown? When Beatty's character tells astonished black Democrats that it's time for them to "put down the chicken and the malt liquor," it's final proof that Jay Bulworth is crazy and suicidal. But consider what happened late last month in Beaumont, Texas, when I covered Obama speaking before an African-American audience. A woman asked about health care and Obama explained how, for the first time in human history, thousands of obese children, many of them black, were being diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes–a disease that is killing millions and helping bankrupt the health-care system. He told the crowd that kids couldn't keep on "drinking eight sodas a day," then went in Bulworth's direction. "I know some of y'all got that cold Popeye's [chicken] out for breakfast. I know," Obama said with a smile. He continued: "That's why y'all laughing. You can't do that. Children have to have proper nutrition. That affects also how they study, how they learn in school … It's not good enough for you to say to your child, 'Do good in school,' and then when that child comes home, you got the TV set on, you got the radio on, you don't check their homework, there is not a book in the house, you've got the videogame playing." Instead of being jeered, he was cheered wildly.
Obviously, not all black adults and children would suddenly start doing exactly what President Obama tells them. As he said in his Philadelphia speech, he's not naive enough to believe that one politician will transform American attitudes. But it must make at least some difference when Obama tells African-American audiences, as he did this year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, that they need to stop being homophobic and anti-Semitic.[The Obama Dividend Instruct. Illuminate. Rearrange our mental furniture. That's a president's challenge. Mar 31, 2008 ]
I call this theory, "Don't be so black; be more Barack!"