We have read/heard a lot about Jeremiah Wright's inflammatory words. Now read this excerpt from an article by Nicholas D. Kristof on Obama's speech on race:

The outrage over sermons by Mr. Wright demonstrates how desperately we as a nation need the dialogue about race that Mr. Obama tried to start with his speech on Tuesday.

Many well-meaning Americans perceive Mr. Wright as fundamentally a hate-monger who preaches antagonism toward whites. But those who know his church say that is an unrecognizable caricature: He is a complex figure and sometimes a reckless speaker, but one of his central messages is not anti-white hostility but black self-reliance.

“The big thing for Wright is hope,” said Martin Marty, one of America’s foremost theologians, who has known the Rev. Wright for 35 years and attended many of his services. “You hear ‘hope, hope, hope.’ Lots of ordinary people are there, and they’re there not to blast the whites. They’re there to get hope.”

Professor Marty said that as a white person, he sticks out in the largely black congregation but is always greeted with warmth and hospitality. “It’s not anti-white,” he said. “I don’t know anybody who’s white who walks out of there not feeling affirmed.”

Mr. Wright has indeed made some outrageous statements. But he should be judged as well by his actions — including a vigorous effort to address poverty, ill health, injustice and AIDS in his ministry. Mr. Wright has been frightfully wrong on many topics, but he was right on poverty, civil rights and compassion for AIDS victims.

What should draw much more scrutiny in this campaign than any pastor’s sermons is the candidates’ positions on education, health care and poverty — and their ability to put those policies in place. Cutting off health care benefits for low-income children strikes me as much more offensive than any inflammatory sermon.

Many white Americans seem concerned that Mr. Obama, who seems so reasonable, should enjoy the company of Mr. Wright, who seems so militant, angry and threatening. To whites, for example, it has been shocking to hear Mr. Wright suggest that the AIDS virus was released as a deliberate government plot to kill black people.

That may be an absurd view in white circles, but a 1990 survey found that 30 percent of African-Americans believed this was at least plausible.

“That’s a real standard belief,” noted Melissa Harris-Lacewell, a political scientist at Princeton (and former member of Trinity church, when she lived in Chicago). “One of the things fascinating to me watching these responses to Jeremiah Wright is that white Americans find his beliefs so fringe or so extreme. When if you’ve spent time in black communities, they are not shared by everyone, but they are pretty common beliefs.”

Occasionally, we’ve had glimpses of this gulf between white and black America. Right after the O.J. Simpson murder trial, a CBS News poll found that 6 out of 10 whites thought that the jury had reached the wrong verdict, while 9 out of 10 blacks believed it had decided correctly. Many African-Americans even believe that the crack cocaine epidemic was a deliberate conspiracy by the United States government to destroy black neighborhoods.

Much of the time, blacks have a pretty good sense of what whites think, but whites are oblivious to common black perspectives.

What’s happening, I think, is that the Obama campaign has led many white Americans to listen in for the first time to some of the black conversation — and they are thunderstruck.

All of this demonstrates that a national dialogue on race is painful, awkward and essential.

Related:

Transcript of Obama's "breathtaking and "brutal and honest" speech

Obama's Profile in Courage - NYT Editorial.

Also from the NYT, An Effort to Bridge a Divide

And Maureen Dowd's article - Black, White and Gray - in which she rightly writes:

A little disenchantment with Obama could turn out to be a good thing. Too much idealism can blind a leader to reality as surely as too much ideology can.

Up until now, Obama and his worshipers have set it up so that he must be so admirable and ideal and perfect and everything we’ve ever wanted that any kind of blemish — even a parking ticket — was regarded as a major failing.

With the Clintons, we expect them to be cheesy on ethics, so no one is ever surprised when they are. But Saint Obama played the politics of character to an absurd extent. For 14 months, his argument for leading the world has been himself — his exquisitely globalized self.

He should be congratulated on the disappearance of the pedestal. Leaders don’t need to be messiahs.

Gray is a welcome relief from black and white.

Other articles:

Obama's Unique Balancing Act - Wallsten & Nicholas, Los Angeles Times
Obama Did Little to Address Pastor - Michael Gerson, Washington Post
Race, Wright and Obama's Candidacy - Jay Cost, RealClearPolitics
Racial Problems Transcend Wright Issue - Vandehei & Harris, The Politico
Landmark Speech is a Road Map - Eugene Robinson, Washington Post
Hate is Not to Be Endlessly Analyzed - Mark Davis, Dallas Morning News
Wright's Rantings Won't Sink Obama - Dick Morris, The Hill
Was Obama's Speech Enough? - Joan Walsh, Salon
Why Obama's Speech Was a Success - Steve Kornacki, New York Observer
Three Big Problems with the Speech - Michael Medved, Townhall
Historic Speech Was Obama's Lincoln Moment - Tim Rutten, LA Times
Obama's Unique Balancing Act - Wallsten & Nicholas, Los Angeles Times
Obama Did Little to Address Pastor - Michael Gerson, Washington Post
Race, Wright and Obama's Candidacy - Jay Cost, RealClearPolitics
Racial Problems Transcend Wright Issue - Vandehei & Harris, The Politico
Landmark Speech is a Road Map - Eugene Robinson, Washington Post
Hate is Not to Be Endlessly Analyzed - Mark Davis, Dallas Morning News
What Obama's Speech Really Meant - Robert Tracinski, Intellectual Activist

and a Metafilter post

Obama's Gettysburg Address: Today we saw and heard a preview of our brightest possible American future in Senator Barack Obama's glorious speech. This, then, is what it means to be presidential. To be moral. To have a real center. To speak honestly, from the heart, for the benefit of all. If there was any doubt about what we have missed in the anti-intellectual, ruthlessly incurious Bush years, and even the slippery Clinton ones (the years of "what is is"), those doubts were laid to rest by Barack Obama's magisterial speech today. A speech in which he distanced himself from a flawed father figure, Reverend Wright, and did so with almost Shakespearian dignity and honor. One of the most important speeches on race in decades if not longer.
One for the history books.
Obama's Bold Gamble
Crisis into opportunity.
Even RedState loves Obama

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