Obama’s speech delivered in Philadelphia at the early stages of his presidential campaigns delves into the problem of racism and its effects in America. The venue’s choice was significant as Philadelphia was the place where the country made the Declaration of Independence in 1787. Senator Obama uses anecdotes from his life and that of the rest of Americans to convince them that they can confront the country’s persistent racial discrimination. The speech contains emotions where Obama recounts his origin and explains the challenges faced by both white and colored Americans because of the history of discrimination. The address introduced Obama’s candidature to the American people and created the impetus for his campaign towards the White House occupation. Obama attributes racism to historical factors that have affected all ethnicities in the country and urge every citizen to take the initiative to overcome the problem.
The speaker connects the problem of racism to slavery as America’s original sin. Obama recounts the legitimization of the authorities’ unethical trade but states that the constitution has already provided the solution to racial discrimination. However, he laments that despite legal solutions, racial discrimination continues to thrive in the country. Obama’s sentiments resonate with previous civil rights activists, including Malcolm X and Martin Luther King junior. Obama advocates for a non-violent approach to addressing racism, saying that the current generation has inherited the challenges from their forefathers. King believed in a just society and adopted peaceful means, including negotiation to appeal to authorities. Obama urges the black and white communities to live above the racial sentiments that have existed in America and take personal responsibility to stem the injustice.
Obama appeals to the ethos in his speech when he connects it with his personal experiences and weaves them into America’s collective challenges. As a minority, Obama traces his origins to a mixed-race heritage and identifies with the mixed ethnicities in America. Many of the Americans trace their identity to a mixed-race and identify with Obama’s story. In the speech, Obama says he also identifies with the dark discriminatory past through his wife, who carries the blood of slaves and slave-owners. The senator is candid in his confession that he must pass on the heritage of slave history to his two daughters. Obama links slavery to racial discrimination and suggests that Americans can never escape the consequences of their past sins. Consequently, He proposes a collective approach to racism, saying that all Americans share in its effects.
The action proposed in the speech contradicts the violent confrontations adopted by both Black and White movements in the country. The white supremacists’ initiatives have been counterproductive and widened the chasm between races in America. However, they have yielded little progress towards equality. Previous initiatives in defense of black rights have taken parochial approaches, including the Black protectionism that sought to end discrimination through exile and protest marches (Russell-Brown and Katheryn 373). Obama employs the literary skill of ethos and presents himself as a credible speaker on the subject. Although he laments that racial discrimination still exists in society, he observes that American society has grown to the extent that a person of his ethnicity can stand for the US presidency. In this connection, Obama voices the silent discord where blacks complain about white privilege in the barbershops and around the dinner table. Besides, he says the whites equally suffer the consequences of slavery and talk about their frustrations regarding its impact on their lives in seclusion. Therefore, Obama proposes a concerted effort to confront racial discrimination stating that it is a joint problem.
Obama takes a swipe at the church minister, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, for advancing racially discriminative sentiments. Obama says that the preacher’s views use incident language that divides rather than unites America. Obama’s reference to this minister introduces a religious angle to the racism question and elevates the church’s role in promoting discrimination. In Obama’s views, Reverend Wright’s ideas are offensive to both the black and White Communities and potentially stain America’s goodness. Reverend White is Obama’s pastor, who is Black, and by adopting this example in his speech, Obama appeals to listeners of every color while elevating his views above parochial interests.
Church ministers of both White and Black heritage have often used their positions to excite racial sentiments with unpleasant consequences. Reverend White is famous for his outrageous racial comments, and in reviewing his sermons, Ross and El-Buri described the preacher as a “righteously unpatriotic racist” (Gunn and McPhail 8). However, Obama displays objectivism in analyzing Reverend White’s sentiments saying that he has immensely contributed to society’s progress through his professional, spiritual, and charity work. Obama demonstrates fidelity to the ideals he promotes in the racial debate by celebrating Reverend Wright’s achievements in a brilliant effort to delink his campaign from personal attacks. Barrios proposes the propagation of a Jesus tribe as a solution to the racial sentiments propagated in the church today. Obama’s confrontation with his pastor’s pronouncements while hailing him for his contribution to society demonstrates that he believes in an objective approach to social problems.
The speech appeals to the participation of all Americans in the fight against racial discrimination. Obama says that both the Black and White communities, alongside immigrants and other ethnicities, face challenges associated with the racial past and invite them in a collective effort to fight the vice. Rather than blame the authorities, Obama urges personal responsibility to overcome discrimination in America. As a presidential candidate, the sentiments may portray him as a weak leader incapable of enforcing the already enacted legislation against racism. However, he explains that while the laws exist, they have not solved the endemic racism in society. Obama identifies with the white race when he talks about the questions in their minds following affirmative actions that deny them opportunities in favor of minorities. On the other hand, Obama decries the poverty faced by black communities and the lack of necessary amenities in their neighborhoods. The speech appeals to all Americans by connecting their everyday problems to the dark past of slavery. The address was successful as it united the Americans regarding one of their most pertinent issues and led to Obama’s election as the United States president.
Obama’s speech on racism candidly tackled the topic of racism and connected it to the slave trade. Obama uses a variety of literary techniques, including pathos, by combining racist with his personal story. The speech also uses ethos as the author identifies with multiple races to prove his authenticity to address the subject. While stating that legislation against racism has been ineffective in addressing the challenge, Obama urges Americans to take personal initiative in delinking from the past to forge a united front against the vice. Obama’s speech against racism candidly confronted and was successful in appealing to American voters to elect Obama as the United States president.
Barrios, Moses, “Confronting The Lack of Racial Unity In the American Christian Church” (2019). Doctor of Ministry Projects. 373. Web.
Gunn, Joshua, and Mark Lawrence McPhail. “Coming home to roost: Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama, and the (re) signing of (post) racial rhetoric.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly vol. 45.no. 1, 2015, pp 1-24.
Obama, B. (2008). Barack Obama’s Speech on Race. The New York Times. Web.
Russell-Brown, Katheryn K. “Critical Black Protectionism, Black Lives Matter, and Social Media: Building a Bridge to Social Justice.” Black Lives Matter, and Social Media: Building a Bridge to Social Justice, vol. 60, 2017, pp 18-6.