By JUAN WILLIAMS
From the Wall Stree Journal
April 4, 2008
Martin Luther King Jr. died at age 39; today, the 40th anniversary of his death, is the first time he has been gone longer than he lived.
Figures such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have tried to claim his place on the American stage. But at most they have achieved fame and wealth. What separated King from any would-be successor was his moral authority. ....
Now comes Barack Obama, a black man and a plausible national leader, who appeals across racial lines. But to his black and white supporters, Mr. Obama increasingly represents different things.....
So far, Mr. Obama has been content to let black people have their vision of him while white people hold to a separate, segregated reality. He is a politician and, unlike King, his goal is winning votes, not changing hearts. Still, it is a key break from the King tradition to sell different messages to different audiences based on race, and to fail to challenge racial divisions in the nation.....
He has stopped all mention of government's inability to create strong black families, while the black community accepts a 70% out-of-wedlock birth rate. Half of black and Hispanic children drop out of high school, but he no longer touches on the need for parents to convey a love of learning to their children. There is no mention in his speeches of the history of expensive but ineffective government programs that encourage dependency. He fails to point out the failures of too many poverty programs, given the 25% poverty rate in black America.
And he chooses not to confront the poisonous "thug life" culture in rap music that glorifies drug use and crime.
Instead the senator, in a full political pander, is busy excusing Rev. Wright's racial attacks as the right of the Rev.-Wright generation of black Americans to define the nation's future by their past. He stretches compassion to the breaking point by equating his white grandmother's private concerns about black men on the street with Rev. Wright's public stirring of racial division.
And he wasted time in his Philadelphia speech on race by saying he can't "disown" Rev. Wright any more than he could "disown the black community." No one has asked him to disown Rev. Wright. Only in a later appearance on "The View" television show did he say that he would have left the church if Rev. Wright had not retired and not acknowledged his offensive language.....
But when Barack Obama, arguably the best of this generation of black or white leaders, finds it easy to sit in Rev. Wright's pews and nod along with wacky and bitterly divisive racial rhetoric, it does call his judgment into question. And it reveals a continuing crisis in racial leadership.
What would Jesus do? There is no question he would have left that church.
Mr. Williams is a political analyst for National Public Radio and Fox News. To read the rest of the column click on the title for a link.