‘Wrighting’ the Wrongs: Media Coverage Doesn’t Cut It
Much has been said about Senator Barack Obama’s noteworthy Philadelphia speech on race and the controversial sermons of his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. To add to the fray, conservative commentator Pat Buchanan wrote some striking remarks in response to Obama’s speech. Buchanan asserted that Wright is just another example of a black American who is ungrateful for all that whites have supposedly done to help blacks in the past.
Buchanan wrote, “America has been the best country on Earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.” Buchanan went on to say that white Americans have done more than any other people to lift up blacks through government programs and private-sector donations. He condescendingly concluded that the problem of race is a lack of gratitude for white generosity.
Putting aside the repugnant racial undertones in Buchanan’s patronizing remarks, his argumentation perfectly revealed what is wrong with the American media: The press is decidedly short on the qualities needed to discuss sensitive topics like race. While Obama’s speech centered on race and a political defense of his connection to Wright, what has been ignored is Obama’s arresting critique of the media.
Obama’s approach to race was markedly different from those of prominent media figures like Buchanan because it was nuanced, accounted for racial complexities in American society, and avoided a divisive liberal/conservative paradigm. In contrast, Buchanan and his ilk frame their arguments in a manner endemic of a mindset unrepresentative of the real concerns of average Americans and plainly irresponsible in the forum of serious political discussion.
Obama’s speech was practically a direct challenge to the media’s infuriating reliance on sound bites, simple narratives and reactionary discourse. Obama pointed out that the media only showed small