Michael Crawford

Barack Obama: None of Our Hands are Entirely Clean

Filed By Michael Crawford | January 21, 2008 9:48 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, campaign 2008, Democrats, MLK Day, politics

This speech by Barack Obama is the perfect embodiment of why we need him as our next president. The speech was delivered on Sunday at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In this speech Barack does what no other candidate has done or will do: he speaks forcefully in front of a Black Christian audience about the role that we all play in perpetuating homophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant hysteria. You will find no other candidate on either the Democratic or Republican sides who will say to a Black audience, or any audience for that matter,

And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we're honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King's vision of a beloved community.

And, the truth of the matter is not only is Barack the only candidate with the courage to talk this kind of talk in front of an important constituency who may not want to hear what he has to say, but because of his race, he is the only candidate that will be burdened with this task.

As Pam Spaulding points out

However, I am disheartened by the burden Obama has been saddled with, as a person of color, to be the sole party delivering today's message. Addressing bigotry in any community that has suffered oppression at the hands of the majority can, and must be done, particularly in a year where we have both a woman and a black man with a credible chance of winning the nomination and making it to the White House.

That we cannot discuss the matter of homophobia or anti-Semitism in the black community bluntly is everyone's problem. This burden and legacy of fomenting bigotry out of fear and ignorance is borne by all of us. If no one takes responsibility, we all fail. And we're failing -- look at how easily gender bias and racial overtones have surfaced over and over in the campaign so far. It's almost reflexive to "go there," the toxicity and effectiveness of stirring those sentiments has been part of the political process by both parties for so long that they are addicted to it.

White America will give Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Mitt Romney, John McCain and the others a pass on this issue while expecting Barack to issue words that will calm their fears around race, sexual orientation, religious faiths other than Christianity and immigration. That is, after all, the burden of the colored man.

Barack more than lives up to that task and issues the kind of visionary call for unity and common purpose that we have not heard in more than a generation.

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White America will give Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Mitt Romney, John McCain and the others a pass on this issue while expecting Barack to issue words that will calm their fears around race, sexual orientation, religious faiths other than Christianity and immigration. That is, after all, the burden of the colored man.

You said it, Michael. Just like Hillary is the only one who has to talk about her gender in this race.

I'm not going to hold my breath for Hillary to go around talking about issues of homophobia and racism in the white community. Shoot, she barely mentions sexism...

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | January 21, 2008 11:38 AM

I do wish Hillary would talk more about gender issues. All of the candidates should talk more about gender. It borders on the criminal that they don't.

So, do I, Michael, but when they do talk about such things, it's only meant to include born men and born women...those who transgress gender norms are almost always left out of the discussion. Politicians in general, as Obama does in this speech, (theoretically) use "gay" as a code word for LGBT, but as we know that word is not taken that way by most Democrats who hear it, it's taken to mean gay and lesbians only.

While Obama has certainly been the most proactive of the major candidates in mentioning the plight of gender-variant Americans over the course of the campaign, he too seems to have forgotten us now, in the heat of the campaign, and relies on the kind of verbal shorthand that leaves so many of us behind in the minds of the voters as well as the politicians.

I do believe he gets it, more than Clinton, more than Edwards, but at the same time, I am forced to ask: Where am I in his vision of hope? Why am I and people like me usually not offered the even briefest attention by these candidates like more wealthy and populous minorities are? Why do the rights of gender-variant Americans seem barely an afterthought at best to all three of these candidates, even when they are directly under attack right now from the forces of bigotry and exclusion from even within their own Party?

I believe that Barack Obama believes what he said in this speech or I wouldn't be supporting him for President. And yet, at the same time, I have to ask myself why the last time I heard him even mention the rights of transgender people or of our inclusion in ENDA was last August in the LOGO/HRC "debate" and even that was just barely an unsolicited side comment.

When I see that, I just can't help but wonder if as President he'll really stand up for us, or if he'll take the easy way out and sign on to the HRC/Frank/Pelosi/Kennedy plan to gain rights for some while leaving the most desperately in need excluded from those rights.

Barack Obama is the candidate of hope and the candidate of change. When is it our turn to be publicly included in that vision? When does Obama speak to the issues that directly impact my life with the same passion he speaks for those of minorities who are more politically popular and easier to support? When does he speak out and say those who would choose to deny rights to some to ensure them for others are wrong, no matter which political party or ideology they hail from?

When is it our turn to finally really be included, not just in theory but also in practice, in both word and deed?

When is it finally our turn, too?

Ye Olde Fart | January 21, 2008 4:49 PM

Michael: I fully agree with you. When I first heard the speech given by Obama at the Ebenezer Baptist church my mind went back to the speeches of MLK.

It's not really false hope, it's just that I don't see how we're going to get to where he wants to go with his vision.

He says he supports health care for all, and yet he hasn't backed single payer or even a health care mandate, the precursor to single payer.

He says he doesn't want troops to be constantly deployed, but then he voted for a Senate resolution that called the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization (just what did he think Bush would do with that?).

He says he supports law being applied to achieve equality, he failed to even show up to vote against AG nom Mukasey... who couldn't bring himself to oppose torture in front of the Senate.

He says that he's troubled about the excesses of the Bush administration, but where was he when Chris Dodd was filibustering T-comm amnesty in the FISA re-authorization?

He says that we're all responsible for fighting homophobia, but what's up with his lack of support for same-sex marriage?


It's a nice speech. He has charisma. But I'm generally not impressed with those kinds of talents and would prefer sticking to policy.

I know, I'm a strange bird that way.

But I think that no matter whom we support, we'd all do well to keep skeptical and keep pushing that person if s/he makes it to office.

Michael Bedwell | January 21, 2008 5:16 PM

The “selective perception” response of some to Obama once again merely dropping the “gay-word,” is, sadly, another example of the willingness to ascribe Messiah-like miracles where none have occurred. One understands that the combination of the continuing toxic shock of seven years of being demonized by the Bush Reich with the toxic hatred of the Clintons can challenge objectivity but it’s not too late to separate fantasy from reality, particularly in context.

Obama merely spoke of "embracing" gays. Homophobes in the audience could easily equate what he said with "hate the sin, love the sinner." That’s really working well for us, isn’t it? Donnie McClurkin waxed even more explicitly on the stage that Obama provided him in South Carolina last fall before 3000 screaming, adoring African American voters. He declared that he didn't hate anybody, that he wasn't a homophobe, that he wasn't against anyone's rights. But, of course, he added, "God delivered me from homosexuality!!!!"

If Obama were a car he'd be credited with getting 1000 miles a gallon without any proof. He gets more mileage out of simply dropping the gay word here and there than anyone in our history. He's still earning outrageous royalties for only saying at the 2004 Democratic convention that “we've got some gay friends in the Red States.” Alone, that’s no better than “some of my best friends are gay.”

And he gets credit where none is due. Jesse Jackson, was the first to use the G-word in a major speech in front of a Democratic convention TWENTY YEARS BEFORE Obama. I was there. Even members of Ebenezer Baptist Church have, no doubt, heard real calls for gay equality before given that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s wonderful wife, Coretta, and their youngest daughter, unlike Obama, supported REAL “full” equality for gays including marriage equality, as do NAACP Chairman Julian Bond and SCLC leader Rev. Joseph Lowery.

In his speech officially announcing his Presidential run, all Obama said was, “We're distracted from our real failures, and told to blame the other party, or gay people, or immigrants.”

A speech last year at Hampton University contains only a synthesis of the two: “The want to divide us into Red States and Blue States, and tell us to always point the finger at somebody else—the other party, or gay people, or people of faith, or immigrants.”

But last March, in a speech before a huge, mostly black crowd in Oakland, Obama didn’t mention gays at all, while in November he did in Gay San…, er San Francisco. By contrast, in conservative Iowa in November of last year at the all-important annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, Sen. Clinton told the 9000 attendees: “And we Democrats, we believe in labor rights and women's rights and gay rights, and civil rights.” When Obama addressed a huge rally the night before the Iowa caucuses, the word “gay” was nowhere to be heard, in ANY context. Some say it was the speech that won him that contest. Did Hillary promoting gay RIGHTS in her speech weeks before cost her the win?

At the debate at black Howard University, he did speak of homophobia. But not as something bad ITSELF, but as an obstacle to dealing with the staggeringly disproportionate numbers of HIV infections in the black community. Later he demonstrated that himself when he felt the need to insist that everyone understand he didn’t get his HIV test with another MAN, Sen. Biden who’d brought it up, but WITH HIS WIFE! The homophobia reference was met primarily with silence. His “I’M NOT QUEER” moment brought the house down.

Still, I do believe that Obama does believe in our rights. Just not all of them, despite his dishonest and insulting “let ME tell YOU what ‘full’ equality is.” He’s not just auditioning for Messiah, but King Solomon too as his answer is to divide Equality in-two: religious fascists get the word “marriage;” we’re to be happy that his majesty would grant us “civil unions.”

And how much more can we expect him, even if someone were able to demonstrate that he drops the “gay” word more than Edwards and Sen. Clinton that he would turn his “belief” into ACTION any more than they would? It’s common for campaigns to group their positions into a manifesto, as it were. Atypically, Sen. Clinton, doesn’t have one on her official site. Her site LGBT page says however, among other pro-LGBT issues, “She will work with the LGBT community and allies in Congress to change laws. ...Hillary will work to ensure that all Americans in committed relationships have equal benefits—from health insurance to life insurance, property rights, and more.”

Within Edwards’ 80-page “Plan to Build One America,” also among other proactive progay issues, it says, “Edwards will fight against discrimination and intolerance and fight for equal rights and civil benefits for the LGBT community. Secure Equal Civil Rights - Guarantee gay and lesbian couples in committed relationships the same rights as straight couples, including inheritance rights, hospital visitation rights, and equal pension and health care benefits.”

Obama’s LGBT page says, “we need to... enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions.” Forgive my recycling the old punch line but, “What do you mean ‘we’, Kemo Sabe?”

The most shocking gap is that, in his 64-page manifesto, “Blueprint for Change—Obama’s Plan for America,” I could not find ONE mention by Obama of gays or gay issues. NOT A SINGLE WORD. Why such a priori conviction that he would be the one to fight for us when we’re not even mentioned in his plan for America?

Despite all his lip service to “supporting” a kind of separate but almost equal world for gays; despite his pro-gay votes in the Illinois legislature and US Senate, his willingness to really fight for us has been tested twice and he failed both times.

1. Obama describes Rev. James Meeks as one of his greatest spiritual advisors. Meeks appeared in TV ads for Obama’s Senate campaign and Obama campaigned at his church, and went there the night he won that primary. Meeks was on his exploratory committee for the Presidency, and his church choir performed at a rally for Obama the night he announced. But Meeks is also an Illinois state senator who has campaigned against gay rights and complained about “Hollywood Jews for bringing us ‘Brokeback Mountain’.” He calls being gay an “evil sickness,” and his gigantic church is one of those which sponsors a Halloween fright night in which, according to the “Chicago Sun Times,” among those “consigned to the flames of hell” were “two mincing young men wearing body glitter who were supposed to be homosexuals.” His church has also launched antigay petition drives for the Illinois Family Institute, and Meeks is also aligned with Antigay Industry powerhouses Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, and the Alliance Defense Fund, and Americans for Truth that proclaims "fighting AIDS without talking against homosexuality is like fighting lung cancer without talking against smoking." But the point most relevant to the potential of a President Obama is that he was not able to convince his own friend, Rev/Sen Meeks, not to vote against the Illinois bill protecting gays and transgenders in employment, housing, public accommodations and credit.

2. And, yes, McClurkingate was the second failure. This time it did not involve the Illinois Senate and a single friend. It was not the kind of situation that a President Obama might face with 535 US Congressmen and Senators. Rather, Obama alone was in a position to determine whether a vicious homophobe would not just be given a platform to repeat his documented homophobia but to associate it with Obama himself. As black writer Rod 2.0 said, “"He folded like a deck of cards. If he is going to fold on the campaign trail, why would we not think he'd fold in the Oval Office?" Nota Bene: Obama’s statements of disagreement immediately before and after the event were given only to gay media. In fact, “The Advocate” had been asking him for an interview for months, and it was only after he was roundly condemned for this association, did he consent while jawdroppingly claiming he was better than even Dennis Kucinich on gay issues. But the show, McClurkin’s show, went on and Obama picked up the tab. How many votes he picked up choosing, according to black lesbian minister Irene Monroe, black homophobic voters over gay supporters of all colors, we’ll find out next Saturday in the South Carolina primary.

And, finally, there is the issue of his shameless duplicity about DOMA. While trumpeting his so-called superiority over Sen. Clinton because he supports repeal of “all” of DOMA, he is on record, for those objective enough to look, of still supporting a state’s right to refuse to legally recognize gay relationships, regardless of DOMA repeal. We understandably don’t like his and Edwards similar position but at least Sen. Clinton is honest about her unwillingness to yet take on that legislative nightmare while, in this and McClurkingate Obama pisses on our legs while telling us it’s only raining.

I don’t need your embrace Sen. Obama. I need you to convince me that you will FIGHT for me; that you can convince homophobes, even when they’re your personal friends, that I don't just need THEIR embrace either but to stop voting against my equality; and that your “big tent” is better than the one the GOP has been smile fucking gay Republicans about forever.

It's a nice speech. He has charisma. But I'm generally not impressed with those kinds of talents and would prefer sticking to policy.

I know, I'm a strange bird that way.

But I think that no matter whom we support, we'd all do well to keep skeptical and keep pushing that person if s/he makes it to office.

I agree. They wee beautiful words spoke in a passionate cadence and evoked King perfectly...in word.

But King was willing to "dream big," stand, sit in, march before the dogs and the water hoses, and be jailed if that's what was necessary to be done. His deeds clearly equaled his words.

As a non-American, I know that some will feel that it's none of my business (although Canada is very heavily influenced by our neighbor to the south -- so I don't have a vote, but do have reason for concern). But as far as a personal observation about Barack Obama, he's young (maybe young enough to still have that fire of wanting to change things that got him interested in politics in the first place), hasn't been in a government long enough to learn all the tricks of where to hide the dirty laundry (*cough* Whitewater *cough*), and isn't reined in as much by handlers. This is an excellent example of the latter point. Even if this is an affirming congregation, standing in a church and speaking out against homophobia takes some cheek and is risky. I commend him for doing it (great speech, too). And it doesn't hurt to remind for those who missed it that he is the only candidate who has specifically listed "gender identity" as something that he feels should be protected. Compare that to another frontrunner whose friends failed to tell her that we were even an issue, and later expressed concerns about transgender people being in "positions of authority."

(Mercedes steps back now, zips lip and crosses fingers)

Michael Bedwell | January 21, 2008 9:32 PM

ARRRGGGGGGGGGGGG! Is there no end to the distortions that are floating around that some eagerly bob for like rotten apples in a barrel?

Sorry to have to point out the worms in yours, Mercedes, though I don’t have much hope of convincing someone who still refuses to believe the non-findings of Repug Hitman Special Prosecutor Ken Starr on Whitewater, etc., after spending millions to find SOMETHING.

It was Obama NOT Sen. Clinton who once expressed reservations about transgenders in some jobs. Exact quote from his 2004 interview with the “Windy City Times”:

“WCT: Do you support adding gender identity to the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act?

Obama: Yes. I think this is a difficult question because it touches on, for example, the rights of schools or other public institutions that may be concerned about a transgendered person in positions of authority. I would think the political resistance on that would be fierce. I’d have to look at the language.”

Source: http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php?AID=3931

But in his response to HRC’s questionnaire last year, he didn’t mention his earlier concern about “a transgendered person in positions of authority,” but simply “Supports passage of a federal bill prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” JUST AS Sen. Clinton DOES and Edwards and all the Dem also rans.


Links to full responses of each Dem candidate at:


Her site asserts that [emphasis mine]: “Throughout her Senate career, Hillary has been an original cosponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would finally end employment discrimination against against gays, lesbians, AND TRANSGENDERED INDIVIDUALS.”


Edwards says on his site’s LGBT page, he was also an ENDA cosponsor while in the Senate, and “Workers should be judged by the quality of their performance, not their sexual orientation or gender identity.” That position is echoed in his multipage “Plan to Build One America.”


Strangely, the person cataloguing Obama’s positions on his official site suggests that he or she doesn’t understand what ENDA is when they wrote, “Obama believes the Employment Non-Discrimination Act should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity.” Huh? Without at least one, there IS no ENDA bill period. I don’t know if the same person was wrong about the stated limit of Obama’s support in Illinois when they wrote, “Obama sponsored legislation in the Illinois State Senate that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” but the final bill that passed included gender identity. As previously stated, there is no mention of LGBTs in any context in Obama’s “Blueprint for America.”

Source: http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/lgbt.pdf

Folks this election is too important for us to have the facts and our heads spun by the punditocracy and blogosqueers alone. Do a little research before you believe anything about anyone.

As a non-American, I know that some will feel that it's none of my business

Naw, there's room for everyone to join the discussion! *grins*

Michael, any thoughts on Kirbyjon Caldwell, another homophobic, ex-gay-is-the-way preacher who is endorsing Obama and will be campaigning with him?

Michael Bedwell | January 22, 2008 4:08 PM

Not certain which Michael you were addressing, Bil, but this Michael’s response to your question is that campaigns have to draw a line somewhere in how “pure” their lists of endorsements can reasonably be and I’m not immediately concerned that some homophobes made the cut. Bigotry is not a crime [should it be?], but Sen. Clinton returned contributions from Norman Hsu after he was indicted for cheating investors, et al., and Sen. Obama has donated to charity the most recent contributions connected to Antoin "Tony" Rezko, indicted on federal corruption charges. Either association could continue to be exploited by opponents, but Obama seems more vulnerable given that he also got money through Hsu [most of which has similarly been given to charity] and Rezko was involved in a sweetheart deal wherein Obama purchased his home allegedly below value; something the Senator himself has called a “boneheaded” mistake. As for this latest endorsement by a locally leading homophobe, until further developments [e.g., how much he's campaigning "for" him and how much "with" him], let’s just say Rev. Caldwell for Sen. Obama is no worse than Rev. Eddie Long for Sen. Clinton.

I’m more concerned, via your link, by the seemingly softening distinctions of contributor Pam Spaulding about the larger issues. Where she once seemed mighty pissed about McClurkingate, she now describes herself as “peeved.” Strangely echoing notorious gay conservative blogger [Partisan] Crain, she seems to suggest that it’s a good thing that so many homophobes are supporting Obama if that’s what it takes to get elected.

I agree with that ONLY in terms of any Democrat running would be better than any Republican running. Though future Supreme Court nominations and Iraq trump gay rights issues for me, I do hope to see the person elected who’s most likely to actually try to improve things for us and succeed to some degree. The more I pull back the curtain from Obama’s spoken and written rhetoric, the more I see a man who puts gay issues at the bottom of his list and doesn’t get that we can’t hug our way to equality, and no evidence that he has ever turned an antigay vote/voter around.

During the debate last night he apparently said that he believes “we can go after those folks and get them"—meaning convert religious homophobes.
I was reared an evangelical like Long and Meeks and McClurking, and later was briefly a “lay” Methodist minister [Caldwell’s denomination], so I am intimately familiar with how such people think—or don’t. Further, nothing I’ve seen suggests that Obama’s capable of love-bombing his way through that. However much they support HIM, there’s no evidence that even his close personal friend and “spiritual advisor,” Senator/Rev. Meeks, or Donnie McClurkin are any less homohating than they were before hearing that Obama disagreed with them. So far, Obama is 0-2.

Also, Pam, how do you “hear” that he was calling for an end to homophobia, Sunday? Replacing scorn for gays with “embracing” is, by itself, just more of the kind sweet talk he repeatedly serves like petit fours while the main dish involves other topics. Such rhetoric has already been coopted by the smarter leaders in the Antigay Industry. As you know, they call their phony “gay conversion” cash cow events, “Love Won Out.” They "hate the sin but love the sinner." Even Donny McClurkin said at the Obama event that he was no homophobe; he doesn’t hate anybody; he’s not against anyone’s rights. Of course, he added, to rapturous screams of approval, but “God delivered me from homosexuality.” And, again, you forget that he did NOT condemn homophobia during the Howard University debate but merely spoke of it in terms of being an obstacle to fighting HIV/AIDS. So is ignorance, but BIGOTRY is another thing, much more of a choice. And that fact is one of those things that should be included in those issues he brags about telling people what they need to hear not what they want to hear. And how could you forget that he destroyed even the good point he did make when he reinforced homophobia by making an issue out of not being tested for HIV with a man, to the uproarious laughter of that same black audience?

Thank you, Pam, for the images of the “”Committed Christian” flyers he’s distributing in South Carolina. But as much as his unfortunate use, yet again, of the buzzwords “their values” bothers me, is the fact that neither homophobia nor even the devastation by AIDS in the nongay black community are included in the list of which he says, “They’re aren’t just political issues they’re moral issues. Our conscience cannot rest.”

It follows that Bishop Gene Robinson is his only nationally known gay supporter, but every day convinces me more that Barack Obama is not ready to be President or Pope.