Cornel West and Julianne Malveaux were recently on Tavis Smiley criticizing Barack Obama for not invoking Martin Luther King, Jr. or black issues during his DNC speech. They claimed he had dropped the historical baton that MLK had passed down and white-washed MLK’s dream. What they fail to understand is that, although he did not mention King more than twice, in all measures, he invoked his spirit and presence. Barack Obama made the conscious decision to have his speech on the 45th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” which itself is a reminder of and invocation of King. Obama didn’t need to remind the audience of his blackness or the fact that he was a continuation of the civil rights movement; his mere presence let the world know about that.
Barack Obama didn’t need to let people know he was an heir to Martin Luther King, Jr.; he showed he was the inheritor of MLK’s legacy in his voice and mannerisms, subject matter and spirit. In my opinion, Obama played Martin just as well as Denzel played Malcolm. He didn’t come to the DNC to talk to Black America; he came to the DNC to talk to America.
The issues Obama addressed were issues that Black people, White people, Latinos, Asians and all Americans dealt with: gas prices, the war in Iraq, foreclosed homes and healthcare. In order to win this race, Obama cannot be Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, a politician who brings Black issues to the mainstream; he has to bring American issues to the mainstream