Barack Obama’s first major discourse on race, was prompted by controversy over inflammatory remarks by Obama’s African-American pastor in Chicago, the Rev Jeremiah Wright. It came at a moment when he was establishing a small lead over Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination, but when a misstep on so sensitive an issue might have doomed his chances.
On 18 March, 2008, in Philadelphia, Obama took sharp issue with Wright’s “incendiary” language, but explained it in the light of slavery and America’s anguished racial history.
He placed the problem in the context of his own background, son of a Kenyan father and a white Kansan mother. “I can no more disown him [Wright] than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me … but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed her on the street, and who … has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe. These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.”