From your Chicago Tribune:
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama declared the nation has failed to address a "quiet riot" of despair simmering in impoverished black neighborhoods across the country as he spoke Tuesday before one of the oldest and largest annual gatherings of African-American ministers.Even as a young half-wit hip-hop hillbilly, I understood that the Rodney King riots had little to do with Rodney King. Although I was disappointed that the nation (of millions) seemed to be shocked when the "quite riot" described by Sen. Obama turned inexcusably and self-defeatingly violent, I held out hope that our country would subsequently address the culture of hopelessness that festered in our underclass...
Obama offered an ominous portrait of hopelessness pervading many inner-city neighborhoods and its potential to erupt into uncontrolled violence, along with a call to the rest of society for a more determined effort to reduce pockets of endemic poverty.
The Illinois senator described the street corners of ghettos around the country as gathering places for "young men and women without hope, without miracles and without a sense of destiny other than life on the edge -- the edge of the law, the edge of the economy, the edge of family structures and communities." ***
Obama called the Bush administration's slow response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans a metaphor for neglect of poverty-stricken communities. And he repeatedly referred to the Los Angeles riots that broke out 15 years ago after a jury acquitted white police officers of assault charges in the videotaped beating of African-American motorist Rodney King. ***
"Those riots didn't erupt overnight;" Obama said in his speech at the university's Convocation Center in Hampton, Va. "There had been a 'quiet riot' building up in Los Angeles and across the country."
He said that violence is "inexcusable and self-defeating." But, he added, many of the same frustrations continue to build in black America, stoked by poor schools, bad housing, and inadequate job opportunities.
"Those 'quiet riots' that take place every day are born from the same place as the fires and the destruction and the police decked out in riot gear and the deaths," Obama said. "They happen when a sense of disconnect settles in and hope dissipates. Despair takes hold and young people ... believe that things are never going to get any better."
Well, I told you I was a half-wit.
But instead, we subsequently comforted ourselves with the apparent prosperity of the Clinton years and deluded ourselves that the blossoming of the internet was a techno-miracle that would empower even the lowliest Americans. America willfully ignored the fact that those who had been shut out of opportunity in the previous economy were shut out of the globalized new economy.
I'm still too half-witted -- three-quarters-witted? -- to propose a comprehensive answer to the problems of the underclass, but I feel confident that Sen. Obama and John Edwards are taking the necessary first step by identifying this problem.
Update: Lynn Sweet of your Chicago Sun-Times has posted the full transcript of Sen. Obama's speech to the Hampton University Annual Ministers’ Conference.