One of Obama's goals in this speech, he writes, was "to strip his speech of customary euphemisms." This is necessary, according to Caldwell, because those euphemisms obscure intentions and deflect criticisms. But the dangerous euphemisms come from the white people in the power structure, which does not foster trust between the races:
If the historic enemies of your people suddenly began talking about you in what can fairly be called a secret code, how inclined would you be to trust in their protestations of generosity?
Kudos to Caldwell for pointing out in a newspaper like the Financial Times what almost any postmodern academic would take as obvious: one of the purposes of the language of the power structure is to perpetuate that power structure. Barack Obama knows that as well as anybody. It is part of his genius ability as a politician that he can break through the obfuscation that has defined discussion of race in this country for so long. He is rewarded, thank God, in part by an honest and appreciative appraisal from someone who has very little in common with him ideologically. What they do have in common is an interest in moving forward:
This is the core of the problem Mr Obama aims to address. Bringing subterranean racial narratives into the light of day, where they can be debated openly, is a risk. Although the early news coverage of his speech has been positive, polls appear show that what Americans most want from Mr Obama is a simple demonstration that he is not like Rev Wright.
That is not exactly what they got. But they did get something better: the offer of a more intimate relationship among the races, a less instrumental use of them by US politicians and a breaking of the monopoly on interracial dialogue that has until now been held by elite censors. Americans ought to take him up on it.
The power of ideas. Sometimes it is a slow power, sometimes subtlety takes a long time to work. But work it does.