But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country — a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.
As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems — two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.
And Obama’s answer is that the State must have more money from Black, White, Latino, and Asian money in order to fix these ‘problems.’ Socialism, Socialism, Socialism — as seen in the need for the government to fix health care, climate change and a falling economy.
Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way
My racist hate filled pastor has a good side that nobody else is seeing.
But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth — by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
Clearly the Christian faith here is being equated with the Social Gospel which is not the Christian faith.
Also, Obama keeps talking about Wright lecturing at Universities and seminaries. I don’t get what difference that makes to any of this. It is not impossible for Academics to be racist.
The point here for Obama is that Rev. Wright ought to be excused his jeremiads against white folk because he has done some good things that even that out.
In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:
People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters. And in that single note — hope! — I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories of survival, and freedom, and hope — became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about — memories that all people might study and cherish and with which we could start to rebuild.
But understand dear reader that for Rev. Wright, Goliath turned into modern day White people, and Pharaoh turned into modern day white oppressors and White folk were the lions in the lion’s den trying to eat Daniel, and field of dry bones that came together formed a black national body. The blood that was spilled was spilled by white people according to Rev. Wright.
For Rev. Wright the famous idea of the anti-thesis doesn’t lie between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman but rather it lies between the seed of the serpent which is white people and the seed of the woman which is black people.
This is not the Gospel. The Gospel does not divide black Christians from White Christians.
That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety — the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.
“You cannot denounce Rev. Wright unless you understand the whole context of the Black Church and if you understand the whole context of the Black Church you will see that his words aren’t that big of a deal.”
I can no more disown him 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, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
Moral equivalence on steroids. Obama is suggesting that his white grandmother was just as bad as Rev. Wright. Obama throws his white grandmother under the bus in order to rescue his pastor.
I seriously doubt that Obama’s grandma said anything that approached the venom of what Wright has said.
Also note, that Obama couldn’t choose his grandmother and odds are that when grandma said these things Obama couldn’t leave grandma since she was raising him. However Obama chose his pastor and he could have left when he heard this vitriol.
Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.
But Grandma said things that are simply inexcusable also as he just said. Also, the moral equivalence is on display again with equating of Wright with Ferraro. Comparing what Wright said to what Ferarro said is like comparing a acetylene torch to a flashlight. It’s just not anywhere near the same.
But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.
Rev. Wright must be understood in his fuller context. It is not fair to judge Rev. Wright according to his own words.
The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through — a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.
Who is the ‘We’? By including the idea of ‘we’ Obama is again suggesting moral equivalence between what Wright has said and what Obama presumes to be the case in white communities everywhere. Are there White people like Rev. Wright — Absolutely — and they are people who likewise have their good sides. But I guarantee you that no White politician who wanted to be elected to dog catcher would have anything to do with such people. Yet, Barack is asking White America to give his association with Wright a pass.
By the way, not being able to solve the challenges might be the best thing for this country since Obama desires to fix what’s wrong by Socialistic means.
Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.
Obama again brings up White racism to cover for Wright’s black racism. Once again the implicit argument is that, “Johnny did it first.” Naturally if Johnny did it first we cannot fault Jeremiah for doing it back. Everybody knows that two wrongs make a Wright.
Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.
And when solutions like vouchers are given to solve this problem Democratic Liberals, like Obama, vote and ajudicate against them. Also statistics suggest that the achievement gap between black and white students in academics was considerably less then it is fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education. What does that tell us?
Legalized discrimination – where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments — meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.
More excusing Wright for his comments by indicting White America.
This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.
But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it — those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations — those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.
And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.
Let’s be honest. One of the main reasons that real change is not brought about on this issue is because this issue is profitable for race pimps like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Jeremiah Wright. They don’t want the problem to go away because if the problem went away their financial windfall would dry up. They profit out of fanning resentment, and by fanning that resentment they keep alive the inability for the larger community to see its own complicity in their condition.
In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience — as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.
You white people are just as angry as Jeremiah Wright, and so therefore you should have a little understanding and cut Rev. Wright some slack. Moral equivalence again.
Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.
Which being interpreted means,
“We know you white people are talking racist when you’re behind closed doors, just like Rev Wright. Indeed, so deep has that bigotry been that you white people elected a racist President because of bigotry.
And that Willie Horton add that defeated Dukakis in 1988 was just a high brow white version of what Rev. Wright said in his sermons.
And oh yeah … talk radio in America is likewise coded Rev. Wright language which is tantamount to the same kind of speaking.
Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze — a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns — this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.
Shift in tactics in this paragraph.
Barack needs white and black voters to rally together against a common enemy. That common enemy is Corporate America. Typical Marxist class warfare. Actually, though, tactically speaking it is a brilliant move. Obama seeks to transcend the race issue by referring back to the class issue. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naive as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy — particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.
Moral equivalence again. We are all in this racial stalemate. Rev. Wright is no different then everybody else.
But I have asserted a firm conviction — a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people — that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.
With this statement Obama made his candidacy about race. Obama is running on the platform of being the race healer. Does the Democratic party really want a candidate who will run as the race healer?