The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama's Reverend Wright

The recent flap over Reverend Wright is sad, and understandable. Questioning Obama's judgement in attending the church is reasonable. One might wonder:
1) Did he agree with Wright?
2) Didn't he have enough sense to know this would come back to haunt him?
3) Why was he attending a church where such attitudes existed?

These are reasonable, as I said. I would suggest that, were I Obama, based on what I have heard and read, my answers would be as follows:
1) No, I don't agree. But I understand his emotions, and they reflect the emotions of many blacks who consider themselves disenfranchised.
2) I don't make decisions in my personal life based upon their political impact.
3) One goes to church not for what you can get, but what you can give. If this is a congregation carrying such wounds that this rhetoric was an undercurrent, they need people like me to balance and contribute. Leaving would be self-serving: this is my community.
##
I have heard multiple people express that they simply can't understand the emotions expressed. Note that AGREEING with them, or APPROVING of them, is very different from UNDERSTANDING them.
If you can't understand them, my personal position is:
1) You are in denial about the historical status and treatment of blacks in America.
2) You are in denial about the way human beings process negative emotions.

In other words, in some way you have concluded that black people are behaving in a different manner than whites would, given the same set of historical circumstances. Fine--you have that right. But you should state it clearly, so that we know where you are coming from. Here are some comments I heard during the last 24 period...

1) Q: Slavery happened hundreds of years ago. Why don't they just get over it?
A: Ah...this one is so blind it's hard even to work through it. SLAVERY ended about 150 years ago. Jim Crow lasted until the 40's, segregation didn't break down until the 60's. That means that the majority of black people were raised by parents and grandparents who grew up in an America where they were second-class citizens.

2) Q: But it's over NOW! Why can't they get over it.
A: Right. People just "get over" the things that happened to them in childhood, and cultures forget their past. This is why we celebrate the birth and death of a Jewish carpenter thousands of years ago, why Jews celebrate Passover, why people raised during the Depression horde money, why countless people struggle through therapy trying to deal with abuse in their formative years. Clearly, cultures and human beings have a memory for things that happened to them. "Those who do not remember their history are doomed to repeat it." However painful it may be to remember, that cultural/genetic memory has a survival value.

3) Q: "God should Damn America"? How can you excuse that?
A: I don't. I UNDERSTAND it. There's a difference. That is a vomiting-up of centuries of pain and hurt, when saying something like that would get a black man KILLED. You can suppress that pain, but you can't destroy it. It has to be vented and processed.

4)Q: How do we know Obama doesn't feel the same way?
A: We don't, any more than we can "know" anything about what another human being feels. But if we take people at their words, and their words and actions, over time, tend to be in alignment, we can give the benefit of the doubt. His books detail a fantastic struggle toward self-discovery, one that resonated. I don't believe he was "faking" all of that, lying about it. What seems to be true is that Obama has worked through a fantastic amount of this pain, more than most white people can believe exists within blacks as a result of our time here. He has, for instance, worked through more of it than his wife Michelle. And certainly more than Reverend Wright. If he turns his back on every black person who expresses anger, he would have to associate with no black people at all. And if he had to associate with no PEOPLE who express anger, he would have no associates at all.

5)Q: What does Reverend Wright (or Michelle Obama, or Spike Lee or other black folks) have to be upset about? He/She/They are doing great!
A: So...if you're doing fine, but your sister is being raped next door, you should be cool with that? If you're fine, but your brother has been robbed and beaten, you'd be happy? Of course not. So when individual black people are rich and successful, being confused about that anger implies to me a lack of extending your own humanity to them. You might disagree that things are "bad", but you should grasp clearly that, if they believe things are "bad", they are likely to be upset.

6)Q: Why are they so angry?
A: Anger is a mask over fear. Ask rather: what do they have to be afraid of? Look at incarceration rates, violent death statistics, and so forth. Look at a history of lynching and all-white juries. YES! Many things have changed. But human beings have long, ugly memories. It takes generations to heal. When 90% of the black people born before 1960 are dead, I think we'll be pretty much past it. Like white racism will be a marginalized issue by the time 90% of the white people born before 1950 are dead. Nothing personal.

7)Q: But are you blaming black-on-black crime, teen pregnancy, and drug addiction on white people?
A: No. I am saying that the disproportionate statistics regarding these things is the result of differential history and social disruption. This was created by slavery and the subsequent century of oppression, yes. But black people must take responsibility for their communities and actions. This is VERY similar to the fact that, yes, child abuse can produce emotional dysfunction leading to obesity, but it is the responsibility of the individual to heal themselves and get on with life. I have seen absolutely nothing from white people to impress me that they would have done a whit better under the same circumstances.

8) Q: But are you saying America is a terrible country?
A: Me personally? Hell, no! America is great! From my point of view, arguably the best country in the history of the world. But Americans are still the same jealous, bigoted, fearful human beings you find anywhere else, and you'd better believe that they can do terrible things and then say "who, me?" just like everyone else. The more you've traveled, the more you study history and psychology, the more you realize that all of this crap is just the pale side of human nature. If this is your only frame of reference, you blame America, believing that there is some mythical land of equality and plenty where these things would never happen. But blacks are hardly the only group that pulls this crap: women say "in this sexist culture." AARP says "In this youth-obsessed culture," the unbeautiful complain about "in this superficial culture" and so on. As if the rest of the world is better. It's roughly equivalent to screaming that your parents are "the worst in the world" when you are a testy teen. People talk that way. It's B.S., but that's what they do.

9) Q: But black immigrants come over here and do better than American blacks. Doesn't that prove America isn't racist, and that American blacks are, well...confused?
A: Well, yeah, they're confused. And while it's our responsibility to get un-confused, it ain't our fault. Immigrants of ALL kinds do better than natural born American citizens, on the average. And the further they come from, the better they do. Takes more energy and resources to get here--they tend to be above-average in the first place. In the second place, they tend to see America as the promised land, they hold that mythology, and hit the sidewalks ready to go. And they carry with them their cultural rules for success. The descendants of slaves are NOT immigrants. People like Michael Savage routinely seem to forget this. We had our names, religion, lands, culture,leaders, personal power and language stripped away. What was left was a computer waiting for a program, and the program loaded into our memories was called "Three Quarters of a Human being." We were domesticated, like turning a wolf into a dog. Any who resisted domestication were tortured or killed. Then after three hundred years of brainwashing, we were turned loose with few resources and no compensation, into a hostile culture where even NICE white people tended to think we were...a little slow.

I council white people every week whose damaged and conflicted programming has resulted in obesity, drug addiction, trashed marriages, homelessness, and far more. We are awesomely vulnerable to that early programming. To be quite honest, I HAVE to believe that people who ask these questions have an underlying assumption: black people are different. If they DIDN'T have that preassumption, they would be forced to ask: "under what circumstances would good, intelligent white people feel and behave in the same fashion?" To tell you the truth, in my experience, Liberals tend to ask "how are conditions different for black people" , and Conservatives tend to ask "how are black people different from us?" I'm just sayin'.



Reverend Wright is damaged goods. But I know a thousand Reverend Wrights. My family contains "Reverend Wrights": good, intelligent people who grew up being told to love a country which, rather obviously, did NOT love them as much as it loved its fair-haired, blue-eyed children. If you grew up in a family where YOU BELIEVED your parents lavished affection on one sibling while beating or depriving or denigrating you...how did it feel? What did it do to your life?

Extrapolate that out to cultures, and sub-cultures, and you may understand Reverend Wright's rantings a bit better. Accurate? I think not. Understandable? Absolutely. And I honor Obama's refusal to throw him under the bus. And do NOT think it was "bad judgement" to attend a church where, obviously, Obama's presence would have been a healing influence. Bad judgement politically? Quite possibly.

I, for one, am glad that politics weren't the most important thing to Barack. Makes me happier to vote for him.

52 comments:

Anonymous said...

Steve:
I think this post pretty much hits the nail on the head. It think it even says it better than Obama's speech yesterday.

Marty S

suzanne said...

good one, steve
though I can't agree with Marty that its better than Obama's speech
as the purpose served is different

I have been watching videos
and reading blogs and comments
and many folks seem to either think
this will get him the nomination
or it kills him
the latter view taken
by the usual suspects

the commentary by other black ministers
I'd think
would be instructive for those folks
who've never been in a black church

huckabee's reaction
"[Y]ou can't hold the candidate responsible for everything that people around him may say or do. It's interesting to me that there are some people on the left who are having to be very uncomfortable with what ... Wright said, when they all were all over a Jerry Falwell, or anyone on the right who said things that they found very awkward and uncomfortable, years ago. Many times those were statements lifted out of the context of a larger sermon. Sermons, after all, are rarely written word for word by pastors like Rev. Wright, who are delivering them extemporaneously, and caught up in the emotion of the moment. There are things that sometimes get said, that if you put them on paper and looked at them in print, you'd say 'Well, I didn't mean to say it quite like that...

As easy as it is for those of us who are white to look back and say 'That's a terrible statement!' ... I grew up in a very segregated South. And I think that you have to cut some slack — and I'm gonna be probably the only conservative in America who's gonna say something like this, but I'm just tellin' you — we've gotta cut some slack to people who grew up being called names..."

was refreshing
but his end point caused me to think
"if only it had been just about name calling"

though I find most whitefolks
have no idea how damaging
the name calling can be
on a daily basis;
how it can erode the soul

one of the many ironies
reading hundreds and hundreds of comments to blog articles
and videos
is comparing the eloquence of Obama (and others about him)
with the yahoos who can;t even write and punctuate
the language decently
never mind being logical.

but then there are the Pat Buchanans
sheessshhhhh!
this is "race baiting"?

AF1 said...

On one side you have Democrats calling this possibly the greatest political speech ever.

And on the other side you have Fox News broadcasting all day about how poor the speech was, and that Obama's candidacy is doomed.

Politics as usual it would seem.

Mike Ralls said...

I think its important to point out, when trying to understand a politicians motives, that being a member of that church did not hurt Obama until he reached the national stage, and in fact it was a help to him through most of it. Ask yourself this question; as a young man in the 1980s out to make a political career in Chicago would it have been better for Obama to have voters identify him as a black Christian or would it have been better to have voters think of him as an atheist biracial transcultural Hawaiian?

Now do I think that Obama's conversion was completely political? Well, probably not but I do always keep in mind that politicians are . . . politicians. They do a _lot_ of things for political purposes. Thats their job. And I do not think that Obama chose the church he did completely free from political considerations. That church was a big help for him in his early career, and I do not see that as being a coincidence.

Anonymous said...

I have heard both those singing the praises of the speech and those particularly on FOX, who questioned whether it really answered the questions raised in the light of Rev. Wright's sermons. To some extent I think both sides are right. There is no doubt that Obama gave a great speech.He is a wonderful orator and he said pretty much all the right things. But for days he said other things, like denying he was in the pews when controversial sermons were given. This struck me as disingenuous. I belonged to New City Jewish Center for 23 years. I attended services less than 5 times year, but absolutely knew the rabbi's political leanings from discussions with other members of the congregation. What Obama said in the speech was to some extent a compendium of all those things that commentators were saying he should have said in the days prior to the speech. So those who aren't ardent Obama supporters might legitimately view the speech as something that was simply a politically astute speech, crafted by a gifted speech writer and delivered by a gifted speaker.

I know a person, who usually votes democratic, but some times votes republican. She voted for Obama in the Florida primary, but said after hearing the Rev. Wright tapes she would vote for Hilary if there were a new vote. I will be curious the next time my wife speaks to her whom she would now vote for. I think what FOX was questioning was did the speech win back exactly this type of voter.

Marty S

suzanne said...

the remainder of Huckabee's comment

We've gotta cut some slack to people who grew up being called names; being told you have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie; you have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant; you can't sit out there with everyone else, there's a separate waiting room in the doctor's office; here's where you sit on the bus .. . And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder, and resentment, and you have to just say, "I probably would, too. I probably would, too. And in fact, I may have had more of a chip on my shoulder had it been me."

Frank said...

Steve Barnes

Reverend Wright is damaged goods. But I know a thousand Reverend Wrights.

I'm sorry, but this is disturbing news. While I am sure there are analogs in White churches, I have never been to such a church and I don't know any White analogs of Rev Wright, let alone thousands.

I have never, ever heard a preacher rant against any race, and I would be truly shocked if I did. Of course one must consider that the totality of my church-going was in Catholic Churches and the occasional soup kitchen when I required their services. And I have not been to religious service in many years outside of the occasional wedding or baptism.

I am afraid that this type of defense may be giving America a glimpse at something it for sure didn't know existed and while it may very well be good for race-relations in the long run, I simply can not imagine that it will be good for Obama now.

And there is an elephant in this room that I dare not name, lest it be invoked.

Steven Barnes said...

I don't mean that they are all Reverends, Frank. Or all black. I mean they are human beings who vent offensively due to fear and anger.

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Dan Gambiera said...

I'll take this stuff seriously about the time that Clinton denounces Ferraro or John McCain gives as good a speech on Hagee's irrationality.

It's just a matter of setting the bar high enough so that nobody could jump it, then loudly trumpeting the news when Obama can't clear the hurdle.

Anonymous said...

"1) Q: Slavery happened hundreds of years ago. Why don't they just get over it?
"A: Ah...this one is so blind it's hard even to work through it. SLAVERY ended about 150 years ago."

...and *this* is why the BBC can say "slavery" but in America we seem to have to say "human trafficking," even if we're talking about forced labor instead of kidnapping and we're talking about victims who are exploited where they were born, when we want to discuss modern-day slavery without having people think "it stopped in 1865" and tune out. Slavery didn't *end* in the U.S. about 150 years ago, it just got outlawed.

"5)Q: What does Reverend Wright (or Michelle Obama, or Spike Lee or other black folks) have to be upset about? He/She/They are doing great!
"A: So...if you're doing fine, but your sister is being raped next door, you should be cool with that? If you're fine, but your brother has been robbed and beaten, you'd be happy? Of course not. So when individual black people are rich and successful, being confused about that anger implies to me a lack of extending your own humanity to them."

Yeah. Maybe another response could be "They're upset about the bad stuff happening to other people - just like you should be upset too"?

"7)Q: But are you blaming black-on-black crime, teen pregnancy, and drug addiction on white people?
"A: No. I am saying that the disproportionate statistics regarding these things is the result of differential history and social disruption. This was created by slavery and the subsequent century of oppression, yes. But black people must take responsibility for their communities and actions. This is VERY similar to the fact that, yes, child abuse can produce emotional dysfunction leading to obesity, but it is the responsibility of the individual to heal themselves and get on with life."

Simuilar, and very different in an important way too. Comparing black-on-black violence after Jim Crow to overeating after child abuse reminds me of victim-blaming. In the overeating case, the overeater's putting the excess food in his or her own body. In black-on-black violence, someone's attacking someone *else*.

"9) Q: But black immigrants come over here and do better than American blacks. Doesn't that prove America isn't racist, and that American blacks are, well...confused?
"A: Well, yeah, they're confused."

Oh, *everyone's* confused.

"The descendants of slaves are NOT immigrants."

For that matter, we descendants of immigrants are not immigrants either. I'm reminded of one of the generation gap-like things in some families, which pretty much goes "we have it Good here because we're better off than in our homeland!" vs. "we have it Bad here because we're discriminated against!" vs. "why are you arguing? you're both right!"

This seems to go double when the immigrant parents aren't native speakers of their new home's lingua franca and the local-born kids are native speakers of it. Hearing/seeing stuff in one of your native languages can have more emotional impact, hearing/seeing stuff in a foreign language has less emotional impact once you decode it, overheard stuff is easier to tune out together and sinks in less, etc. (for example, while the daughter may overhear and be hurt by "he's a bearded lady" the mother may just overhear and dismiss "mumble mumble"...).

Anonymous said...

I hear what many of you on this blog say about black anger, and the history that has led to it I know that although things have improved for blacks in the U.S. that it is still difficult to be black here. The question is how does this anger help. If we pass this anger on from generation to generation how do we ever get to a post-racial society. We can legislate against discrimination, but we can’t legislate a post-racial society. Back in the fifties when I was just kid I saw the racism around me and thought it was wrong. I didn’t know what could be done about it so I decided that I would do the only thing I could. When I had children I would make sure that they didn’t hear any racist comments in the house. That I would raise them to see everybody as the same. I still believe this is the ultimate solution. We must raise each generation to be less prejudice than the last until racism fades away. This is why I have a problem with Rev. Wright and those who chose to attended his church and listened to his angry statements. If they brought their children to this church they were passing the anger on to the next generation and delaying the process of healing and coming together.

Marty S

Nancy Lebovitz said...

I'm wondering how Reverend Wright is going to take this, both because he's in a very challenging situation now, and because his reaction may have some effect on the election.

mjholt said...

Well said, Steve.

I think that the pundunces have lost things to complain about, so they attack his former minister. Wrong, pitiful, and sick.

mjholt

Anonymous said...

Well, at least one conservative was impressed.

The conservative's name? Charles Murray.

Yep, that Charles Murray.

Methinks that Obama just might have a bit of staying power in this rollercoaster of an election...


--Erich Schwarz

Steven Barnes said...

"Comparing black-on-black violence after Jim Crow to overeating after child abuse reminds me of victim-blaming. In the overeating case, the overeater's putting the excess food in his or her own body. In black-on-black violence, someone's attacking someone *else*."

Victim blaming, no. Telling people that they must be responsible for change, yes. I know how hard this sounds. It isn't for lack of caring. Its from understanding that if you're going to have any prayer of your life working out, you must take responsibility. NOT guilt, blame, or shame. Big difference. I'm jumping levels here, from psychology (conflicted behavior within a person) to sociology (conflict interaction between two or more).

Lester Spence said...

"I have never, ever heard a preacher rant against any race, and I would be truly shocked if I did. Of course one must consider that the totality of my church-going was in Catholic Churches and the occasional soup kitchen when I required their services. And I have not been to religious service in many years outside of the occasional wedding or baptism."

Frank I've listened to the soundbites, and I didn't hear him vent against any race. I heard him vent against racism and against America. And he's undoubtedly vented against white racism. But whites? I know of a few ministers who've done this, but Wright does not appear to be one of them. There are quotes that I am probably missing. If you could provide one or two I could give you a bit more context.

Anonymous said...

Lester his comments on Zionist terrorists may not be racist since Judaism is a religion not a race, but it certainly falls in the same category.

Marty S

Anonymous said...

Frank: "I have never, ever heard a preacher rant against any race, and I would be truly shocked if I did."

Frank, I must say you have not impressed me as a clear thinker. At the moment you seem like thousands of other unthinking whites who take their cues from talk show hosts.

You are suggesting that Reverend Wright gave racist rants. What is your evidence, other than what some white conservatives are repeating endlessly?

What did Reverend Wright say exactly that was so controversial? And is it as racist as they claim?

On 9/11: "The stuff we have done overseas is brought right back into our homes." Some may wish to believe that America is the blameless victim, and it's completely the fault of religious zealots who "hate our freedom." They have their heads buried in sand. Wright is AT LEAST PARTLY RIGHT in pointing out the causal relationship of United States foreign policy. Is this racist? Absolutely not.

He said: "people of color had not gone away, faded into the woodwork or just disappeared as the Great White West went on its merry way of ignoring Black concerns." This can certainly be seen as a cry for justice. Is it a racist rant? No, not really.

"The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color." Here we see the Reverend has subscribed to a conspiracy theory in a rather gullible fashion. He is wrong. Perhaps he does not wish to acknowledge the African origin of the HIV virus. But is this racist? No, it is not. He targets the government, not target any particular race. Your suggestion of racism would only be valid if you automatically assume "the government" is entirely composed of oppressive whites. Does that represent reality? No. Although the United States government may be whiter than it should be, it ain't all white and hasn't been for many, many years. The government is almost as diverse as the people it governs. So, again, no racism.

I have spoken to whites who feel blacks are, as Steve said, "a little slow." In other words, they have a deep-seated conviction that blacks cannot think as well as they can. Now THAT would be racist. Hope you are beginning to see the difference.

Lester Spence said...

"Lester his comments on Zionist terrorists may not be racist since Judaism is a religion not a race, but it certainly falls in the same category."

How?

Anonymous said...

Lester asks how? The answer is bigotry is bigotry whether its racist, religious, anti-gay etc.

Marty S

Josh Jasper said...

The Politico blog has another example of people trying to make Obama into some sort of black militant here.

They made a video, and interspersed clips of the 1968 Olympics when Smith and Carlos gave the Black Power salute. They threw in clips of Malcom X.

This is just the beginning. If he gets the nomination, people are going to put out much much worse, and happen more frequently.

Lester Spence said...

Marty can you be more specific?

"I condemn Zionist terrorism."

"I condemn conservative terrorism."

"I condemn black nationalist terrorism."

"I condemn white supremacist terrorism."

"I condemn radical islamic terrorism."

Are these statements all the same to you? If not, what makes them different? Be as specific as you can be.

Lynn said...

Addressing the question, "Why don't they just get over it?"... This is just my (probably narrow) perspective but it seemed to me that in the 70's people were starting to get over it. Then in the 80's and 90's race started being an issue again.

In the 70s everyone was supposed to be colorblind but later a lot of black people started saying they didn't want us to be colorblind. They actually wanted race to be an issue. This is confusing for a lot of people my age and older. While I try to listen and understand I still haven't been able to completely give up the idea that colorblind is the right way to be.

Now I it occurs to me that colorblindness is right but that the 70's might have been too soon for it. It was like sweeping dirt under the rug instead of really cleaning it out. Maybe if enough people put aside their anger and talk about what's bothering them and listen to what other people are saying, maybe the 10's or at least the 20's can be the right time for colorblindness.

Anonymous said...

Marty S,

I think "anymous," above, squarely addresses your point about bigotry when he or she says: "On 9/11: 'The stuff we have done overseas is brought right back into our homes.' Some may wish to believe that America is the blameless victim, and it's completely the fault of religious zealots who 'hate our freedom.' They have their heads buried in sand. Wright is AT LEAST PARTLY RIGHT in pointing out the causal relationship of United States foreign policy. Is this racist? Absolutely not."
Neither is it bigoted. It's just the truth. Much as we all may hate to admit it, this nation's policy of supporting leaders who oppress their people (in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, etc.) when that is in our short-term national interest is one of the things that generated the desperation and unreasoning hatred that resulted in 9/11. I love this nation with all of my heart. I have even served in her armed forces. Yet, I am not blind to her faults.

Mario G.

Anonymous said...

Lester first lets start by comparing black nationalist terrorism with nigger terrorism. As blacks know there code words and phrases that reflect attitudes of an individual. Second of all, terrorism is to some extent in the eye of the beholder. The British probably viewed the colonists who dumped tea in the harbor and who fired at British soldiers from behind trees as terrorists. My personal definition of terrorism has to do with the type of act. Al-Quida may be labeled a terrorist group and when they knock down the world trade center or blow up a school bus they are acting as such. When they attack U.S. soldiers in Iraq they are acting as insurgents, rebels but not terrorists.

Also if I get angry when someone refers to Zionist terrorists lets put it in historical context like we do for Rev. Wright. Lets add up all the blacks in the U.S. since 1776 who were lynched or executed for crimes that white people would not have been executed for. I bet it wouldn't add up to six million. Oh and believe it or not both my wife and I were told during our job hunting days not to apply to certain companies, because they didn't hire jews.

Marty S

Mike Ralls said...

Hey Steve,

We've talked about race and tipping before, but someone has actually done a quantitative study on it.

Here is the key finding;

"1. African-American cab drivers, on average, were tipped approximately one-third less than white cab drivers.

2. African-American and Hispanic passengers tipped approximately one-half the amount white passengers tipped.

African-American passengers also seemed to participate in the racial discrimination against African-American drivers. While African-American passengers generally tipped less, on average they also tipped black drivers approximately one-third less than they tipped white drivers.

.
.
.
.
But we only succeeded in completing 10 audit rides with participating drivers — so at the end of the day, it was difficult for us to assess whether minorities received poorer tips because of providing poorer service. "

http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/20/the-racial-tipping-point/

Thoughts?

Cheers,
Mike

Mike Ralls said...

>9) Q: But black immigrants come over here and do better than American blacks. Doesn't that prove America isn't racist, and that American blacks are, well...confused?
A: Well, yeah, they're confused. And while it's our responsibility to get un-confused, it ain't our fault. Immigrants of ALL kinds do better than natural born American citizens, on the average.<

Then the real comparison should be: Do immigrants from Africa, once adjusted for education levels, do worse, better, or the same as immigrants from Europe? That would seem to be a perfect test to see how America rewards people with dark skin in comparison with how it rewards people with light skin. Any big flaws you see in that test?

Frank said...

Lester Spence

Frank I've listened to the soundbites, and I didn't hear him vent against any race.

Well what do you think he means when he says "Black men turning on black men- That is fighting the wrong enemy." Who is "the enemy?"

In his paper "The Message" from 2006 he wrote

I have been teaching graduate school (since 1975), I have tried to get my students to understand that one of the tragedies about the whole “integration era” was that African Americans did not understand what integration meant. Integration means the coming together of equals to the table.

Whites, in a culture of white supremacy, however, did not view us as equals and still do not view us as equals; so nothing from our Black or African experience was ever allowed at the table of “integration,” much less invited or asked to be brought to the table.

Looking back, I saw very early on that many African Americans meant assimilation and acculturation when they used the word “integration.” To integrate, however, does not mean to assimilate or to acculturate!


So what does that mean: "Whites"? All whites?

I don't know. Perhaps that's not racist. What I do know is that when I have gone to church I have never heard the preacher say "Blacks, in a culture of Black Depravity do not view us and still do not view us as equals, they view us as victims; as prey."

That would simply be shocking. And if I ever went to Reverend Wright's church and heard these things, I would be feeling a bit uncomfortable: you know, out of place; not welcome.

Angie said...

Frank -- I am afraid that this type of defense may be giving America a glimpse at something it for sure didn't know existed and while it may very well be good for race-relations in the long run, I simply can not imagine that it will be good for Obama now.

It looks to me as though you're equating white Americans with "America," which is problematic in and of itself. People of color, who are also part of "America," have been very much aware that this existed all along.

I do agree with you, though, that this does need to be examined. Until we all take a good, hard look at the elephant of racism, and talk about it and work together to get it slaughtered and the carcass hauled out of the room, we're not going to make any progress on this subject. (And it's kind of cramping the furniture.)

It might be more comfortable for white Americans --of which I'm one, just as a data point-- to ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist, but that's not how problems get solved.

Angie

Frank said...

Angie

It looks to me as though you're equating white Americans with "America,".

Why do you say that? Are you thinking that simply because an Asian individually, or an Hispanic, or an American Indian is not White they won't be offended by the Rev Wright?

That does not seem reasonable.

Angie said...

Frank -- no, I was referring to the idea that "America" wasn't aware that racism was an issue. Anyone of any race can be offended or sad or impatient with what Rev. Wright had to say, or understand him or agree with him or think he has a point even if he stated it very strongly. But it seems to me that it'd be extremely unlikely that anyone who wasn't white could possibly have lived in this country for more than a very short time without being aware that this is an issue and that there are many people who take it seriously and are even angry about it. The fact that so many white Americans appear not to know this sort of strong feeling exists is, I think, part of the problem.

Angie

Frank said...

Angie

Frank -- no, I was referring to the idea that "America" wasn't aware that racism was an issue.

I'm sorry I didn't make my self clear. I wasn't saying that America isn't aware that racism is an issue. I believe that they clearly believe it is. When I said

I am afraid that this type of defense may be giving America a glimpse at something it for sure didn't know existed

I was referring to the defense that Reverend Wright's views were typical of what is being expressed in Black churches.

I am quite sure that this would take most Americans by surprise.

Barack Obama's refusal to completely sever his ties with Reverend Wright leads people to ask why. And one conclusion that a reasonable person could come to is that to do so would leave him open to criticism within the Black community. And that leads to the speculation that that's because such views are more widespread than most Americans would have assumed.

Steve's statement that he knows "thousands of Rev Wright's" even if he did not mean that all of these "thousands" are not ministers, seems to confirm this suspicion and is disturbing in this light.

And heartbreaking.

Angie said...

Frank -- ahh, I misunderstood you, then. My apologies.

Another blogger (and I'm sorry I can't remember which one) pointed out that being angry at racism and bigotry, and being angry about the way black people have been treated here since before the country was founded, isn't the same as feeling hatred for the country, or for the white people who live here. Rev. Wright expressed himself very strongly, but I can unfortunately understand why he might feel that way, and why many other people of color in this country might feel the same.

I agree with Steve that while this is politically sticky, it's also the way things are and that it'd be much less... less admirable, I think, if Mr. Obama had just backed off and told Rev. Wright, essentially, "You suck and I'm leaving," to earn some political brownie points. The Rev. Wrights of the nation are Americans too and are a product of our society as much as anyone else. A plan for bringing us all together has to include them.

It sounds like Mr. Obama doesn't agree with Rev. Wright, which satisfies me about his ability to do a good job representing the larger group. But it also sounds like he understands Rev. Wright, which is also necessary if he wants to work on clearing out the mess.

Angie

Dan Moran said...

Frank,

"I was referring to the defense that Reverend Wright's views were typical of what is being expressed in Black churches."

I don't think they're typical, but I don't think they're that rare, either, for most religious groups -- it's been 20+ years since I've been in a black church, but then, it's been 20+ years since I've been in any church. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson all but said America deserved 9/11 for tolerating gays and feminists --

Then Falwell said, "What we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be miniscule if, in fact, God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve."

Robertson replied, "Well, Jerry, that's my feeling. I think we've just seen the antechamber to terror, we haven't begun to see what they can do to the major population."

Falwell said, "The ACLU has got to take a lot of blame for this. And I know I'll hear from them for this, but throwing God...successfully with the help of the federal court system...throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools, the abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked and when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad...I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who try to secularize America...I point the thing in their face and say you helped this happen."

Robertson said, "I totally concur..."


The main difference between Fallwell, Roberton, and Wright, is that Wright's got more cause behind his bile.

mjholt said...

Rev. Wright is being used as a way to discredit Obama, and it is working. Rev. Wright said nothing that is seditious, he spoke his mind, as is the right of every American.

I don't agree with all he said, but I thought much of it was true. I do go to church, and I most certainly do not agree with everything my minister says, but I'm not changing churches. Heck, if you feel strongly enough about things, you can yell "wrong" in the middle of service, and still have coffee and cookies afterward with the minister and everyone else. That's what America is about.

If find this parcing of Rev. Wright's comments truly disgusting and unAmerican.

However, the tactic worked. McCain is polling ahead of both Obama and Hil today, and he made the most horrid gaff not distinguishing between Iraq and Iran.

Anonymous said...

Look Steve's post was excellent at putting the whole subject in context. I understand the reason for much of the anger. I even agree with Steve about the anger being rooted in fear. I am strong supporter of Israel. Why? Not because it was promised to the Jews by god, or because it contains may places sacred to my religion. It is important to me because it is symbol of the recognition by the world that Jews are people too. A promise that they will treat us that way. I am filled with fear that if the people of the world let Israel be destroyed as Jewish state that it will be signal that the next Holocaust is around the corner. But understanding the black anger doesn't mean that getting to a post-racial society doesn't require movement on both sides and those who in the black community who want to move forward whether preacher or politician must communicate the need to move past the anger and work together to get to a better place.

Somebody in one of the post talked about blacks being asked to leave their African heritage behind. I want to relay something to give this person some hope. My grandsons go to a fairly expensive private elementary school. The one in fourth grade studied Africa and its culture extensively this year,his class put on a play about Africa and even learned some African game which he taught me but who's name I don't remember at the moment. So even in the area of integrating African history and culture into our society we are making some progress.

Marty S

Frank said...

Dan Moran

The main difference between Fallwell, Roberton, and Wright, is that Wright's got more cause behind his bile.

Um no. Many of us who are to the Right of Center criticized Falwell and Robertson at the time.

Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) wrote

What bloggers are more than anything, I think, is anti-idiot. That makes life tough for Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, and the Revs. Falwell, Robertson, Jackson, & Sharpton, for reasons that transcend traditional partisanship and ideology.

Tim Cavanagh wrote

The Rev. Jerry Falwell's new career as an international insult comic creates an easy target for Islam's self-appointed defenders; but the bromides of anti-discrimination are no substitute for actual discussion of some pretty important ideological questions. Not every Cold War leftist was a closet Stalinite, and I'd certainly like to believe that not every Imam is a secret jihadist. Unfortunately, the people who should be persuading me are too busy changing the subject.

But the same people on the Left who are apologizing for Wright now were also condemning Falwell and Roberson back then. So what's up with that?

As we have seen with Spitzer, it's not the position that gets you nailed so much as the hypocrisy.

Dan Moran said...

Frank,

You're responding to a point I didn't make. After making their horrific statements, IMO much worse than anything Wright said, Robertson and Falwell were welcomed right back into the mainstream of Republican politics.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,308997,00.html

"WASHINGTON — Evangelical Christian leader Pat Robertson on Wednesday endorsed former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has struggled to bridge with conservatives some of his socially moderate policy positions on abortion and gay rights.

"The endorsement is a coup for the Giuliani campaign, especially after opponent Mitt Romney recently racked up two major endorsements from social conservatives."


A coup. A man who felt that America deserved 9/11 is so respected in Republican politics, his endorsement is a coup...

That's my point. It doesn't matter to me (though it's encouraging) that some conservative bloggers condemned the guy. He's still a powerful, popular figure in Republican politics -- and he's much worse than Wright.

As to Falwell -- well, your current nominee called him an "agent of intolerance" ... but upon running for President, realized he'd spoken "in haste," and went back to give the commencement address at Falwell's Liberty University. I admire pragmatism in politicians, but the guys McCain's chosen to associate with, in his pragmatic quest for the Presidency, look worse to me than the guys Obama's associated with.

Anonymous said...

"The one in fourth grade studied Africa and its culture"

Shouldn't that be cultureS? This also bugs me when I see someone talk about Indian culture as if India has just one, Muslim culture as if Muslims just have one, etc.

"extensively this year,his class put on a play about Africa and even learned some African game which he taught me but who's name I don't remember at the moment."

Sounds cool. Was it awale (which also has other names)? I've played a computer version of it. It's *difficult*. :)

Also, I just found this index of traditional games: http://www.tradgames.org.uk/features/games-index.htm If the game your son's class learned is old enough, maybe it's listed here?

Rory said...

Steve, of your many great posts on racial issues, politics and human relations, this is about my favorite so far. I'm linking to this one.

Personally, I understood why the Reverend said those things, for exactly the reasons you stated, which is why it resonated with me so much. As an immigrant I had some huge advantages--being white I could blend in to a degree--but the linguistic and cultural barriers I had to climb over as a child have left me with some old, painful scars. It altered my entire personality in some positive but also some negative ways. (Yes, I'm a lifetime member of Brown Nosers Anonymous (BNA) as well as Apologizers for Breathing the Air of More Important People than Me (Everybody) (ABAMIP-Me))

It surprises me that so many people can't identify with this level of anger and hatred. I don't embrace it, I don't condone it, but just my little, somewhat uncomfortable piece of hell had me full of anger and pain, and I struck out in irrational ways against myself and others. How much more would come from being beaten, ridiculed, jailed and even killed for what you are? It was easy for me to get beyond the anger and pain (though their impressions still exist inside me) because they were relatively minor.

The same thing with blaming. For many years I hated the Russians specifically and the USSR and all it represented in general. My country was invaded, the countryside destroyed, and a technologically and culturally advanced people were ground down into a third world country. I watch how people of my generation struggle to balance the ideals of communism that they were raised to love and capitalism, which they'd dreamed of due to their parents' recollections of pre-Communist Czechoslovakia but had been taught to fear and hate. I see how my cousins and aunts and uncles all struggle with this awful baggage. And this is *mild* compared to the legacy of slavery.

BTW Steve, you missed a question.

Why do they hate me? I/my family am/were against slavery and I have done everything in my power to reach out to help individuals as well as the community. Can't they see I'm different and things are changing?

I still get a shiver when I hear a Russian accent. Funny story--I was lost and saw someone with a map who was also lost. Turned out he was Russian. Czech and Russian have the same root, though there are differences, more than are found in Italian and Spanish, for example. So with my excellent English and his bad English and his native Russian and my limping Czech we managed to communicate. However, I was very offput by his nationality. I'm sure he had absolutely nothing to do with the invasion and we got along fine, but that instant negative reaction was as unstoppable as my next heartbeat. I also came away wondering what he thought of me when he realized I had a Czech heritage--if he thought I was weak, a lesser person, someone who was troublesome or small or a laughingstock.

This stuff goes deep. I'm glad people are discussing it. It can't be forgotten. Like Steve said, it can only be processed, and everyone processes at different speeds and in accordance to the amount of loss and pain and debilitation they personally experienced.

Kami said...

Oops, that last post was from Kami, er, me. I didn't realize I was logged on as Rory. Oops!

Anonymous said...

"Much as we all may hate to admit it, this nation's policy of supporting leaders who oppress their people (in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, etc.) when that is in our short-term national interest is one of the things that generated the desperation and unreasoning hatred that resulted in 9/11."

Good point - some of those (the Saudi Arabian and Pakistani examples) are definitely one of the things that helped generate the hate. At the same time I'm not so sure that Al Qaeda's leaders desperately care about what happened to Catholic Argentinians, Protestant South Africans, etc.

I'm reminded of this article from Oct. 12, 2001:

http://www.commondreams.org/views01/1012-01.htm

"...The slightest temptation to blame America for this attack, based on what happened in Vietnam, El Salvador, the Brazilian rain forest or on a factory floor in Indonesia means losing most of your audience...

"...Stay focused, don't strain for a unifying theory that binds union organizing, free speech, religious freedom, reproductive choice and gay rights — unless, of course, the point is Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda would incinerate them all..."

Frank said...

Dan Moran

You're responding to a point I didn't make. After making their horrific statements, IMO much worse than anything Wright said, Robertson and Falwell were welcomed right back into the mainstream of Republican politics.

Lord I hate defending Falwell or Robertson, but I should point out that Falwell did apologize for his comments and the only reason he would have done that is because it outraged his "side" as much as anyone else.

Has Wright even made an effort to help Obama in this regard? Why not?

Look, Robertson and the late Falwell are (were) lunatics. That they represent a constituency in the Republican party is unfortunate but also a fact.

. I admire pragmatism in politicians, but the guys McCain's chosen to associate with, in his pragmatic quest for the Presidency, look worse to me than the guys Obama's associated with.

Yeah, well, McCain didn't join their church or have the close connection with either of these folks that Obama had with Wright.

And that is the problem.

Again, I do not believe that Obama embraces Wright's views. But this is a can of worms that is not going to go away anytime soon.

And I don't think anything Obama can say at this point will make it go away.

Perhaps if Wright came out with a convincing mea cupla, it would help.

I don't know.

Frank said...

This isn't going to help any

Anonymous said...

If Hitler had gotten the atom bomb first and used it on New York City because we came to Europe's aid in World War II then The bombing of New York would have been a "CONSEQUENCE" of our deciding to come to Europe's aid against Hitler. If those who knocked down the world trade center had been supporters of Saddam Hussein angry that we came to the aid of Kuwait in the Gulf War that would have been a "CONSEQUENCE" of our aiding Kuwait. Arguing that there is an element of truth to the Rev. Wright's statements to me is irrelevant. It is the words he chose "The chicken's coming home to roost" that implied that these things were justified and therefore okay that is the problem. He refer's to support of Zionist terrorists as one of the wrong things we did. Look up the term Zionist on Wickapedia in the discussion it is described as term used by anti-Semites to describe Jews. The Rev. Wright is bright man and one whose profession is based upon the ability to speak the right words to move people. I don't believe any of his choices in that speech were random. So while there may be elements of truth to what he says the choice of how to express these truths say something not about the truth or falsity of the statements, but the beliefs of the man. So while I understand what Steve has said and can understand black people, particularly of Rev. Wright's generation anger, I still have a problem with the reverend's speech.

Marty S

Ethiopian Infidel said...

Although I'm not a Christian, as I understand him, Wright IS trying to heal the wounds of his congregation. The first step in recovery is diagnosing the affliction. Publicly, Blacks must often masque their true feelings about their peculiar situation in America, a practice which also abets self denial, inhibiting prognosis. Historically, the Black church has provided a sanctuary where those under constant assault can bear their wounded psyches and receive treatment through recognition of their shared pain and affirmation of their self worth in the face of relentless degradation. Wright acts in this tradition, encouraging his flock to vent the rage they otherwise dare not speak, while couching this catharsis in the sanctified formulas of sin, vengeance and redemption (curiously, Christianity encourages forgiveness at the personal level, while stressing retribution for collective transgressions).

Anonymous said...

If you are black you are RACIST that’s that. Seen it every step of the way. If you disagree with me ask yourself this, when was the last time something happened to a black by ANY other race and the black person was actually wrong; in your opinion? When was the last time the black wasn't completely perfect and a victim? Especially if what happened to them did in fact happen to them while committing a crime. You dont wait for the fact to see what happened. You wait for the facts to pervert everything to your argument. Even when others tell you your wrong. As a matter of fact when was the last time someone of another race told you, you were wrong and it WASN'T because they were racists? Just for the record, who on God's green Earth put blacks in charge of deciding who qualifies as a racist and who doesn't. The MAJORITY of blacks don’t have any say in their own lives. Ask them they'll tell you, it's all the White Man & the Jews. These are the people you want deciding who qualifies as what and who doesn’t. I say it should be the majority of America making this decision. Unfortunately majority usually equals "White" and therefore obviously EVIL. This is Democracy. Majority rules is the actual definition of Democracy. MINORITY RULES is the definition of FASCISM!!!! Just cause your black doesn’t mean you can’t qualify as a Nazi. that’s what the Nazis were………. Fascists.
America believed Hitler would eventually attack the USA. He didn’t but his beliefs and way of life did.
Now remember the most important part of all of this, if you are black, all you have to say is the White Man is the real racist here. That’s all you have to say to be right

-Tyler Goines
03/21/08

Anonymous said...

In response to Marty S and the anonymous poster who questions whether 9/11 was in response to oppression of "Catholic Argentinians, Protestant South Africans, etc." I did not mean to suggest that the atrocity of 9/11 was in direct response to any particular American act in foreign affairs. I was saying that I think the Reverend's "chicken coming home to roost" idea has some validity. For example, we support the de facto apartheid imposed by Israel upon Palestine because: (1) we still need Israel as an ally in the region; (2) the Palestinians are a poor and powerless people who are unlikely to retailate against us; and (3) there is an ocean standing between us and physical retaliation by the Palestinians. Well, factors (2) and (3) are no longer true. The atrocity of 9/11 shows that even poor and powerless people are capable of executing horrible acts of retaliation against us, even across the ocean. So, it appears that the chickens have come home to roost and will continue to do so unless we change the calculus that governs some of our foreign policy decisions. I think that is what the Reverend was trying to say in that part of his sermon. And, I happen to agree with him.

Mario G.

Ethiopian Infidel said...

Mario G.,

I take issue with the interpretation of Wright and others of 9/11 as retaliation of "poor and powerless people" for crimes committed against Muslim peoples. Far from being poor, the 9/11 hijackers where affluent Saudis with advanced degrees! The atrocities that destroyed thousands that day in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania weren't born of righteous indignation; they were the products of a fanatical mentality that holds the destruction of "infidels" the noblest virtue. 9/11 was also a meticulously crafted PR effort whose grandiose, apocalyptic imagery was calculated to fire the zeal of Muslims worldwide and win millions to the cause of Jihad.

Anonymous said...

Ethiopian Infidel

I'm not sure that the social class of the actual perpetrators disproves my theory that the crimes were committed in the name of a powerless underclass. On the other hand, not being a mind-reader myself, I have not peered into the minds of any Jihadists or terrorists lately. So, I can't prove or disprove your theory about Jihad. Like most Americans, I only know what I see and read in the media. Some in the media - especially American media - tend to support your view. However, many others - especially foreign media - tend to support my view. I guess the only point that is not in dispute is that we are vulnerable here at home in a way that we have never been before. And, we should take that into account when formulating our foreign policy.

Mario G.

Anonymous said...

Lynn,

The problem with "colorblindness" is that it denies that there have been and continue to be huge discrepancies between the educational, professional, and societal opportunities given to blacks and whites. When people take a colorblind approach, there is a failure to consider those very real differences. This doesn't mean that whites are "smarter," but rather that whites generally have access to better education, etc. So is it really fair to be colorblind when we look at people, or is it more fair to look at how being non-white can make life a lot more challenging?

Jenny