Flawless is coming soon...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Barack Obama's Pastor

I initially chose to remain silent over the controversy surrounding the sermons preached by Barack Obama’s former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. However, after thoughtful consideration and after seeing the unfair way that this has played out in the media, I feel compelled to address the subject. For those who have not heard his comments, I direct you to a two-minute clip that has been showing on You-Tube (click here). In it, he claims that the cycle of drug addiction and incarceration in the black community has been made fertile by the U.S. Government, and because of this, God will not bless America, but God will damn America:

“The government gives them the drugs; builds bigger prisons; passes a three strike law; then wants us to sing God bless America. No. No. No. Not God bless America; God damn America. It’s in the Bible for killing innocent people, God damn America for treating her citizens less than human [comments by Reverend Jeremiah Wright].”

We can argue the merits of Wright’s remarks; however, it only takes a casual look at history to see the long, harsh list of egregious acts that America has fostered upon its non-white citizens and people of color around the world. I will not bore you by recounting dozens of instances of injury that has been sustained by people of color at the hands of white people. However, I will name just a few to demonstrate that the "so-called" rants of men like Pastor Jeremiah Wright are not really that far fetched: Slavery; the Dred Scott decision at the U.S. Supreme Court; the Tuskegee Study, the Scottsboro boys, COINTELPRO; the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which annihilated hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens; and Jena Six.

These examples, with the exception of the nuclear bombing of the Japanese cities and Jena Six, are epic in regards to their impact on blacks and demonstrate the total disregard that America has had for its people of color. I mention Jena Six to demonstrate that Jim Crow is still alive and well in America. I also reference the nuclear annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to show that the United States is committed to its own preservation even at the expense of more than a quarter-million innocent lives.

The public reactions to Wright’s sermons show the deep racial divide that still exists in America: While many blacks can relate to most of what Wright has said, many whites are shocked that black people can demonstrate this type of “anti-American” sentiment. Although I am convinced that the timing of the media blitz regarding Wright was politically calculated to weaken Obama during his campaign for president, it graphically demonstrates the need to have a serious, national discussion on race relations. It reminds me of the racial divide during the trial of OJ Simpson for the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman: while 90 percent of blacks believed that OJ was innocent, 90 percent of whites thought he was guilty.

One hundred years later, the words of W.E.B Du Bois still rings true that race would be an enduring problem for America – “The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line…”

Notwithstanding the appalling treatment that blacks have suffered at the hands of white people, it would be difficult to quantify how that treatment has impacted the black community to this day. However, it is safe to say that the Wrights of the world are speaking out of their own experience, the experience of their predecessors, and the experience of their ancestors. Consequently, I was troubled to see Obama repudiate Rev. Wright's comments, because it demonstrated his lack of courage to face an issue that is inherent to the Black Church and family.

Andrew Hacker’s Two Nations, Black and White, Separate, Hostile and Unequal, asserts that all white people sometime in their lives go through what Psychology 101 calls “denial.” They seek to convince themselves and others that they are innocent of any blame for creating and perpetuating the misfortunes of the black community:

At one time or another, all of us have refused to admit certain truths about ourselves. By engaging in what Psychology 101 calls “denial,” we seek to convince others – and ourselves – of our innocence of blame. All white Americans regardless of their political persuasions, are well aware of how black people have suffered due to the inequalities imposed upon them by white America. As has been emphasized, whites differ in how they handle that knowledge. Yet white people who disavow responsibility deny an everyday reality: that to be black is to be consigned to the margins of American life. It is because of this that no white American, including those who insist that opportunities exist for persons of every race, would change places with even the most successful black American. All white Americans realize that their skin comprises an inestimable asset. It opens doors and facilitates freedom of movement. It serves as a shield from insult and harassment. Indeed having been born white can be taken as a sign: your preferment is both ordained and deserved. Its value persists not because a white appearance automatically brings success and status, since there are no such guarantees. What it does ensure is that you will not be regarded as black, a security which is worth so much that no one who has it has ever given it away. This helps explain why white conservatives so vehemently oppose programs like affirmative action. They simply do not want to admit to themselves that the value imputed to being white has injured people who are black (Two Nations, Black and White, Separate, Hostile and Unequal, page 60).

Not only are white people aware of the historical perspective of Wright’s scathing words, but so is Obama. However, this subject is taboo, because few white people want to address the harm that they or their ancestors have inflicted on blacks and other non-white people, and the effect that those injuries still have on people of color today, and it is obvious that Obama doesn’t want to make those historical wounds part of his national platform.

Okay, okay…I can feel some of you saying that he is doing what is necessary to become the president, and that includes maintaining an arms length relationship with his own ethnic community. Perhaps, but preserving the courage of one’s conviction speaks to leadership and integrity, and if Obama is unwilling to defend what he knows to be an authentic grievance by blacks, one must consider, what other compromises he is willing to make to become president or how far will he bend to satisfy a certain constituency after becoming president. If Obama is the uniter that he claims to be, then the repudiation of Wright was a poor way of demonstrating it. It ‘kinda’ reminds me of a previous candidate for president that told us he was a uniter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Cowardice asks the question - is it safe?
Vanity asks the question - is it popular?
Expediency asks the question - is it political?
But conscience asks the question - is it right?

There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, popular, or political; but because it is right."

I leave it to the readers to determine what course Sen. Obama took.