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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Reverend's Right

Fox News is spreading a fear campaign... and the people are biting. Obama has had to publicly distance himself from the "controversial" comments of his pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. It would be great if Obama could stand up and translate what the Reverend is saying so that white people wouldn't be so afraid. Since Barak has to tread the middle path, I'll try.

The reverend is VERY concerned about the day-to-day racism that poor black citizens have to deal with in today's America.

The reverend is NOT saying that Jesus was literally black. He is comparing the plight of the Jewish people in a land ruled by the Roman empire to that of black people in white America. I'm sure half of America freaked out when they heard a "crazed militant negro" saying that Jesus was black. Listen harder you Fox News loving idiots.

The reverend IS suggesting that Jesus would have cared about the plight of poor black people.

The reverend IS saying that most American presidents (and even candidates) have been rich white men. I'm not sure why this is controversial. This seems unequivocally true.

The reverend IS saying that Hillary (even though a woman) fits the mold of rich, white privilege.

The reverend is addressing a black church audience. The people running up to him and "hitting him on the back" or standing up and shouting are not being disrespectful or assaultive. They are actually encouraging/agreeing with the speaker.

The reverend NEVER actually attacks the white race... but he does extol the character of Obama as a champion of the underprivileged, essentially comparing Obama's path to that of his lord Jesus Christ. He even draws the parallel that Obama is being betrayed (as Jesus was) by his own people. He IS excoriating black America for claiming that Obama is not "black enough" by comparing them to the Jews that betrayed Jesus.

The reverend is clearly suggesting that America, which IS currently run by rich white men, is not the best environment for black people, and that black voters ought to support Obama over Clinton because she will never truly understand their experience.

I do not understand how this is being construed as hate speech. This is an emotional sermon from a black person to a black audience about his belief that there is ONE candidate that truly understands them. Would anyone complain if a Planned Parenthood representative spoke out that Hillary is the only candidate that can really empathize with the female perspective on reproductive rights issues? No. What if she spoke passionately about the persecution suffered by young women unable to choose whether or not they carry a child... about a history of back-alley medical mishaps and family disownment? Still no. You would nod your head and judge just how relevant that information is to you. And that's exactly how white America should respond to Reverend Wright.

Urged to disavow Reverend Wright by various groups, Barak Obama had this to say... and it's pretty awesome:

"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. 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... 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.

"And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.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. These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love."



At 3/18/2008 04:12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was an amazing speech by Obama, rarely do politicans take the risk to acknowledge real issues in such a direct way. His ability to articulate these kind of issues will serve us well when he is President.

At 3/18/2008 04:47:00 PM, Blogger Jon said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 3/19/2008 06:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you John.

Since I don't own a TV and I was very busy this weekend, I missed the build up to this craziness.

Last night I went to a friend's house and we went back and forth between the various news outlets, and I kept thinking is white America so frickin out of touch they had no idea that some black churches might have a slightly different message than some white ones?

I appreciate your translation, your words were right on the mark.


At 3/19/2008 07:24:00 PM, Blogger lowcoolant said...

First, the clip you posted was taken from YouTube, so it's actually YouTube who's spreading a fear campaign.

Second, this is the first time I've seen this video. So it's actually YOU who's spreading a fear campaign. And I bit, because my name is Daniel Plainview. I'm a fear man. You see, you have a fear campaign. And I have an internet connection. And my connection goes acroooosssss Seattle... to your campaign!


Third, I fear this preacher as much as I fear any preacher, which is to say he's another retarded child trapped in a perfectly good adult body.

Fourth, Hillary? Hillary isn't qualified because cab drivers have never feared her? So the person who is most feared is most qualified? No, we don't vote for the person we fear the most. We vote for the guy we'd like to have a beer with. That's why Mitt Romney got blown away last month and George W. Bush has been reigning in infamy for eight years.

Hillary isn't qualified because she's never had to worry about being pulled over? So the person who has feared the least would be a bad president? Okay, well who is the most scared candidate... probably Ron Paul. Let's vote for Ron Paul since Reverend Wright seems to be saying those who don't live in fear are not presidential. Ron Paul sounds terrified every time he opens his mouth.

Hillary isn't qualified because she hasn't been called a nigger? Does that mean she won't help black people and can't possibly care about black people? Well gosh, I've never been called a nigger either, so I guess the next time a black guy asks me for directions I'll just remind him of what I haven't been called and say "sorry, I can't help you, because I haven't felt your pain."

And if some homeless Latino man asks me for money, I'll explain how I've never been called a dirty wetback, so therefore we don't have any suffering in common, and I'm not qualified to help him. I didn't realize beggars could be choosers, but the guy pontificating in this video is simultaneously saying his people are in need BUT some folks can't help because they haven't suffered enough. ?

Fifth, I'd like to believe your blog, but the problem is... well... you fit the MOLD! And I'm not about to trust some tall educated whitey like you! Nice try!

At 3/20/2008 02:15:00 PM, Blogger John said...

LowCoolant, and to Jon (who deleted his comment but I'll reply anyway,) the point of my post wasn't to agree with the preacher's position, but to express anger at how much negative publicity this speech has caused the Obama campaign. I assume it has caused so much damage because the white audience viewing this clip are shocked and outraged to hear such things. And since most people are stupid, I'm sure they got hung up on things like, "Did he just say Jesus was BLACK?!!!"

I don't care whether or not Hillary has ever been called the N word. That's not an important criterion for my choice in a president... but if a black preacher in a black church wants to make an issue out of it... I don't see why he shouldn't. He's trying to convince his congregation that the Clinton's (who were famously friendly towards black America) are NOT going to serve the black community's interests as well as an ACTUAL black man will.

At 3/20/2008 02:47:00 PM, Blogger Jon said...

Well, John, I did delete my comment so as no-one other than you and I know the content of it and as I did remove it from the blog, I am not going to return to it.

However, I am going to take issue with your latest comment because I think it is somewhat disingenuous of you to now claim that you were not agreeing with Wright's positions. It seems to me that you were trying to justify them or explain them away as if those who have been oppressed and discriminated cannot themselves be oppressors or discriminate against others themselves. To take another group that we can apply this to, it is clear that Jews have been the subject of discrimination and the victims of a holocaust - does this justify their treatment of the Palestinians?

Secondly, how it is not discriminatory to say that only a blue dog can serve the interests of other blue dogs? Only Jews can tell Jewish jokes? Are you saying that we should only vote for someone who comes from the safe socio-economic class as ourselves, the same educational background as us, the same ethnic background as us? How then do you explain your support of Obama?

At 3/20/2008 03:16:00 PM, Blogger John said...

I must respond to your claim: "It seems to me that you were trying to justify them or explain them away as if those who have been oppressed and discriminated cannot themselves be oppressors or discriminate against others themselves."

I don't understand what I said that would make you believe that. Obviously I understand that victims often become perpetrators. Because being victimized often leads to anger. And feeling powerless often leads people to find someone that they can exert power over.

Perhaps the intent of my article wasn't clear. Here's the breakdown.

The Title:
"The Reverend's Right" is just a play on his name "Wright". Not really an endorsement of his beliefs. I can understand how that would be misleading.

The Opening (paraphrased):
I'm upset that people are making such a big deal out of Wright's comments. I'm guessing the "big deal" is because white people don't get what he's saying, or are having defensive knee-jerk reactions.

The Clip:
Speaks for itself... literally.

The Next 8 Paragraphs:
This is my attempt to "translate" into white terminology what the Reverend was saying.

My Ending:
Just restating here that it seems reasonable to me that a black preacher addressing his black congregation can make the point that a black candidate will have black community's interests more at heart than anyone else.

Final Quote from Obama's Speech:
An elegant response from the Man himself, defending his relationship to his minister rather than throwing him under the bus (as the press was calling for.)

As for your deeper point about whether it is okay for anyone to state that only someone of their color/gender/creed etc. can have their best interests at heart... I think you've twisted things a bit. Can only Jews tell Jewish jokes? Well, that depends on the joke. Only a Jewish director could have made The Producers. Goyim aren't even sure if they should be laughing when they watch it. But it's not really a question of saying that ONLY a black person can support the black community; what I heard him saying is that a black person can BEST support the black community.

And am I saying that we should ONLY support someone that comes from the same racial or socio-economic background as ourselves? Obviously not. What I said (exactly) was, when presented with the (logical) argument that a certain candidate will best represent a certain interest, you should "nod your head and judge just how relevant that information is to you." If it isn't relevent to you that Hillary is the candidate that can best empathize with how women feel about abortion rights, then so be it. But trying to claim that other people can empathize just as much is silly defensiveness. Of course they can't. They don't know what it means to be a woman 24/7/365. They aren't reminded in a hundred overt and subtle ways every day that they are a woman in this man's world.

Personally, I support Obama because he represents intellectualism. He's the only candidate I've ever heard that actually states that some issues are gray. He wants you to listen to a full 5, 10 or even 20 minute speech about a topic, not just the clever soundbyte. I appreciate that.

At 3/20/2008 04:09:00 PM, Blogger Jon said...

Flame on! ( Joking.)

In the end I still take issue with what seems to me the central thesis of your argument that we can judge how likely someone can empathize or represent a particular group by how identical they are to that population.

I don't agree with either the notion that a black candidate will necessarily have the black community's interests at heart than anyone else nor that a black person can necessarily best support the black community.

For example, who would best support the black community: Dennis Kucinich or Clarence Thomas?

So even if you change the notion from ONLY to BEST, I think it is still problematic?

At 3/20/2008 09:08:00 PM, Blogger lowcoolant said...

Calling Barack Obama "an ACTUAL black man" is as ridiculous as calling him an actual white man.

Sure, he's been called the n-word by many a white person. But he's also been called the h-word by many a black person. So how about showing the black community some respect by acknowledging that their racial slurs carry as much weight and power as the white ones?

Let us celebrate diversity by agreeing with those who have called Barack "honky." Let us embrace his whiteness as if it were his only quality.

Barack Obama. White like me.

At 3/22/2008 12:46:00 AM, Blogger Calvin said...

Well, I agree with John (mostly) on this one. Obama shouldn't have to apologize for Wright. Black America has every right to be angry about racism and inequality. Wright is also correct to point to US Imperialism as the ultimate source of anti-Americanism. He goes overboard at times, but ultimately many of his arguments land much closer to reality than those of his pupil.

I do disagree with Wright that Obama is the man to lead us back from the chasm. I'm sorry, Obama believers, but he's just another Corporate Dem. More charismatic than the last, but his policies will be no less disappointing.

Vote Nader.

At 3/22/2008 12:52:00 PM, Blogger Yojimbo_5 said...

Only if we can vote Ron Paul, too!
(because better a Corporate Dem than a Corporate Rep)

At 3/23/2008 12:30:00 PM, Blogger Yojimbo_5 said...

And I have to add:

Why is a Liberal the only creature on this Good Earth who will gladly cut his own throat on principle?

At 3/26/2008 11:58:00 AM, Blogger Calvin said...

One of the very few things I like about Ron Paul is that he has (so far) confined his campaign to the Republican primary. This greatly minimizes his opportunity to reach out to a broader audience of activists and voters, and consequently lessens his ability to popularize libertarian ideas and pull the country further to the right.


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