I must confess that I find little of Reverend Wright's sermons to be offensive.
His idiocy regarding AIDS is inexcusable, but when Wright says that Hillary Clinton does not know what it feels like to be called a nigger, he is simply stating a fact. What is missing from that argument is the fact that Barack Obama is equally unaware of how it feels to be called a bitch, or a cunt, or to be referred to as "hysterical" in the sense that it has applied to women. And ultimately such things are not qualifications to be president. (Clarence Thomas knows what it is like to be called a nigger, but I don't want him in the Oval Office.)
I do believe that knowing what it is like to be dehumanized would be an asset to a president, who must make decisions that affect billions of people. That kind of experience is invaluable to a leader, but John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama all know what that is like in some form, so the conversation leads us nowhere, unless we want to talk about the lessons they have learned from those experiences.
I don't think there is anything offensive about arguing that God is displeased with the amount of black men in prison; I just don't know how any human being purports to know what God thinks, period. But Wright would not be the first or last preacher to claim such knowledge as contained in his following words:
America is still the No. 1 killer in the world... We are deeply involved in the importing of drugs, the exporting of guns, and the training of professional killers... We bombed Cambodia, Iraq and Nicaragua, killing women and children while trying to get public opinion turned against Castro and Ghadhafi... We put [Nelson] Mandela in prison and supported apartheid the whole 27 years he was there. We believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God.
The historical fact is that we did indeed bomb these countries, and that these countries are NOT full of white people. We did support apartheid — indeed, Dick Cheney voted against sanctions for South Africa. I have no sympathy or respect for Castro and Ghadhafi, but it is manifestly true that the apartheid system continued with our tacit approval in the form of unrestricted trade. We cannot trade with Iran (except in secret) because they seek a nuclear weapon, but we felt little remorse about trading with a nakedly white supremacist regime, which ended only 14 years ago.
Whether or not America believes in white supremacy and black inferiority more than we believe in God is a question that is impossible to answer qualitatively. But Wright's point — that as a military power, America stays its hand based on what the potential targets of a sanction, bombing or invasion look like — is true.
Put simply, the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq could not have occurred without the racial association that was made between the Arabs of Iraq and the Arabs of Al Qaeda. There were no links between them, no weapons of mass destruction, no grand Muslim conspiracy to topple the West with weapons built by Saddam's regime. There was only an angry, heartbroken country that wanted revenge, and if we couldn't have it against those responsible, we would have it against those who looked like them.
Oddly enough, conservatives would seem to agree with Wright about the role of whiteness in America, so I have no idea why they are all reaching for the fainting couch right now. Presumably, these are the same conservatives who saw O'Reilly sound the alarm over the possible collapse of the "white male power structure," John Gibson's demand that white people "make more babies" and give financial support to the conservative groups working towards that very goal.
There are several ironies at work in conservative criticism of Wright. The first is that I have never heard so many conservatives express concern for black children in my entire life. Unmoved by decrepit, segregated schools, their parents working two or three jobs without guarantee of health care, and dismissive of their abuse at the hand of law enforcement officials, they are suddenly terrified that the Obama children will grow up hating white people.
They shouldn't be concerned about them. They should be concerned about the children living through what I have described above. Those kids don't need a Reverend Wright to tell them what they already know.
A blogger named "Confederate Yankee" (that's right, a man named after the Confederacy has the gall to lecture others on racism) describes Wright as displaying "naked anger, resentment, defeatism, and conspiratorial paranoia." Well that's funny, because last time I checked it was conservatives who were claiming gay people were a greater threat to America than Al Qaeda, that Mexicans were "invading" the country, that greedy Jews were coarsening our culture, that several billion Muslims want nothing more than to destroy us, that unqualified blacks are stealing spots from white students, and that granting women equal rights has made us weak.
It would be more correct for CY to say that that kind of "naked anger, resentment, defeatism, and conspiratorial paranoia" is only appropriate for white people. When white conservatives make blanket statements about race, sexuality, or gender, they are treated as deeply serious. When black people make them, we call it bigotry.
Wright has said that America's cultural chauvinism (the belief that we are greater than others and therefore justified in violating the rights of other nations and people in pursuit of our own goals), informed as it is by white supremacy, happens to be wrong.
But even if you disagree, or you were offended by Wright's statements, the only way to hold Obama responsible is to ignore everything he has ever done and said. You have to ignore Obama going into MLK's Church on Martin Luther King Day to confront black anti-Semitism, his willingness to tell a black audience that homophobia is un-Christian, and you have to ignore his declaration that "the division, the stereotypes, the scapegoating, the ease with which we blame our plight on others — all of this distracts us from the common challenges we face," his recognition that he has "little pieces of America" inside him.
Whatever you think of Wright's words — and I agree with some of them — they are not Obama's. It seems to me those who are intent on putting Wright's words in his mouth are more than anything else interested in maintaining racial divisions as they currently exist and are understood.
Ultimately, I think that we need to be honest about how directly white entitlement has affected America, from slavery to westward expansion to Jim Crow, and how it affects us now, especially in foreign policy: where, when and how we choose to intervene in the affairs of other countries.
If it's not the belief that America is more equal than everyone else, what is it?
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