Wednesday, March 26, 2008

And Now Some of the Harder Stuff

Before really attempting to wrap my mind around the real issues underneath the Obama/Wright connection, I decided to take a little trip around the blogosphere to get a feel for what those issues might be. I've even watched a little FoxNews, because there was bound to be some mention of it on there, right? Little did I know that I would still need to do my own discernment regarding what was important and what was white discomfort, as well as that up until recently FoxNews has pretty well been running 24/7 "analysis" of the Obama/Wright stuff.

I ran across one blog taking issue with a comment that Obama had made in response to a question about his white grandmother. Obama offered this:
"The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity," Obama said on WIP. "She doesn't. But she is a typical white person who, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know, there's a reaction that's been bred into our experiences that don't go away, and that sometimes comes out in the wrong way, and that's just the nature of race in our society."

People have zeroed in on the "typical white person" phrase with indignation, offering up the typical questions concerning how this would sound if "black" had been used in place of "white," and so on. Reactions against it have ranged from accusing him of harboring his own latent racism to justifying a "typical white person's" fear of black people.

Oh yeah. You read that right:

So the suggestion here is that “typical white people” who may be wonderful in many ways, nevertheless have an unfortunate view of blacks which has in some way been foisted upon them contrary to reality. Here’s the problem with that.

Black people commit a great deal more violent street crime per capita than white people.

Not a slight difference, but a large and statistically significant margin. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2004 black males aged 14-24 were 1.2% of the population yet committed 26.1% of the murders in the US. If that figure were attributed to redheads or left-handed people, you bet there’d be a different assessment of those individuals walking down the street.

Does anyone else see a problem with not only an admittance of "typical white people's" fear, but justification of it? How does that move us forward, or prove that racism is less of a problem today than in the past?

(Obama originally used the example of his white grandmother's fear to talk about how he could still love both her and Wright despite some of their views and without disowning he was put in a position to offer the above answer is beyond me, but it was unfortunate.)

Anyway, let's move on to some of Wright's sermons that have been played, replayed, dissected, and played again. The short of it is this: yeah, some of it is crazy. AIDS being created for black genocide, America pumping drugs into the black community, his little Clinton "riding dirty" pantomime, "US of KKK A"...there's no way I'm defending that stuff.

Let's talk about his claim that 9/11 was "deserved." That's what people say he said, right? Here's that sermon in context. Go ahead and give it a listen.

Back? Okay, let's run down the list here:
~He's quoting Ambassador Edward Peck...all the cited violence in which America participated was said by someone else.
~He quoted Peck in order to make a point about America being caught in a cycle of violence along with the rest of the world.
~He prefaced this quote by talking about Psalm 137, where the writer dreams of revenge against enemies. After the quote, he talks about breaking that cycle of violence when formulating a response to the WTC attacks.

I don't know about you, but to me that sounds like a pretty good sermon. It wasn't about America deserving anything. It was about America being caught in a cycle of violence, our perpetration of violence elsewhere, and occasionally expecting to deal with it on our own soil so long as we're a part of it.

But the main charge against Wright in particular and against Obama by proxy is a hatred for white people. Wright preaches in one clip that Hillary has never had a cab zoom past her because of her race, and accuses her of being part of the Rich White Establishment. Of course, she is a woman and has probably had to deal with different forms of discrimination, but let's move that aside for now. These types of suggestions by Wright have made white America uncomfortable. Some of us have cried "reverse racism" because of it. Some of us have claimed that we're over that stuff now, that things are in a much better place. Just this morning I read an article suggesting that Obama and Hillary are proof that we no longer need Affirmative Action.

Really? We're in a better place? You really think so? When articles like the one I cite below tries to pigeonhole churches by race and suggests that Trinity isn't really a part of the "black tradition?" When blogs like the one above justifies white fear by citing the prevalence of crimes perpetrated by black people? When some are still trying to pass off the lie that a black presidential candidate with an Arab middle name is secretly a Muslim terrorist? When I'm regularly in company with people who talk about how wonderful this or that neighborhood used to be until "the blacks" or "the Mexicans" moved in? You really believe that we're in a better place today, and that Wright's anger and Obama's speech from last week are no longer necessary?

Here's my answer: no.

Look...people keep talking about a "national conversation on race" that needs to happen. I'll be the first to stand up and admit that I have no freaking clue how the hell something like that is even possible. It's a nice phrase that I believe is completely impractical. What, we'll have like this massive conference call or something? Please. I do agree, however, that as a country we have a long way to go in confronting and healing racial tensions.

Does each racial community have some issues to work out for itself? I'd say yes.

Does each racial community harbor anger, resentment, prejudice and fear toward other races (in a word, racism)? Yes. And not just the blatant kind, either, as has been illustrated in this post and the one below.

Are Wright's hands clean? Or Obama's? Or mine? Or yours? No. Or maybe you've worked this out for yourself. Congratulations.

The rest of us, meanwhile, should probably stop pretending that racism is a nominal issue in 2008.