Jeremiah Wright: a black or white story? Posted by: Jon Henke
on Friday, May 02, 2008
Leonce Gaiter, Ezra Klein and James Joyner are having an interesting discussion over whether the Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama story would be a big deal had they been white. Klein thinks it would still have been a problem, but for the non-racial issues, "rather than a story of racial strife", but that the "Wright [will likely] be used by racists in the election". Gaiter thinks it's only a story because Wright is black...
If Reverend Jeremiah Wright and his former disciple, Barack Obama were white, this would not be a story. [...] White pastors have been spewing hateful bile and filth for generations. But it's white bile, and that makes all the difference.
For the moment, let's leave aside the fact that Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Bob Jones, and many others have been the subject of many media storms and Left-of-Center criticism. Repeatedly. [James Joyner has more on this]
Let's just contemplate the firestorm that would have occurred if a Republican candidate had gone to a church that taught this...
Prayerfully, we have called upon the wisdom of all past generations of suffering [Whites] for guidance in fashioning an instrument of [White] self-determination, the [White] Value System. [...] These [White] Ethics must be taught and exemplified in homes, churches, nurseries and schools, wherever [Whites] are gathered. They consist of the following concepts: [...] 2. Commitment to the [White] Community. The highest level of achievement for any [White] person must be a contribution of strength and continuity of the [White] Community. 3. Commitment to the [White] Family. [...] 4. ... Basic education for all [Whites] should include Mathematics, Science, Logic, General Semantics, Participative Politics, Economics and Finance, and the Care and Nurture of [White] minds. [...] 6. Adherence to the [White] Work Ethic. [....] 7. Commitment to Self-Discipline and Self-Respect. ... Self-discipline, coupled with a respect for self, will enable each of us to be an instrument of [White] Progress and a model for [White] Youth. [...] 9. Pledge to Make the Fruits of All Developing and Acquired Skills Available to the [White] Community. 10. Pledge to Allocate Regularly, a Portion of Personal Resources for Strengthening and Supporting [White] Institutions. 11. Pledge Allegiance to All [White] Leadership Who Espouse and Embrace the [White] Value System. 12. Personal Commitment to Embracement of the [White] Value System. To measure the worth and validity of all activity in terms of positive contributions to the general welfare of the [White] Community and the Advancement of [White] People towards freedom.
That is the philosophy of Jeremiah Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ, with the word "White" substituted for the word "Black". As a general rule of thumb, if an emphasis on white skin color and group identity sounds racist to you, then an equivalent emphasis on black skin color and group identity should also be objectionable to you.
I understand that African-Americans have a unique experience, and that the tragic cultural legacy of codified racism - and the ongoing tragedy of social racism - certainly make group self-segregation and an emphasis on common identity psychologically understandable. But that doesn't make it ultimately healthy, and that doesn't mean people shouldn't be disturbed by the racial line-drawing.
NOTE: I am also not claiming that this TUCC philosophy necessarily reflects Barack Obama's policy views.
Our society has come far enough that we recognize, publicize and stigmatize such behavior from what Gaither calls "White pastors". It's hard to imagine that a "white pastor" equivalent to this kind of rhetoric on race would not be a major, disqualifying story for a white candidate.
I understand that African-Americans have a unique experience,
Doesn’t EVERYONE...my Polish/Irish ancestors weren’t exactly welcomed with open arms by WASP-y America either...we and the Jews provided the basis for Sanger’s Planned Parenthood Movement. Can Blacks point out where the US government allowed 1/3 of them to starve or emigrate? My Irish ancestors can...from the 1840’s on.
and that the tragic cultural legacy of codified racism -
Unlike the "Job within, no Irish need apply" or the "Gentleman’s Agreement" for Jews sort of racism.
and the ongoing tragedy of social racism -
What are you talking about? "Ongoing"..."social racism"????? You’ve been to too many college seminars, Jon.
My partner said the most profound thing to me as I was railing about the Potato Famine and the British, "It happened a long time ago, and you’re in America now." It wasn’t me, and I don’t live there, so what’s it to me?
Bottom-Line: Everyone been kicked around and everyone’s been a slave at some point in their cultural history. Blacks are not "unique" in this...and NO Black, alive today has been a slave, and ever fewer of them have even a memory of Jim Crow. Sooner or later you have to let go of the past.
Let’s just contemplate the firestorm that would have occurred if a Republican candidate had gone to a church that taught this...
I tried to make that argument, both here and at Joyner’s place, so you won’t get any argument from me on that point. The amount of dancing that occurred was amusing, at least, and I’m sure we’re about to get a demonstration here, too.
What are you talking about? "Ongoing"..."social racism"?????
Legal racism is racism that is codified. Social racism is racism that exists within society, but isn’t a function of law. Like this.
Is it a peer-reviewed study, replicated? Or is it a study done once that may or may not be valid or true...akin to my alma mater’s study that demonstrated "structural sexism" on the basis of average prof salaries divided between male and female....or the same sort of studies that constantly trumpet "Women only make $0.71 to a man’s $1"? You want to drink the professional grievance-monger Koolaid feel free....
What exactly is Jeremiah Wirght "angry" about Jon, and why should he be? He has managed to become a multi-millioniare, retiring into a gated community with a $1 million home. And if Jeremiah has little reason to be angry, having lived under Jim Crow how much less so Michelle and Barack?
So you’re bending over backwards to talk about black candidates is laughable and sad. "Oh I know there was slavery, but I just wnat to make one point about..." Who cares that there was slavery? Were Michelle, Jeremiah or Barack ever slaves, did YOU ever own a slave? Well there was Jim Crow, so I never drank from a White or Coloured Fountain, and most likely neithr did you, and neither did Michele and Barack and Jeremiah hasn’t had to drink from a fountain for a long-time, being able to afford all the Fiji Water he can drink.
Again, Bottom-Line: EVERYONE’S had it bad at some point in their cultural history, when do you let it go? Blacks weren’t the ONLY slaves, just the last group to be enslaved and freed...Irish:Check....Briton’s:Check...Huguenots: Check...Christians: Check....EVERYONE...time for Jeremiah to let it go and certainly no reason to act as if being Black is some how special in the degree of mistreatment meted out by life. And that as Whites, we or you or I have to some how be extra careful...why because of the New Original Sin of "White Privilege"? No one, white, black, red, yellow, green or purple can claim any monopoly of grievance or disenfranchisement or "injustice"...look around at everyone’s been badly treated by their neighbors at one time or another.
As to the larger point, "Would this be a story if Wright and Obama were white?" Are you kidding me? He’d have been listed as a "crank" candidate by the time Iowa rolled around.
Just imagine McCain or Romney being a member of a church that talked about "white" values, or families or the like...In fact we had one, his name was David Duke. Romney took guff for his Mormonism and it’s "racism" and I don’t know that he was in any way associated with the LDS churches decisions on race.
Bottom-line: If this was a GOP candidate he’d have been run out of town on a rail by February, for having a "white" church that D@mned America and talked about conspiracies designed to commit genocide.
Really, though, if you need to see peer-reviewed research to believe that there’s still significant negative social effects from racism, I don’t think it’s worth continuing a discussion with you.
JON! FROM YOUR ARTICLE!
We find, however, no negative relationship between having a distinctively Black name and later life outcomes after controlling for a child’s circumstances at birth.
It’s not the names. It’s the circumstances at birth (i.e. one parent or two, incarcerated parents or not, addicted parents or not, etc).
You might like this Department of Justice study about children of incarcerated parents or these statistics that state "At yearend 2006 there were 3,042 black male sentenced prisoners per 100,000 black males in the United States, compared to 1,261 Hispanic male sentenced prisoners per 100,000 Hispanic males and 487 white male sentenced prisoners per 100,000 white males".
Really, though, if you need to see peer-reviewed research to believe that there’s still significant negative social effects from racism,
Well what effects would those be? Blacks in jail? Isn’t that a function of the War on Drugs, not racism? Black educational problems, isn’t that a problem of teachers union, and not racism?
In your world it may be racism, but in my world the effects of racism are hard to determine and other effects can be attibuted as causal agents...of course you might want to continue that discussion, because it’s eaiser to dismiss than to debate.
The interesting thing about the list you posted is that the items on the list are very conservative values. If you take the racial aspect out of it (just eliminate the Black or White modifier), this is a list of social and cultural values that most conservatives would happily endorse. Is this not essentially what the successful immigrant communities have done? They make it on their own and then branch out into the larger society. It’s an approach that Bill Cosby among others has been advocating for some time now for the black community. Something needs to change within the black community. Maybe Rev. Wright’s rhetoric is too anti-White for mainstream America, but I take his primary message to be "White people aren’t going to help us; we need to help ourselves." That is not a message that should be disregarded.
The Economist said it best, "Anyone can be an American. All you have to do is accept the ideals of the European Enlightenment." So No Steve, it’s not good enough that they value family or hard work or education...it’s bad because they value BLACK values...Enlightenment values apply to all humans, not white, or black, or red or yellow...the Enlightenment was not tribal and the TUCC makes it tribal.
Put it on it’s head, would it be OK for someone to laud "White" values? Even good ones? We’ve had that before, generally they wore hoods and lynched people...when you begin to worry about the "Colour" of your values it generally means that you are NOT valuing the other people around you, irrespective of their values in relation to yours. In short those who support White values have a tendency to diminish those who are not White, so too, those who exalt Black values...
You say, "I understand that African-Americans have a unique experience".
The HELL you do! You only know what you choose to read from books and movies. There’s no way on God’s green earth that a non-black person can fathom the sheer PAIN of being descended from slaves.... and I am not. The BEST thing whites can do to make up for their past atrocities is to vote for Obama.
My point was that if you substitute "Italian" or "Polish" or "Irish" for white or black in Jon’s list, that is pretty much what those immigrant communities did to gain acceptance in America.
They accepted those values as "American" values or "Good" values...my Polish/Irish ancestors didn’t stand around talking about the Polish/Irish Work Ethic, or the Polish/Irish Family or the need for Poles/Irish folks to get an eduction, but the value, for ANYONE, of hard-work, family and education...
So there is a difference between promoting BLACK Values, versus promoting values, in general...Separatism generally leads to Superiority...not only am I separate from you, I am BETTER than you...sorry that’s not going to cut it for any extended period of time in any society, much less a multi-ethnic society like the US’. Unless you think it’s a good idea we have White/Black/Latino/Jewish/Chinese values and emphasize those values and needs over any needs or values that are more broadly based...look at Somalia or the Balkans and tell me how that has worked there...
With differences between them, I don’t think that there’s any question that blacks and American indians occupy special categories in American history.
With regard to blacks, I’ve long held the view that as bad as slavery was that Jim Crow was worse. I say that because slavery was an ancient worldwide institution that got laid in here originally in roughly that context (in spite of the additional overlay context connected specifically to the African slave trade). Jim Crow was wholly American in origin. A lot of people died in order to rectify the slavery issue, and Jim Crow betrayed that sacrifice.
That there needed to be a civil rights era after WWII showed an underlying weakness in the application of basic American principles. And there’s no question that blacks had a right to be pissed off.
But what the civil rights era was all about was getting into the game, and that’s what I think everyone of good will wanted to see. And it worked and is continuing to work, and racism is no longer an acceptable attitude in the United States.
And that is the foundation of my vociferous response to the racism of Obama’s church. That is an event marching in the wrong direction, and there can be no excusing Obama’s participation in that congregation for most of his adult life.
It’s also the foundation of my opposition to the culture of perpetual grievance, which I believe is in a way a variant of Jim Crow, self-imposed by blacks on themselves.
Nor do I believe that it is an obligation of blacks to remain silent in the face of any real injustice related to civil rights. It’s just that all perspective has been lost now on where the real offenses end and the racial ambulance chasing begins.
When will the good reverend distance himself from his wayward pupil who has humiliated him in thein a very public way? Considering the public person he is? What can we expect? The future’s so bright you’ve got to wear shades!
The interesting thing about the list you posted is that the items on the list are very conservative values. If you take the racial aspect out of it (just eliminate the Black or White modifier), this is a list of social and cultural values that most conservatives would happily endorse.
Really? These seem almost socialistic:
. Pledge to Make the Fruits of All Developing and Acquired Skills Available to the [White] Community. 10. Pledge to Allocate Regularly, a Portion of Personal Resources for Strengthening and Supporting [White] Institutions.
It might contain aspects in line with a social conservative, but there’s not much in the way of free market / individual rights in there.
Discrimination is the refining fire of America’s melting pot. It always has been. It always will be. Discrimination is not about color, it is about character. It is the most basic of human nature.
Martin Luther King’s vision was correct: seeking a time when a person will be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.
Skin color admittedly complicates the issue because it is easier to distinguish skin color than it is the difference between an Italian and a Greek, a Jew and an Arab, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is character that is always the basis of discrimination, not color.
When the majority of a new cultural group in America successfully adopts the standards of behavior of the majority culture (speech, dress, social behavior, etc.) discrimination begins to fade rather quickly. Historically it takes two or three generations of concerted effort, for that point to be reached. Typically within another generation or two, discrimination is virtually gone, with the exception of the rabid bigot, and they seem to be with us regardless.
Jeremiah Wright was on the right track-the black community has to police itself; it has to provide the jobs, and financing, and often the education that is typically denied every new cultural group hoping to enter America’s mainstream. True black leaders have been making that point for 150 years. That’s why there are Hebrew schools, Catholic Schools, Muslim Schools, Knights of Columbus, Mafia, etc. These are the response of cultural communities who were barred from participating in mainstream equivalents while they were working to become Americans.
Where Jeremiah Wright is wrong is in blaming other cultural groups for the problems that can only be resolved by blacks joining the mainstream.
If blacks believe that they will gain acceptance by the majority culture adapting to them, they are sorely mistaken. That of course is the problem. Too many blacks don’t want to adapt, or unwilling to do what is required to adapt, or somehow think that they should “get a pass” because of something that may or may not have happened to their ancestors 400 years ago. It isn’t going to happen.
The fact that Obama was considered "not black enough" by some in the black community is a clear indication of a distorted view. Barack and Michelle should be the role models of adaptation, but instead they are treated in some circles as "sell-outs". That is a most serious problem.
Anyone who chooses to adopt behavior outside the mainstream is free to do so in America. However, regardless of race, creed, color, national origin, or sexual orientation, those who choose to take a different path had best be prepared to be discriminated against. No amount of government will ever change that; and quite honestly no part of government should even attempt it. There has never been room in America for hyphenated Americans.
As Teddy Roosevelt observed 100 years ago, "In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the man’s becoming in very fact an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile...We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language...and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."
Theodore Roosevelt 1907
This applies to everyone who finds themselves in America. Love it or leave it. Delta is ready when you are.
The BEST thing whites can do to make up for their past atrocities is to vote for Obama.
It’s another testament to the inability to parody the left these days that I can’t tell whether Gary W. is presenting his heartbreakingly sincere liberal take on Obama or crafting a fiendishly clever send-up.
Ask yourself this question, why are people so aroused by Jeremiah Wright and his statement, are these new statements or has he been a pastor for the last 20+ years. ALso ask yourself when you hear the protential African-American candiate for president, why is it African American, becuase if its not white it must be identified!!! It is assumed based off history that presidents are white, and they all have been! Now back to Jeremiah he is simply saying what have been said for years and years that the white government has "secretly" said. When a black person speaks he angry or a racist, and is supposed to forget about the past and move on. 500+ years of slavery should be the clue that WE cant not just move on and FORGET it! Yes many people have been enslaved for years, but not nearly close to 500 YEARS! Also in case you didnt know it blacks are still faces with challenges that result back from slavery, the only person that would make a comment like this, "Blacks are not "unique" in this...and NO Black, alive today has been a slave, and ever fewer of them have even a memory of Jim Crow. Sooner or later you have to let go of the past." could have only come from a white person. You cannot get over your past if its not taught, and we can not get over it if it continues to happen. How many people that are white wished they were black? How many people to this day would like to be black, besides getting a tan to be darker!!! Tell a white person they have black in them and see how angry they will get!Everyone is unique. Why is he considered a racist anyway, does he denounce anyone’s race or ethnicity, does he discrimate and say BLACKS ONLY! Why cant he say BLACK as many times as he wants, becuase white Supremacist society says we do not have to identify when we talk about "whites" becuase" everthing is white". Dont you realize that there is no such thing as White history, becuase they "make up" his story, and put themselves there to give them something to look back on. Thats the only reason you hear about Black History, or Hispanic History, or Asian History, or Indian History, becuase the whites have to control everything. They had to kill all of the native americans to be in complete control, and then erase their existence and call them barbarians so people who be afraid of them, like people tend to call blacks angry as they have called Jeremiah, because they do not want a anything other than themselves to have control or power, (you dont think Blacks dont have a reason to be angry!) When people realized Christoper whatver his last name "discovered" America, they realized that he stole land and killed people, then named it American, its ironic the land of the free, but who was free, Christopher and the other european people, not anyone else, thats why we have to say Black, because if not, its assumed that we are talking about a white person. This goes back to the "brilliant" Christoper guy!Get this for ironic, Christ is in the name Christopher. Christanity comes from Christ, and it is the number religion in America, and takes on the responsibility of being the religion that was given to the world so that , white supremacy could be enforced on other cultures. So they could be allowed to repent for their sins, (meaning slavery owners,and "non-slave owners" like our "great" President George Washington you know on the dollar bill, which ironically is 1, for first!!! This is why it is important to emphasize Black, becuase we have not been included all this time! How can he be racist, he was brought into a world, that tells him, he is a miniority, he is different, he looks different, his hair is different, etc, different from that of a white person. Please get your facts straight and research more, you will be surprised what you will learn!!!