Monday, March 17, 2008

On Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

I have missed much of the national freaking-out about Barack Obama's pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and so I'm in the process of catching up. In this process, I happened to read the post at La Chola by Melissa Harris-Lacewell, and I recommend it. An excerpt:

"Let’s be clear. American democracy has always coexisted with vicious, state-sponsored racism. The nation’s first presidents worked to establish an innovative, flexible, radical democratic republic while simultaneously codifying enslaved blacks as a fraction human and relegating them to intergenerational chattel bondage. After emancipation, as blacks helped make America the greatest industrial and military power on earth, the country stripped blacks of the right to vote, segregated public accommodations, provided inferior education to black children, and allowed and promoted the terrorist rule of lynch-mob violence.

This week Barack Obama was pressured to denounce Jeremiah Wright. But in the hundred years following the end of the Civil War more than five thousand African Americans were lynched and not a single president denounced the atrocities. Because of this history, black patriotism is complicated. Black patriots love our country, even though it has often hated us. We love our country, even while we hold it accountable for its faults."


Stuff Daddy said...

I've been thinking a lot about the fragile area of esteem that was first occupied by the great Joe Louis and then put upon the sturdy, humble backs of folks like Jackie Robinson, Nat King Cole, Sidney Poitier, Colin Powell etc..

This is a very narrow area in which even the most racist of white folks will embrace a black pop star, actor or even four star general as good enough to be given respect and admiration. This "black best friend (BBF) zone" has adapted over time, but it has a social trigger capable of snapping back at those who attempt to inhabit it.

In the 50's Nat King Cole was a thought of as a "gentlemen," good enough to be on TV, but only until his friendly embrace of a guest's hand, one that happened to be a white woman, stirred up the ever present fears of black sexuality and deeply offended the American public.

Oprah exists within this zone. While cultivating an almost cult-like following among white women, she still caused a great rift with her supporters when she choose to support Obama over Clinton. Perhaps her audience connects with her as a woman, but does not allow her to also inhabit a black identity. Like Pino says in Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing" in explaining his love of black superstars:

"It's different. Magic, Eddie, Prince are not niggers, I mean, are not Black. I mean, they're Black, but not really Black. They're more than Black. It's different."

Now Borack Obama, has fallen into an almost inescapable whirlpool, stirred by the words of his long time adviser and church leader the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Whether or not his words have any truth to them, they are angry, loud and black and they are openly definable by white ears as more of that "black racism" that Rush, Hanity and the rest of angry white America defines whenever they start a sentence with "the only problem I have with black people is.."

This is that same embrace of a white woman's arm, the same uproar when when Mohamed Ali had the gall to exhibit a brazen ego, the same shock felt when Malcolm X stated that that yes, if attacked by a man with a gun, he would not hesitate to defend himself with his own gun. Had these actions or words been expressed by a white person, would they even be noticed much less trigger disfavor?

The saddest part? Many of those who embrace this reaction do so without recognition that they are acting an judging differently based on race. White voters will now see the dream of the "black, gentlemen candidate" as horribly tainted. Somewhere deep inside, they will feel betrayed, "I thought he was a nice black man, he's just a N*****!"

They may never realize that they were judging on a different scale, that they have exercised a severe double standard.

While the "crazy" and "angry" statements of Rev. Wright are played over and over again, cementing themselves in the voting publics' mind, many will never compare them to the similarly violent and angry daily rantings of conservative talk radio stars who hold similar posts of prominence and advisement to many current politicians who don't have to wear and weather rhetoric that doesn't come from their own mouths.

I think once the fragile area of esteem is tainted in the white publics eyes, it will take a miracle for Obama to survive these words he did not say. Ferraro must not have understood that Black Americans only get one chance to fit the mold, to live up to impossible standards. It's so easy to stir up "the fear of a black planet" in the mind of a white voter.

Plain(s)feminist said...

Beautifully said, Stuff.

Though I will say, after hearing some of Obama's address on race - I think he's back...

Stuff Daddy said...

I hope so, but Clinton has been gaining in Pennsylvania since the Rev. appeared on You Tube. That's the white voter, Obama may have lost any chance of winning over..

Stuff Daddy said...

I just heard the entire speach

With out a doubt, I think it's the most important speech on race given by a public mainstream figure in my entire lifetime.

I am with him now more than ever. He is extraordinary..