Why Whites Are Shocked

No one likes being reminded of the skeletons in their closet, and so the clearly inflammatory statements by the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright have gotten under the skin of a lot of people. Of course these statements are in the news because they provide political fodder for those seeking to undermine the candidacy of Barack Obama. Obama, of course, is a member of Wright's church (as is, incidentally Oprah). Thus, the rhetoric of the pastor is being pasted onto Obama. The idea goes like this -- Obama goes to a racist church (that is if he's not a Muslim) -- and thus he must have racist anti-white views. I would like to disagree with the premise that Wright is anti-white, and thus has not spread anti-white views to Obama.
If you listen to the snippets as a white person you are likely to be offended. But remember that white people were equally offended by the more moderate tones of Martin Luther King, Jr. Wright, of course, is an exponent of the more "radical" Black theology of people like James Cone. Black theology emerged out of frustration with a culture that limited their place in society, a society that continued to suppress their desire for an equal place in society. Such frustration often expresses itself in seemingly radical rhetoric. In Wright's sermons, or at least the snippets I've heard, he pushes boundaries of our comfort zones. And yet, even in those offensive tones there is truth. Unfortunately, Americans know little about Black theology and have forgotten the struggles of an earlier time. We think we've gotten beyond race, and along comes Jeremiah Wright to remind us that this isn't quite true. Whites like(d) Barack Obama because he seems safe -- or at least until Sean Hannity and others got to work. I don't know if Obama will survive this -- not because he did anything wrong, or even in my mind Wright did anything wrong, but because White Americans will begin to think that he must be simply a "Black candidate," with a radical Black agenda.
I am an Obama supporter and will continue to be. But my caution to all, whether a supporter or not, is to listen to all of this in context. Put yourself in his shoes, indeed, put yourself in the shoes of the Black community. There is a reason why Wright is hugely popular within the Black community, why he is considered one of the leading preachers in America. It is because he expresses those deep frustrations that community has with America. And, what Whites aren't hearing are the prophetic words he gives to his own community. He is, after all, an equal opportunity critic.
To White Christians who are offended by such "straight talk" consider the words of other prophets, from Jeremiah to Jesus. We are only a week from Easter, and it was Jesus' straight talk that got him into trouble.


Anonymous said…
Do you really believe that? Do you really believe that a message of hate, bigotry and division serves a Christian community? Do you really believe that claiming that the caucasian race is the source of all evil will serve the black community? For that matter, should Latinos, Asian, Jews or any other group that has faced prejudice and oppresion should blame the USA and the caucasian race for their ills, including distorting the truth (like saying we created aids to bring down the black race - which incidentally since when AIDS strikes only the black race???)

I am appalled that a religious leader could defend Pastor Wright's message. I remain an Obama supporter because I do not believe that he is guilty by association, but stating that Pastor Wright's message is okay is beyond the pale. Come on. I am white, but I am not your enemy. And I will NOT perpetuate the white guilt for another generation. Sorry.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for your brief comments; I think that they are largely useful, but we are nearly 4 decades plus out of the race riots and black power struggle of the 60s. And as you point out, we as a society have forgotten. We were pushed into it by personal economics, the eviceration of affirmative action, and the relative progress that had been made in education and employment as a result of it. I was there for part of it, and I understand the anger at many levels which the disenfranchinsing GOP administrations have pushed onto 50% of society, including the black and hispanic (and asian) groups. It is also apparent that what bridges had been built then between the races/ethnic/religious groups have either rusted or been abandoned. It is time to reclaim our unity. Obama can do that. But it is also important to learn again how to define problems of injustice and inequality in a way that permits them to be fixed. Blaming color carte blanche (either way) will not fix it, because race/color/gender cannot be changed. Other terms and processes must be found. Maybe Oprah needs to do something here! But the sins of the father [Wright]should not be put on the son [Obama]; give the son a chance in his own right. He is worthy of that opportunity! IMHO Rev Wright needs to come out of retirement long enough to explain his own words. MLK he is not; too bad.

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