I’d Be Remiss…

by

if I didn’t link to Obama’s major speech today on race in America. It’s the best thing I’ve read on the subject in . . . I don’t know when.

Particular highlights, for me, are after the jump.

Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

For the African-American community, [the path to a more perfect union] means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs – to the larger aspirations of all Americans — the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination – and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past – are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

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72 Responses to “I’d Be Remiss…”

  1. DeJon Says:

    My gracious… when I hear the words of pundits and commentators I wonder if Obama is a worthy Presidential candidate. But when I hear his words… when I hear him speak… I am left with no questions, but conviction.

    The man is transcendent. I just don’t know how someone can disagree with the words below. And he not only articulates a vision better than the other candidates, he speaks of a vision the other candidates just don’t see.

    This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

    Maranatha.

  2. alsturgeon Says:

    Absolutely terrific speech.

    Here’s one of my favorite parts:

    “This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.”

    Was that humility from a presidential candidate?!?!

    That settles it. For the first time in my life, I’m sending money to a candidate.

  3. Joe Says:

    Al and Dej,
    You know I love you as brothers, but I’ve got to say something here.

    For all of the self-flagellation I’ve seen in discussions here about the shortcomings of the Church of Christ and the dissapointment and downright disgust with its current state… It absolutely floors me to hear you say that you still, more than ever even, support a man that belongs to a Church that so obviously fosters negativity, victim politics, and black liberation theology. If Obama truly disagreed with the “controversial” statements, he could tell us all about the impassioned debates that he and Wright have had regarding their disagreement on these issues. But he won’t do that. He can’t do that. Because he buys into it. Maybe not the far edges of the theology, but he agrees with the general direction it takes. He must. It couldn’t be any other way. You don’t sit there and listen to it for 20 years without initially being attracted by it and ultimately absorbing it. If he didn’t agree with it, he would reject it as surely as some here have rejected the CoC. It’s as simple as that.

    I implore you to not be swayed by impressive oratory skills, charisma, and some very well-thought out expression on the issue of race in this country. He is as liberal as liberal comes. For some of you, that may be what you are looking for, others maybe not. I’ll admit, I admire his vision. I admire the vision of a lot of liberal idealists, but something is lost for me when we get into the details of practicality, implementation, and cost. It’s always a bridge too far.

  4. urbino Says:

    An interesting take on Wright as a Black Conservative (via Andrew Sullivan).

  5. DeJon Says:

    Joseph… Its truly great to hear from you.

    Let’s engage.

    In talking to my conservative friends, and reading the writings of the conservative-minded, Reverend Wright’s anger-driven speech snippets were just the death knell needed by those that never would have and never wanted to like Obama anyway. I suspect he never had much of a chance of garnering your vote, and so I don’t enter in to a discussion with you thinking I’m going to change your mind. But I would like to address a couple parallels I think you’re drawing, and that I think deserve a retort.

    First, I don’t find your description of him being as liberal as liberal comes to be as off-putting as it seems you intended it. I know I certainly prefer his health care plan to the one offered by McCain
    , and as best I can decipher I prefer it to Hillary’s as well. I think his ideas make for a bigger government, and I think on this particular issue that’s the move I would support.

    What I’m saying is… I certainly don’t utter the word “liberal” with the disdain that comes through my computer screen when you say it.

    Also, Sen. Obama strikes me as a man with a sincere understanding of social justice. In my mind his response to the Reverend Wright fiasco crystallizes this point.

    Now of course it’s easy to find Wright’s “G-D America” rhetoric contemptible. But Obama’s speech in response does a few things that I find not just unusual for political rhetoric (and even more for rhetoric during the campaign season), but run completely contrary to the way most politicians play the game.

    Al mentioned the self-deprecation. But even more Obama stands ramrod straight and address from whence Wright’s hate speech derives. ISTM, he didn’t choose the response his strategic communication experts suggested. He chose to respond thoughtfully, and addressing deep-seeded issues at their root. Politicians don’t do that. They don’t want to dig in to the deep fertile soil that allows the terrible underlying issues of our society to grow because that makes people uncomfortable, and Heaven forbid, it might even cause a change in society. Although it would be easier to not address such a divisive issue like race, he does. And he does so in a way that is thoughtful and reconciliatory.

    And it is there that I must say that I don’t follow your attempt to draw a parallel between Obama and the churches of Christ. Speaking all too generally and from my limited experience there are two adjectives that are in far too limited supply in the churches of Christ. The first being thoughtfulness (a.k.a. discernment or critical thinking). The second being reconciliation, restoration (ironic, no?), and an attempt at healing.

    Sure, it is easy to say that Rev. Wright’s words were the opposite of reconciliatory, and (hopefully) they weren’t all that thoughtful either. I’m not saying I want to join Trinity UCC. I don’t.

    IMO the Illinois Senator’s words epitomize these ideals. And just like I’m not judging John McCain on the words of John Hagee, or Bill Cunningham. And I’m not basing my voting decision on the words of Geraldine Ferraro, or Bill Clinton. I appreciate Barak Obama’s approach to government. I hear the demagoguery, and thinly veiled arrogance, and jingoism that flow like a golden shower out from the current administration on to the Constitution, the American people and the rest of the world. Perhaps my appreciation for Sen. Obama’s is in response to the tenor of our leadership over the last eight years. But Sen. Obama’s emphasis seems to be on the things I wish someone would emphasize. And his concern is for the things that concern me… deeply.

    And one last item… You state:

    something is lost for me when we get into the details of practicality, implementation, and cost. It’s always a bridge too far.

    I just don’t know what you’re looking for. What practical information should a Presidential candidate provide? How can he implement the ideals of his campaign before he is elected? Among the thousands of stump speeches he’s given one thing he states is that he would rediscover the power of diplomacy. What more does he need to “show” you. You either appreciate his ideas, track record, and campaign or you don’t.

    The argument seems ironically contradictory. Because just as you (and the rest of the right-wing militia) accuse Obama of being full of sound and fury, yet not providing enough “practicality,” that particular argument is what rings hollow in my ears and truly signifies nothing.

    We may have to be comfortable with disagreement on this point. But here’s my suspicion. I suspect that line of thinking is just a half-baked way for people to comfortably dismiss any legitimate consideration of voting for Obama when the real reason boils down to the fact he has a “D” after his name.

  6. DeJon Says:

    I can’t get enough of people talking about that speech

  7. “This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years.” « The Edge of the American West Says:

    […] the sort of thoughtful reading of the content of the Obama speech that I don’t offer. Via DeJon at hungryhungryhippoes, Urbino’s group blog. Go for the Urbino; stay for the thoughtful […]

  8. Sandi Says:

    I was also utterly impressed by the speech. I am bothered by your beef with him, Joe, because I think he explained so well that his association with Rev. Wright is not (pardon the expression) a black-and-white issue. I have a couple of points to make on this:

    First, how many people out there don’t disagree with their pastor or minister from time to time, strenuously, but remain members of the churches with which they have established many ties and put down roots? I would guess not very many. My grandfather, a retired CoC preacher, developed the unfortunate habit of leaving any church whose preacher said something with which he disagreed; he ended up in a congregation of two (him and my grandmother). Leaving a church because you disagree with your minister on one or two issues, unless that’s all he ever talks about, is rash, particularly after you’ve been going there for many years. I would think that most of us would take a more measured approach. I also don’t see why he is obligated to have debated with Wright on these issues (assuming that he hasn’t, which we don’t know one way or the other).

    Second, people are more than their political views (yes, even I believe this), and Obama’s speech acknowledges that about Rev. Wright. He talked about all the good things that Wright has done, all the good that is in him, and gives his controversial remarks a context. Who among us has not expressed a strongly-worded opinion in the heat of the moment that we would not necessarily want to own (or see on YouTube) for the rest of our lives? And even if we never expressly disavow it, is that one opinion all that we are, the sum total of our worth? I thought that his use of his white grandmother as an example was demonstrative; we don’t throw people in our lives away because they may hold views that make us cringe. I doubt he ever confronted his grandmother about her fear of black men or her racial stereotypes. Does that mean that by associating with her that he supported them? (One could argue that blood relations get a special pass, but that argument has never held any water for me).

    Finally, I thought that his treatment of the history of race in this country in the speech was incredibly thoughtful and gracious. We need that kind of honesty and that kind of optimism. I admit that I myself have been given to acceptance of the idea that America will never be able to heal those wounds or transcend race. I need someone like Obama to give me hope that we can become a better nation. That he can do that while acknowledging anger and grievances from all sides is amazing and rare.

    You know, we’re so cynical about politicians, myself included, that it’s easy to dismiss everything they say as fancy speeches, smoke and mirrors. We don’t want to be duped again. I am about as cynical as they come about all politicians, whether I agree with them on policy or not. But in this case, I believe that Obama really believes what he’s saying.

    I know that most Republicans won’t vote for Obama because they disagree with him on policy. That’s fine. You can admire someone’s character and still decline to support his candidacy. Maybe there will yet be something revealed during the campaign that will give people legitmate reservations about Obama’s character. But, for the reasons described above, I just don’t think this is it.

  9. Sandi Says:

    Glenn Greenwald has a great post about the speech and doubts re: whether honesty and thoughtfulness can ever conquer personal attacks. http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/03/18/obama/index.html

  10. alsturgeon Says:

    Hey Joe, good to hear from you. I’m not going to respond simply because DeJon articulated my thoughts so well – I’d just mess them up. There is additional bad news for you and I, though. Since a major presidential candidate has now shown humility, this means that the Cubs will actually win the World Series this year. It’s even more certain because Obama goes to church in CHICAGO of all places! Sheesh!

    But I will interject some religion, prompted by Sandi’s comment. She mentioned her grandparents church-hopping, which is so prevalent today. She also mentioned that we don’t throw people in our lives away because they hold views that may make us cringe, then in parentheses noted the potential argument that blood relations get special passes.

    The ironic glue in these examples is that Churches of Christ (at least) have taught that Christians are blood brothers/sisters, and the Bible (much more emphatically than Churches of Christ) teaches that you don’t throw people away because you don’t agree with them on every matter. That it has become commonplace to say, “Well I wouldn’t go to church there if I heard the pastor/preacher say things like that…” speaks more to our religious shortcoming than anything else.

    I mean, people at my congregation listen to a guy every Sunday who is supporting Obama’s presidency! I’m pretty sure I’m the minority view! 🙂

  11. Sandi Says:

    So, reading a little more about Rev. Wright, it is unclear to me how prevalent these kinds of remarks were in his sermons and whether they started in the 1990s or before that. I’m just unclear on the whole context. My comments above were made assuming that the controversial sermons were isolated incidents.

    Still, I don’t think there’s any evidence that Obama buys into any of that. Indeed, what evidence we have — his own words — indicates the opposite. It’s kind of sad that we can’t just take him at his word that he wants to contribute to racial reconciliation and have to try to find a way to make him just another politician. It indicates how low our standards have gotten, or something like that.

  12. alsturgeon Says:

    By the way, this statement:

    “Go for the Urbino; stay for the thoughtful discussions between friends who disagree.”

    Well, it almost made me cry. Like a dream come true. 🙂

  13. Joe Says:

    Dejon,
    You misunderstand my practicality comment. That isn’t directed at Obama and his “sound and fury” specifically. That is directed at the liberal idea of bigger government. It causes me to shudder when folks speak of that as if it were a good thing. I say this as an employee of the federal government in one of its most expensive and inefficient branches. There is very little that our government does well, or even can do well.

    Everyday, I become more and more pessimistic about the future of our country. We have been heading towards an unsustainable entitlement society for the past five decades. Increasing entitlements (universal health care) at this point in time is like pushing on the gas pedal while headed towards a cliff. Who pays? What happens to malpractice torts when the government is responsible for providing health care? (Hint: take a look at the military health care system)

    George W. Bush was seriously flawed when he said, “When people hurt, Government must act.” People must act. The government needs to provide the security and infrastructure to allow them to act, nothing more. Passing this off to the government is just a continuation of the diffusion of responsibility that has been the single greatest downfall of American Society.

    It’s a lot easier to say, “that’s the Government’s responsibility” than for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work in the community. For several of the folks here, I know that you are involved in your communities, trying to help. You are shoveling sand out of a hole on the seashore, only to have the breaking waves pour in more sand. You think, “if only more people would pick up a shovel.” You’re discouraged with the difficulty you’ve experienced in getting others to pick up a shovel, and want to call on the big shovel in Washington to help. It’s not going to work.

    The more entitlements grow, the more the sense of entitlement grows in individuals. It’s human nature, and it’s sick. I don’t know the answer other than to keep shoveling. You may not keep the sand out of the hole, but you can build a heck of a castle out of the pile building up behind you.

    So, you are right. Obama never had a chance at my vote. Not because of color or lack of experience, but because of his voting record and proposed policies.

  14. Joe Says:

    Sandi said:

    “Still, I don’t think there’s any evidence that Obama buys into any of that. Indeed, what evidence we have — his own words — indicates the opposite.”

    I just can’t trust what politicians say on the campaign trail, even the ones I support. It has to be backed up with deeds and a history. The Wright issue casts a little more light on Obama’s history, and I don’t like what I’ve seen.

    For the record, I am not an Obama “hater”. I recognized back in ’04 what a gift he has. I respect the heck out of his abilities and his principles. As much as I disagree with his policies, I still like him.

  15. DeJon Says:

    Joe, I really can’t take issue with any of the ideas you present re: the need for action. I hear sound logic in your warning against increased gov’t action.

    You say, People must act. I agree! You and I both seem to at least recognize similar problems yet suggest different plans to attack them. Here’s my concern with your suggestion that it must be people who act and not people depending on the government. First, it will take a monumental force to first get people to address these problems. (objects at rest have certain tendencies…) And I can’t imagine who or what outside of our governmental structure can inspire action among the masses to address these problems that will be our ruin. Who on God’s green earth is up to that task? The government? An ecumenical uprising?

    You fear the former. I fear the latter. Mostly, I fear that there is no church organization in this country with the ability to cause a societal changing movement in our country. That’s not to say that a theology of human liberation holds no power, but that we can’t stop fighting long enough to tap in to it.

    That’s why I’m letting Sen. Obama cut through my massive layers of cynicism, jaded thinking, and hopelessness… at least enough to garner a vote. I’m not counting on him to save our country from the dark abyss toward which we seem to gravitate. But I give him the best chance to stem the tide, stop the bleeding, or at the very least find a new way to federally screw things up. McCain and Clinton provide no reason to think they will do such a thing. They will give us 4 to 8 years of the exact same BS we’ve lived with for the past 16 years… divisive, shrill rhetoric; political stalemates; and a widening gap between one American and another.

    Hear my point (because I know I at least contorted yours, and for that I apologize.) I’m not betting that Obama is going to save the Union. I’m just betting that between the three options we have, he stands out as much more likely to work toward a more perfect union.

  16. alsturgeon Says:

    Thanks for clarifying, Joe.

    Here’s my shoveling philosophy: Everybody grab a shovel. People as well as institutions. No one or no-thing is morally exempt from shoveling.

    The key becomes how we can work together to acheive solutions.

    It isn’t as simple as the Republicans are for smaller government and the Democrats are for bigger government, though I used to see it that way. The Republicans are for bigger government when it comes to certain things (e.g. security issues, family values) than are the Democrats. The Democrats are for bigger government when it comes to certain things (e.g. economic issues, health/welfare) than are the Republicans.

    Both believe that government has a role in all these things, but disagree with how much government should be involved in each. I tend to agree with Democrats, and you tend to agree with Republicans. To tell the truth, they really aren’t that different.

    What I’m suddenly liking so much about Obama (and I’m hearing this from DeJon, too) is that he isn’t playing the same old game in the same old way – which obviously hasn’t worked out so well. I sincerely think humility is a radical approach, one that I never thought I would even catch a glimpse of in “power” politics. It was just a glimpse in this speech, but it caught my attention.

    People say “Sure, he gives great speeches,” but count me in as one who believes words and concepts are powerful – or can be. I would completely agree with you that “the people” need to act, but I would argue that sometimes they need a leader to inspire them to it – or maybe even a speech to put into words the type of action required. And I think this was one of those kinds of speeches.

  17. alsturgeon Says:

    “…or at least find a new way to federally screw things up.”

    That one made me smile, DeJon. 🙂

  18. alsturgeon Says:

    Random thought here:

    My Hillary had a ruptured appendix recently. The hospital bill was $46,000. Three years ago, prior to my wife working at a major company, we paid $4,000/year for insurance with a $5,500 deductible that paid 50% after that – this was our most affordable option, provided through “the state.” So it would have cost us about $26,000 for this procedure – in addition to the $4,000 in premiums. (Oh, and the bill was just for the hospital. And by the way, our insurance company only paid $17,000 and this was accepted.)

    I’m just saying that a lot of people need some big shovels. 🙂

  19. urbino Says:

    I just can’t trust what politicians say on the campaign trail, even the ones I support. It has to be backed up with deeds and a history.

    This is a sentiment one hears with some regularity about Obama. Talk is cheap.

    Why is it, then, that Wright’s talk isn’t cheap? Why isn’t it dismissed as just talk?

    When Obama says his pastor is wrong, it’s dismissed as mere rhetoric. When Wright says “God damn America,” it’s the most important thing in the world.

    Both are “just talk.” Why does one matter, while the other doesn’t?

    (Those questions aren’t aimed at anybody in particular, though Joe’s comment prompted them. They’re more for general discussion.)

  20. alsturgeon Says:

    Good questions.

    More good questions:
    * Why did someone arrive at this blog through a search titled “catching nude women” yesterday?
    * Could it be related to the person who came here searching for “michael lasley” today?

  21. Terry A. Says:

    “Why did someone arrive at this blog through a search titled ‘catching nude women’ yesterday?”

    Juvenal just told you crime has been up in his gated community lately. Probably just a band of nude female criminals trying their best to get his attention.

    Again.

  22. alsturgeon Says:

    Makes sense.

    BTW, according to the Blog Stats section, today is the Best Day Ever for the Hungry Hungry Hippos. That is such a nice thing to say.

  23. Joe Says:

    Urbino said:
    “Why is it, then, that Wright’s talk isn’t cheap? Why isn’t it dismissed as just talk?

    When Obama says his pastor is wrong, it’s dismissed as mere rhetoric. When Wright says “God damn America,” it’s the most important thing in the world.”

    You ignore the qualifier “on the campaign trail” when you ask the question.

    Wright wasn’t trying to sway undecided voters his way. Wright wasn’t intent on softening his message to appeal to those less radical than he is. He is telling it like he sees it.

    Obama, on the other hand, has his sights set on the general election in November. He has every reason to hide the rough edges of his beliefs from the moderate voter.

    I think that’s a pretty big distinction and a good reason why we should lend more weight to one set of statements than the other. Disagree?

  24. DeJon Says:

    I’m not sure what to think of people outside of the Hippos reading my honest effort that, after a re-read, sounds more like drivel in need of a decent editor than I prefer.

    But I am really glad Joe felt compelled to come by and raise his flag. You are missed, my man.

  25. Joe Says:

    I’ve been lurking and posting infrequently. babykangaroo=joey=Joe.

  26. DeJon Says:

    HA! I KNEW!

  27. DeJon Says:

    …it. I knew it. (And that’s not really true.)

  28. DeJon Says:

    And here’s another phenomenal take on what Sen Obama’s speech means, and how it resonates.

    You know, this reminds of a very personal time not long ago when I sat down with my adopted Dad’s son, my brother, and he asked me a question apropos of nothing we were talking about. He asked, “What’s your relationship like with Dad?”

    From a simple yet piercing question we went on to discover that our family (like many I suspect) had been waltzing through life ignoring and secretly grieving some missed connections with the people who should matter most… family.

    I hope the societal metaphor connects.

    I am loving the way Sen Obama’s speech seems to be reverberating through our society today. It seems that because of the tone he set, and the chord he struck people are a little more willing to say, “My God, this race issue is affecting almost everything. Things are effed up, and I personally should shoulder at least some of the blame.”

    You know what that seems like to me? A vast change from yesterday morning.

    Can it continue? Si, se puede!

  29. urbino Says:

    You ignore the qualifier “on the campaign trail” when you ask the question.

    In my defense, I didn’t mean to be responding directly to your comment, but rather taking it as the occasion to discuss a larger pattern.

    Nonetheless — and I think Al can back me up on this — a pastor is pretty much always on the campaign trail. He (or she) is always campaigning to keep his job; campaigning to motivate the congregation; campaigning to change their thinking. I don’t think that’s any less true in black churches than in white. So Wright’s statements were also in the context of a campaign; a campaign that may not be as meaningful to you or me, but it certainly is to him, since it’s his livelihood.

    Wright wasn’t trying to sway undecided voters his way. Wright wasn’t intent on softening his message to appeal to those less radical than he is. He is telling it like he sees it.

    How do you know that? How do you know what Wright was trying to do? Are you that familiar with his church? His preaching style? His personal theology? I’m not. I know a bit about liberation theology from my own training, but that’s about it. I don’t have any actual facts on which to base an evaluation of Wright’s intent.

    Not many, anyway. I know he served in the Marines. I know he leads a church that is widely respected in its community for the work it does on behalf of the poor and the sick. And I know what he said in those sermon excerpts. But, without reading my own presuppositions into them, I can’t put all those things together and come up with a sensible explanation for what he intended when he said those things, much less a sensible explanation I have enough confidence in to say, as you do, “This is what he meant, and this is what he was trying to do.”

    About Obama, I know more. I know his voting record, and it isn’t that of a white-hating, America-hating radical. I know what legislation he has proposed and passed, and it isn’t the agenda of a white-hating, America-hating radical. I know how he has conducted his campaign, and it isn’t the conduct of a white-hating, America-hating radical. And I know what he’s said in his speeches.

    When he says he rejects the radicalism of the Wright quotes, that strikes me as consistent with his record of actions. When he explains what that church has meant and still means to him, and why he stays, it rings true to me. When he says it contains all the good and the bad of the African-American community, I find that both believable and completely appropriate for a church — any church, but especially a black church, given that institution’s unique role in African-American history, and especially a church that does the kind of community work that TUCC does.

    If you read the comments to Cap’n’s post on the Wright excerpts, you’ll find I said they were racist and wrong. I stand by that, because on their face, absent any context at all, which is all I have to go on, that’s exactly what they are, and they piss me off.

    But I’m nonetheless aware that I’m 95% ignorant of the situation in that church, of the culture, of what needs to be said how and to accomplish what goals, and of Wright’s personal theology.

    I just have no basis on which to make absolute assertions, as you’re doing, about what Wright meant in those excerpts, or what he was hoping to accomplish. Neither do you. Neither of us knows Wright or had ever even heard of him before Obama came on the scene, so neither of us is competent to say whether Wright was “telling it like he sees it,” or telling it like he needed to tell it to get a particular point across to his church, or to some subset of it.

    He has every reason to hide the rough edges of his beliefs from the moderate voter.

    That’s completely tautological, Joe. It amounts to, “Wright meant what he said because his words expressed how he really feels, and Obama didn’t mean what he said because his words didn’t express how he really feels.” All you’re doing is using the word “meant” in the first half of each statement, then using the definition of “meant” in the second half of each statement, and lobbing a “because” in between. In the process, you’re smuggling in a bald assertion that you know what both men really believe. The question is: on what basis do you think you know that?

    If Obama doesn’t have the rough edges you’re talking about, then he has nothing to hide from moderate voters and his words are true and valid. Your response assumes the answer to the thing being debated, and then presents the assumption as if it’s dispositive. It begs the question.

    If you have some facts on which to base your belief that Obama has hidden radical beliefs, I think we’d all be interested in hearing them. I know I, at least, have no more interest in putting a radical black racist in the White House than in putting a radical white racist in there, so if you have facts relevant to that, I’d like to know them.

    So far though, all we have is you asserting that you know Wright meant what he said and Obama didn’t mean what he said because you just know it.

  30. urbino Says:

    I’m not sure what to think of people outside of the Hippos reading my honest effort that, after a re-read, sounds more like drivel in need of a decent editor than I prefer.

    I know exactly how you feel, DeJon. But, hey, we’re on the internets.

  31. Michael Lasley Says:

    Like JU, I don’t know anything about Wright or his church. I don’t know when he made those comments. I wander if even he would back down from them. I say this because he might well have meant them the way we read them. Rather than dismissing them as hate-filled rantings, though, he’d probably want us to look at the why he thought God should damn America. (Is it worse to have hate filled speeches or to lynch someone — a lot of the hate-filled speeches of civil rights leaders was in response to some hate-filled actions….so Wright might be responding to what he sees as some particularly hate-filled practices….but again, I don’t know when he said those things or why.) I think Obama’s take on the whole thing is that, yes, we have a damnable past when it comes to all things race. And that racism isn’t all in our past — it’s something we’re still living with (some more than others). But Obama seems to think that there’s something worth trying to save — where the Wright who from the angry speeches seems to have given up. And I think DeJon has a great point — Obama is handling this in a way that is actually productive. It’s not just rhetoric if it’s making people think about their role in racism.

    I actually really appreciate your giving us a reason to think about Obama, Joe. I made up my mind way long ago that he had my vote, so his speech didn’t sway me one way or the other.

  32. captmidknight Says:

    Just checked in to say that I have nothing to say about the Obama speech that would make the least bit of difference, but I would like to thank Joe for being willing to carry the target for a while.

    As far as the blog itself is concerned, I just saw a good line in the book I’m currently reading. It’s by Christopher Buckley, William F’s boy. Before you tune out completely at the mention of his daddy’s name, let me say that Christopher writes GREAT political satire novels, in which everybody’s ox gets gored sooner or later. If you have a sense of humor and an appreciation of the absurd, you’ll like him.

    In this book, titled “Boomsday,” his heroine is a PR person who writes for her own blog at night. When I read Dejon’s comment about wondering what people outside Hippos might think, I remembered the line – a take off on an ad for the movie “Alien;”

    “In cyberspace, everybody can hear you scream!”

    Finally, I’m not generally an Obama fan, on other than racial grounds, although he is one of the best and most persuasive political orators to come along in a long time, but, if Dejon’s take on the effect of his speach is right, and:

    “people are a little more willing to say, “My God, this race issue is affecting almost everything. Things are effed up, and I personally should shoulder at least some of the blame.”

    I agree that that would be a good thing, all politics aside.

  33. Joe Says:

    A different view of Obama’s speech.

  34. Joe Says:

    Blasted html. Trying again here.

  35. alsturgeon Says:

    That article reminds me of a Morgan Freeman quote from a while back now – where he says to quit using the words black and white to describe people.

    I wouldn’t go nearly as far as the author went myself (i.e. saying he blew it, and I sure wouldn’t describe it as polarizing). Instead, I would (and do) laud his speech as a beautiful framing of the situation (remembering that he was trying to diffuse a campaign disaster). But I think the author speaks of a key vision, one that Martin Luther King dreamed about… And I, too, would love to hear future words along those lines. And for some reason, I think Obama would go there.

  36. Joe Says:

    You know, Urbino, that the Obama campaign already has one substantiated instance of talking out of both sides (NAFTA/Canadian Govt. Memo issue). He’s just another politician. No better, no worse. But he is not some transcendent, new breed of politician that we can just take at his word while he is trying to win votes.

    Tautological or not, it’s my gut feeling as to which one of Wright and Obama I believe speaks their true heart.

    I would love to hear Al and the Captain’s thoughts on ministers as campaigners for their job. My personal experience is that most joke about that aspect of the job in a self-deprecating fashion rather than temper the expression of their thoughts.

  37. urbino Says:

    If you check the thread, and the previous discussions of Obama, I don’t think you’ll find me ever saying he was transcendent, or not a politician. I’ve said he’s trying to be, and has a chance to be, the Democrats’ Reagan, and Reagan wasn’t transcendent. He, through his positive, future-oriented rhetoric, re-aligned a generation of swing voters to reliable GOP voters. Obama can — still can — do the same thing for the Dems.

    Being just another politician is a long, long way from what you’re declaring he is: a radical racist. There was a time in American history when being radically racist would make you just another politician, but that time is happily past. If a radical racist is what Obama is, and you’ve still offered no evidence that he is, only your assertion and your gut, then he’s not just another politician.

    Which one are you saying he is? Because if he’s just another politician, he’s every bit as good as John McCain and George W. Bush, and I don’t know why you made the much more vehement, radical accusations you did.

    (As for the NAFTA thing, in all fairness, it’s very unclear who actually said what to the Canadian gov’t. The CBC reported, a couple weeks after the story broke here, that it was actually the Clinton campaign that gave those assurances. I don’t care either way; I’ve pretty much always assumed neither one of them would make any changes to NAFTA. But the facts is the facts, and the facts in this case are muddled.)

  38. captmidknight Says:

    Joe said:
    “I would love to hear Al and the Captain’s thoughts on ministers as campaigners for their job. My personal experience is that most joke about that aspect of the job in a self-deprecating fashion rather than temper the expression of their thoughts.”
    _________
    I’m not exactly sure what you mean – “ministers as campaigners for their job.”

  39. Joe Says:

    I never said he was a radical racist, just that he subscribes to some of the basic tenets of black liberation theology, which is hardly unifying.

    However, he did give us an interesting peek behind the curtain today when he referred to his grandmother (she who “once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made [Obama] cringe.” ) as a “typical white person”.

    Imagine a white politician referring to someone (anyone) as a “typical black/asian/latino person”, then imagine the outcry.

  40. Joe Says:

    Urbino said:
    “I’ve pretty much always assumed neither one of them would make any changes to NAFTA.”

    But Obama said he would.

  41. Joe Says:

    For Captain,

    Urbino said:
    Nonetheless — and I think Al can back me up on this — a pastor is pretty much always on the campaign trail. He (or she) is always campaigning to keep his job; campaigning to motivate the congregation; campaigning to change their thinking.

    That’s what I was referring to.

  42. urbino Says:

    But Obama said he would.

    So did Clinton.

  43. Joe Says:

    But the whole point of your argument is that we don’t have a reason not to take Obama at his word. Then you point out an instance where you yourself didn’t really take Obama at his word.

  44. Sandi Says:

    I don’t know if any of you heard about Mike Huckabee’s comments on MSNBC regarding the Obama/Wright controversy. I thought I’d share them here:

    On Obama’s speech:

    “… I think that, you know, Obama has handled this about as well as anybody could. And I agree, it’s a very historic speech. … And I thought he handled it very, very well.”

    And on the Rev. Wright:

    “… One other thing I think we’ve got to remember: As easy as it is for those of us who are white to look back and say, “That’s a terrible statement,” I grew up in a very segregated South, and I think that you have to cut some slack. And I’m going to be probably the only conservative in America who’s going to say something like this, but I’m just telling you: We’ve got to cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told, “You have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie. You have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant. And you can’t sit out there with everyone else. There’s a separate waiting room in the doctor’s office. Here’s where you sit on the bus.” And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment. And you have to just say, I probably would, too. I probably would, too. In fact, I may have had a more, more of a chip on my shoulder had it been me.”

    I was blown away by this. How downright CHRISTIAN of him to put himself in someone else’s shoes. (I say this sarcastically to contrast him with all the other Christians out there piling on).

    Because really, how surprising is it that African Americans have anger about racism, both past and present? I held back saying that the other day, but the more I think about it, the more this whole thing seems like a tempest in a teapot. I guess it’s okay to be angry as long as you don’t have the temerity to express it in public, so as not to frighten the white folks. I guess I don’t see what’s so bad about black liberation theology. It seems like a logical, foreseeable response to the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

    And now that I’ve revealed myself as one of those g-d bleeding hearts, I’ll get back to my latte and Volvo.

  45. Sandi Says:

    And on the “typical white person” thing, for Pete’s sake, can’t we all agree that the “typical white person” in the 86-year-old cohort (and frankly, in any cohort) has racial stereotypes? I read a great article on Slate last week about how the word “racist” has become this epithet you can’t use — there is racism but almost no racists out there. Which is a crock. We’re all racists because we live in a racist culture. It’s not a personal moral failing to make stereotyped associations when you see someone on the street, etc. We all do it unconsciously. To quote one of my favorite shows: “The question, Mrs. Shively, is not whether or not you’re a racist. We’re all racist. The question is, what are you going to do about it?” It’s a process that we need to engage in of making our unconscious stereotypes conscious and constantly questioning them. It’s hard to do because it requires constant attention; I often get lazy about it and fall back on stereotypes in my head. Being racist is not a static thing; it ebbs and flows, and it coexists with our more enlightened ideals. It’s far too complicated to characterize it the way we do — conceiving of “racists” as “other” and a separate category of human. It’s all a continuum, not just among people, but within each person.

    That L.A. Times guy was wrong, too. Being aware of history and how history has influenced the present is not “blowing it.” Effectively, his view is that we have to ignore/forget the past in order to get beyond it. That’s very American of him, but I disagree that it is the only (or even an) effective way to solve these problems. Yes, some progress has been made since the Civil Rights movement. But slavery and segregation have long shadows that still darken the lives of many people, black and white. I don’t see how acknowledging this, especially since it happens so rarely in the public discourse (outside of academia), is a bad thing.

  46. alsturgeon Says:

    To the campaign/preacher question: I totally agree that my job is constant campaigning – for something or another. I don’t mean that in an insincere way, but in the exact ways JU outlined. As a preacher, I constantly feel like I have to watch what I say. (And the fact that I’ve been a housefly/hippo openly would not be considered wise in my situation.)

    To Sandi: two awesome comments.

    To Huckabee: I cannot believe the audacity of Hope (Arkansas), producing a Bill Clinton and then a Mike Huckabee. 🙂 First I hear humility from a Democrat, and then I hear it from a Republican. Not only will the Cubs win the World Series, but maybe the Pigs will fly when they play Indiana today.

    I have to say I have TOTAL respect for the honesty in Huckabee’s comments, and that I completely agree with him.

  47. Joe Says:

    Sandi,
    I never said that anger over racial prejudice wasn’t justified. In that sense, I agree with Huck. I don’t think it’s the healthiest thing, though. I fully believe that “anger does more damage to the person in which it is stored than onto the person which it’s poured.”

    Anyway… I guess my two main points are:

    1. Obama is just another politician that talks out of both sides when it suits his campaign.

    2. He is not the “post-racial” candidate that so many seem to be enamored with.

    I think the NAFTA memo supports point one and the “typical white person” comment along with his close association with Wright support point two.

    Sandi said:
    “And on the “typical white person” thing, for Pete’s sake, can’t we all agree that the “typical white person” in the 86-year-old cohort (and frankly, in any cohort) has racial stereotypes?”

    No argument on that point. But that’s not what Obama said. He didn’t say “typical 86-year old white person” or “typical of her generation”, or as you suggest, “typical of all of us.” He said “typical white person.” In his paradigm, all white people think like his 86-year old grandmother.

  48. DeJon Says:

    If I were smart I would thank Sandi for saying what I was thinking better than I could. but I’m not that smart so I’ll throw in my $.02.

    Michael Meyers’ column comes dangerously close to saying we should pretend race doesn’t exist. And that, my friends, is a recommendation to fight ignorance with more ignorance. I couldn’t find his column to be any more disagreeable, diluted, and unobliging.

    And I also must mention that I loathe the line of argument in racially tinged discussions where one party says, “If that had been a white/black person who had done/said X then…”

    Now, I’m no attorney and I really suck at formal logic, but that argument is weak, flawed and offensive because of its inherent forced assumptions.

    I think it is safe to say Obama was not trying to be racially disparaging to his own grandmother when he referred to her as a “typical white person.” That strikes me as going the extra mile to completely miss the Senator’s point.

  49. DeJon Says:

    Some what OT…

    If you don’t think white people have any “typical” tendencies then you haven’t read this blog.

    I’m starting to wonder if these people follow me around, and write about me… the whitest person you could know.

  50. Joe Says:

    That blog DeJon… ugh. I guess I’m not nearly as white as I thought. I’m only batting about .250 on the listed items. And most of the stuff I can’t stand. Plus, the argument isn’t about typical “tendencies.” It’s about typical beliefs.

    What’s wrong with turning a scenario around for the sake of an argument? Spotlight too hot? Just because you “loathe” it doesn’t make it invalid.

    For that matter… I loathe the “it’s a black thing, you wouldn’t understand” argument. And that’s what Barack pretty much threw in everyone’s face on Wednesday.

  51. DeJon Says:

    Joe, I hope you were able to crack a smile over some of the “white people” stuff. I threw it out there for humor only.

    Also, the reason I find the “if s/he were white/black” line of thinking so disagreeable has nothing to do with any hot spotlight. But because of the way that idea tries to force the listener to be entirely too presumptuous. If OJ had been white… If Michael Richards had been black… If Obama had been white…

    Too single out race as an independent variable and to assume that the presumed outcome makes a vivid and valid point is ridiculous, it’s lazy and preys on our inherent racism. That’s why I hate it. Its a shallow, lazy way of making a half-point. And if I’m the listener, it fails miserably.

    And for you to boil Sen. Obama’s discourse on race to “its a black thing…” is a crying shame. I’d love to provide you the details of his thoughtful, incisive look at one of contemporary America’s more prevalent and poisonous issues, but it is becoming painfully obvious you have made up your mind… Anything Barack says = Bad.

    I just wish this weren’t the case.

  52. Joe Says:

    DeJon said:
    “it is becoming painfully obvious you have made up your mind… Anything Barack says = Bad.”

    I really don’t think that way DeJon, and I think you know that. Obama just doesn’t ring as true to me as he does to others. It does seem to me that many folks have their Obama colored glasses on and that everything he utters is somehow “transcendent” or “historic”, that he is some sort of political Messiah.

    Actually, everything he says is historic, if only because he is the first truly viable minority candidate for the presidency. A lot of folks want to be a part of that history. Some support him because of his policies. Some support him because of his identity. Some support him because they want to “stick it to the Man.” Some support him just to be a part of the story, to say that they were among those that campaigned and voted for the first black president. Some just like a good speech. Though a very small subset, there may even be an element of “white guilt” thrown in amongst his supporters.

    When you boil it all down, the only one of those that really matters is policies. And I don’t like his.

    I’ll say it again, as I did earlier in the thread, that I like Obama.

    And DeJon, there was most definitely an element of “it’s a black thing” in his defense of Wright. There were also elements of “it’s a white thing” and “it’s an immigrant” thing in his speech. He turned us all into victims of history and circumstance. Based on that, I don’t think his speech was nearly as helpful as many think it was.

  53. Sandi Says:

    DeJon: That blog is hilarious. Although it only describes a small subset of white people, I have to admit that there were a lot of things mentioned in there that sounded familiar.

    Joe: if the anger is understandable, then why is what the Rev. said so awful? I agree that anger usually ends up hurting the person who is angry more than the object of his or her anger. That’s a life lesson I still struggle with too. As for being “post-racial,” I don’t think Obama himself ever claimed to be that. I think he wanted to be inclusive, which is a different thing, and to emphasize people’s commonalities rather than their differences — which is admirable, and something we need more of. His speech indicates that he believes it is possible to do that while still acknowledging the more ignominious parts of our past. I agree with him, personally, but I fear that may be too much nuance for most Americans, who tend to have an us vs. them mentality.

    I definitely don’t think that Obama made the “it’s a black thing …” argument the other day. I think when he said “to the untrained ear …”, he just meant that if you heard one remark out of its context, and that you had never heard it before, it might sound different and worse than if you had the benefit of knowing the full context. Although, I don’t have a problem admitting that there are some things I don’t and can’t fully understand because of the fact that I’m white. I understand the aversion to the way the “it’s a black thing …” argument is typically made — it sounds flip and dismissive, and doesn’t indicate a desire to increase communication or understanding. But I don’t think Obama was being any of those things.

  54. Sandi Says:

    “He turned us all into victims of history and circumstance.”

    But we ARE all victims of history and circumstance — or benefactors of it, depending on what hand you drew in life. Which is not to say that we don’t have any choices to make within the lives we have, just that the broad outlines of our existences are indelibly shaped by the nation, race, gender, family, etc. that we are born into. I don’t see that as particularly controversial.

  55. DeJon Says:

    Joe,

    I saw you earlier reference the use of the word transcendent. I used it, and I stand by it. And here’s why.

    Stealing from Gawker and Jon Stewart just a bit… after a whole routine about the speech that fell 90% flat, Stewart suddenly summed it up quite nicely: “and so,” he said, “on a Tuesday at 11 a.m., a Presidential candidate actually spoke to Americans about race as though we were adults.” That, my friend, is… transcendent.

    Sen Obama dealt with the issue from both sides. And that is an ability lost not just on politicians but on too many people everywhere.

    I know down deep inside you knew what he was talking about when he said:

    So when [working- and middle-class white Americans] are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

    If you don’t know what he’s talking about I sure-fire do. And while I can’t empathize, I can understand what it must be like to walk a mile in Jeremiah Wright’s shoes. Kind of like Chris Rock talking about OJ simpson… I’m not saying Rev. Wright should have said those angry things… “But I understand.”

    I’m being just a touch cheeky, and probably shouldn’t be. But I see where you’re coming from. You don’t like Barack’s policies. I respect that, and I’m not trying to change your mind. Quite frankly, I know you are better versed on the effects of political policy than I am.

    However, I really hate to hear you discount Sen Obama’s message as if its the same old rhetoric we’ve been hearing for 30 years.

    Its not. Particularly on the race issue (but not only on this issue) his discussion is more mature, more reasoned, and IMO mo’ better than what we’ve heard from Sens. McCain and Clinton.

  56. DeJon Says:
  57. DeJon Says:

    HTML IS THE DEVIL!

  58. Joe Says:

    Sandi,
    Wright’s incendiary message, though justified, wasn’t at all helpful. What benefit can come from calling “white America” the “U.S. of KKKA”?

    I mean c’mon. Give the country a little credit. We’ve made some progress since 1955, haven’t we?

  59. captmidknight Says:

    This discussion has gone on so long that I have trouble really knowing what to address. As for Joe’s question about campaigning preachers, I’ll defer to Al, who has real world personal experience on the subject, and has already weighed in:

    “To the campaign/preacher question: I totally agree that my job is constant campaigning – for something or another. I don’t mean that in an insincere way, but in the exact ways JU outlined. As a preacher, I constantly feel like I have to watch what I say. (And the fact that I’ve been a housefly/hippo openly would not be considered wise in my situation.)”

    I doubt that I could add much, except to say that the Apostle Paul was a pretty fair preacher in his day, and Al can probably identify with his “campaign” slogan

    “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.”

    Actually sounds a little political, doesn’t it?

    I will have to agree with Joe on one subject (Why should you be surprised?):

    “Imagine a white politician referring to someone (anyone) as a “typical black/asian/latino person”, then imagine the outcry.”

    With which some of you will probably take issue (Why should I be surprised?)

    There is a rather pronounced asymmetry in any discussion of race today. The same remarks – or types of remarks – tend to provoke very different reactions from the media and the various interest groups depending on where the remarks originate on the political and social spectrum. In that regard, I appreciated Sandi’s comments very much, and I wish the subject could be approached this way more often:

    “The question, Mrs. Shively, is not whether or not you’re a racist. We’re all racist. The question is, what are you going to do about it?” It’s a process that we need to engage in of making our unconscious stereotypes conscious and constantly questioning them. It’s hard to do because it requires constant attention; I often get lazy about it and fall back on stereotypes in my head. Being racist is not a static thing; it ebbs and flows, and it coexists with our more enlightened ideals. It’s far too complicated to characterize it the way we do — conceiving of “racists” as “other” and a separate category of human. It’s all a continuum, not just among people, but within each person.”

    When we get to the point that we can agree on a reasonable definition of the term “Racist,” so that the term isn’t used either as a label to – a priori – demonize and silence some with whom we may disagree or as a “vaccine” for others so that they become immune to criticism or scrutiny, maybe we can make the kind of progress we all hope for.

    I hope the discussion continues, even though my comments sometime have the effect of killing off threads. I’ve tried to be as honest, yet as accommodating as possible. Probably a little more mellow today. I have a couple of cute little grandkids in the house that are temporarily suppressing my “inner curmudgeon.”

    Happy Easter to all.

  60. alsturgeon Says:

    Well, great Captain. You’ve killed another thread.
    🙂

    Read the Gospel at a Good Friday Service with the Lutherans today, then went to a funeral with the Baptists… Guess where I’ll be with the Church of Christ guys tonight? A hockey game!!!

  61. captmidknight Says:

    “Well, great Captain. You’ve killed another thread.”
    _________
    Must be a personality/philosophy/heritage/DNA disorder. Maybe I should change my name from Capt to RIP. Technically, though, since you responded, I’m off the hook – except that I’m responding back. Dang! Maybe some of the others will take pity.

    “Read the Gospel at a Good Friday Service with the Lutherans today, then went to a funeral with the Baptists… Guess where I’ll be with the Church of Christ guys tonight? A hockey game!!!”
    ________
    Very ecumenical of you. Reminds me of reading a scripture at my daughter’s wedding. It was held at a Catholic Church and presided over by a priest and a C of C minister. Don’t see that every day.

    Of course, nothing says “Good Friday” like a hockey game.

    Enjoy

  62. urbino Says:

    HTML IS THE DEVIL!

    Fixed.

  63. urbino Says:

    Playing catch-up, after a couple of busy days.

    But the whole point of your argument is that we don’t have a reason not to take Obama at his word. Then you point out an instance where you yourself didn’t really take Obama at his word.

    Not quite. My point was particularly about Obama’s beliefs and attitudes about race. I never made any blanket claim about taking anybody at their word on all subjects at all times; I hope I’m old enough to know better than that. I’m talking about the one claim that you made in your first comment: that Obama = Wright on the subject of race. Obama explained their relationship, their history, his membership in Wright’s church, and his own views on race. It’s the same thing he’s said since college. His record in public life doesn’t support your statement. So, no, I don’t see any reason for anybody to believe you over Obama on this subject.

    he referred to his grandmother . . . as a “typical white person”.

    You seem to be saying that that’s some kind of accusation by a member of one race against another. But Obama’s white. He’s as white as black, anyway. Is the problem that he’s not white enough to talk about white people as a white person?

    Imagine a white politician referring to someone (anyone) as a “typical black/asian/latino person”, then imagine the outcry.

    I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to understand that comments by whites about blacks are not heard the same way in this country as comments by blacks about whites. I really don’t. I know both you and Cap’n are familiar with American history, so I know you’re aware that race has never been a level, two-way street in this country.

    I’ve heard you both say America’s 300 years of institutionalized racism by whites against blacks ended long enough ago that it shouldn’t matter to anybody anymore. I’m going to suggest, though, that you might feel differently if you were a member of the race on the short end of that stick for 3 centuries; particularly if, like Wright and Cap’n, you’re old enough to remember Jim Crow firsthand.

    If somebody with a record of beating his wife says women can never make up their minds, those words are taken, by any intelligent person, differently than they would be if said by Barbara Bush or David Letterman or Ellen DeGeneres. Source matters. History matters.

    In a society where white people held black people as subhuman — legally, economically, politically, socially, spiritually, sexually, mentally, and emotionally — for the first 300 years of that society’s existence, yes, barely 2 generations after the worst of that ended there are things black people can say about white people that would be inappropriate if the roles were reversed.

    Is it helpful for blacks to say those things about whites? The reaction by many to Wright’s words, and even to one small clause in Obama’s speech, suggest it isn’t. So okay. It isn’t helpful. But the notion that just because something is outrageous and if said by whites about blacks, it must be exactly as outrageous if said by blacks about whites just doesn’t work.

    That’s obvious. It’s incredibly obvious. So it truly leaves me at loose ends when people as intelligent as you and Cap’n don’t seem to get it. Honestly, how can you not get that?

  64. urbino Says:

    But we ARE all victims of history and circumstance — or benefactors of it, depending on what hand you drew in life.

    One of the really good things about Obama’s speech is that he points that out and owns it: we are ALL victims of history and circumstance, when it comes to racism. Both blacks and whites feel the grievance. He’s trying to get both “sides” to stop blaming each other and focus instead on solving the other problems we all have in common.

    I don’t see how that’s divisive.

  65. urbino Says:

    He turned us all into victims of history and circumstance. Based on that, I don’t think his speech was nearly as helpful as many think it was.

    Okay, I know victimology and victim mentalities and the “victim card” are popular punching bags in conservative thought and rhetoric, but let’s just get it on the table that conservatives do the very thing they anathematize in others.

    We’ve had 20+ years of “liberal media” this and “liberal media” that from the American right, all of it designed to do one thing: paint conservatives as victims of media bias.

    We’ve had almost 50 years of “liberal campus” this and “liberal campus” that, about how conservatives are victims of university bias.

    We’ve had 30 years of “stab in the back” rhetoric, about how patriotic Americans were the victims of liberals in losing the Vietnam War. In fact, we’ve had 30 years of nearly non-stop rhetoric from conservatives about how they and all of America are the victims of liberals on pretty much every issue at hand. When 9/11 happened, prominent members of the Religious Right said America was the victim of gays, lesbians, “abortionists,” and the Warren court. When Katrina happened, conservatives said we were the victims of gays and lesbians. When mudslides or wildfires or earthquakes hit California, conservatives say we’re the victims of gays and lesbians and Hollywood.

    And, speaking of the RR, nobody but nobody plays the victim card like Evangelicals. Flip through a classic CofC hymnal sometime, and see how many of them are about looking to Jesus because we’re so downtrodden and oppressed.

    So calling out Obama or blacks or anybody else for engaging in victim rhetoric or thinking, it just doesn’t fly.

  66. captmidknight Says:

    I’m almost violating my rule of “no comments written after midnight,” but here goes:

    JU said:
    “So it truly leaves me at loose ends when people as intelligent as you and Cap’n don’t seem to get it. Honestly, how can you not get that?”
    _________
    My only real comment in this discussion up to now was the following:

    “There is a rather pronounced asymmetry in any discussion of race today. The same remarks – or types of remarks – tend to provoke very different reactions from the media and the various interest groups depending on where the remarks originate on the political and social spectrum.”

    If I understand your response, you agree that the statement is true – not only true, but a logical and morally defensible consequence of the history of race relations in this country – and are at a loss to understand how Joe and I (and, by extension, anyone who is reasonably intelligent and rational) can fail to “get it.”

    Let me see if I can clarify. Believe it or not, speaking for myself, we probably agree on more than you think, on this subject, at least:

    18th and 19th century America’s treatment of minorities was atrocious – North and South. Think African Americans, Irish, Chinese, American Indians etc. There were precious few clean hands. In fact, during that time, treatment of minorities was atrocious pretty much world wide. Gradual improvement was made during the 20th century, which brings us to now. For many years, segregation and inequality were enshrined in law: now, hopefully, equal opportunity and equal justice have replaced them, and we can all be proud of that fact, however reluctantly some may have come along. Surely we agree on these things, even though we might still argue over whether the pendulum, having been so far to one side may not have swung too far on the other. That seem to be the story of mankind. The pendulum of history seems to spend little time near the center.

    I understand asymmetry of meaning as it applies to certain words or phrases. It’s hard to imagine that the “n” word could be spoken by any white American and be seen as anything but a racial epithet, but it’s now used regularly by young Black men as everything from an insult to a term of endearment. That, in fact, makes a lot of older Blacks cringe, because they remember the bad old days, but time marches on and word usage and meanings change. A word that, for generations, was used to demean them, they have now taken over and happily use among themselves for their own purposes. A sort of sweet revenge. I get it.

    An individual or a group’s history influences how their opinions are received – and how they perceive and evaluate the statements and opinions of others. It is completely understandable, especially in groups that finally get some measure of power after years of repression. The Black soldiers in the Civil War even had a phrase for it that they used often on Southern prisoners (many Black units were used as guards in Union prison camps, partly to “rub the Rebel’s nose in it, so to speak, but also because their white Union, presumably abolitionist, commanders didn’t trust them in combat). “Bottom rail on top now, Massa!” they’d say. Given what many of them had gone through, I can easily understand (but please don’t tell the folks at the Civil War historic site where I volunteer).

    What I also get, but don’t agree with, as I tried to say a little later in my comments, is the use of the term “Racist” by groups on either side of the debate to prejudge and discount the opinions of some and prejudge and validate the opinion of others based on their family or racial history or political persuasion.

    I’m sure that I have ancestors who owned slaves – at least they would have if they had the money. If you were born in Arkansas, you probably do too. Does that mean that you and I today, eight generations down the line, have no right to a voice in the discussion because we are forever tainted and our opinions must, by definition, be racist?

    Rev. Wright, as you pointed out, is about my age, and certainly experienced discrimination growing up as a Black man – although he was born in Philadelphia rather than in the Deep South. I do get it that a lot of anger can be the result. Who’s to say that you or I might not have felt the same in his place? Does that mean, even though it may be possible for me to understand, given his experiences, the cause of his remarks and opinions, and, yes, even his hatred, that it would still be racist for me to disagree, much less condemn him for them because I lack a common experience? You’re clear headed and fair enough not to believe that, but, believe me, some people out there do, either because of their personal history, which I can understand and have some sympathy for, or because they believe that such a position gives them the moral high ground or, more likely, a political advantage, which I also understand, but deny. I admit that I may not “understand the Black church,” but does that invalidate my opinion? True, some opinions may really be invalid, and others more reasonable, but because of their content, not simply because of who the person is. We’re not really very far apart on the racial issue. I don’t believe that there are any racist or dishonest Hippos, but that’s just my opinion.

    The problem with any discussion of racism in America is that nobody at the table is without baggage, and everybody is tempted to define the issue in terms that favor their own position and validate their own feelings. I can’t believe that you wouldn’t favor a definition of Racism that would help us approach the problem with as little baggage and preconceptions on either side as possible. You even included the following statement:

    “we are ALL victims of history and circumstance, when it comes to racism. Both blacks and whites feel the grievance. He’s trying to get both “sides” to stop blaming each other and focus instead on solving the other problems we all have in common.”

    That’s it. I hope he’s trying to do just that. It says much of what I’ve been trying to say. That, in fact, will be one of Obama’s biggest challenges, should he be elected. There will be some – not all, but some – from the minority communities that will see his election as an opportunity for a lot of overdue “pay back,” and if he caves to all of their demands, he’ll alienate a lot of his majority support and generate legitimate charges of favoritism. On the other hand, if he balks at some of them, he’ll be raked over the coals by some of his minority supporters as not really “authentic” enough after all. Not an enviable position.

    Being half white and half black may turn out to be more of a curse than a blessing, since he probably won’t be able to please either group. Nothing new in politics, of course, but, given the unavoidable racial and social tensions of this particular election, I expect it to be more of a problem than usual.

    On a personal note:
    #1 daughter and two grandsons went home today. Grammy and Grampy are tired but happy.
    Hope all the Hippos had a happy Easter.

  67. captmidknight Says:

    JU said:
    Okay, I know victimology and victim mentalities and the “victim card” are popular punching bags in conservative thought and rhetoric, but let’s just get it on the table that conservatives do the very thing they anathematize in others.
    _________
    Okay.
    If we accept your “on the table” statement that “conservatives do the very thing they anathematize in others” as proof that both conservatives and “others” play the “victim card,” either out of honest conviction or simply for political advantage, does it make a difference if some of the claims are actually true?

    I’ve violated my “no comments after midnight” pledge already – but it’s your fault. I’m a victim of your post, which you sneaked in while I was composing my longer one. There. I feel better already.

  68. Joe Says:

    Yes, but… there are three tactics that “victim” groups employ.

    1. A group identifies themselves as “victims” and uses that as motivation and a unifying force to overcome “opression.”

    2. A group identifies themselves as “victims” and demands restitution.

    3. A group identifies themselves as “vicitims” and uses that as an excuse to remain in their current economic/educational state.

    The ideological/political examples on the right that you provide mostly use tactic one. No examples jump out at me of tactics two and three. I’m not saying it hasn’t happened, but examples just don’t jump out at me.

    Racial/Socail “victims” also emply tactic one, but often employ tactics two or three when it serves their purpose.

    I’ll give Obama credit, as much of his speech could be classified as advocating tactic one, but there were significant parts that drifted towards tactic two and even a little of tactic three. And from my vantage point, all of his policies point to tactic two.

    My problem with tactic two is identifying who is responsible for the restitution and who should receive that restitution. It’s an impossible calculation that results in the simple, yet false, solution that the government is responsible and the government decides who is a victim worthy of restitution.

    The true solution is changing hearts and minds on all sides. Obama’s words may seek to do that, but his policies don’t. They just shift the grievances around. He highlights the examples himself in his speech.

  69. urbino Says:

    ISTM conservatives ARE using at least your 2d tactic, Joe, on all of the examples I named except the first 2, and their use of the 1st tactic looks pretty much identical to Wright’s use of it.

    Leaving that aside, I find myself wondering what you would have someone — anyone in a position to address the issue — say on the subject of race in America. Also, what policies would you have someone propose?

    The only thing I can think of that would address what seem to be your criteria is an approach that says, “Hey, we’re all equal, so we’re going to treat everybody exactly the same. Let’s all forget everything that’s happened before today, and make a fresh start, with everybody on an equal footing.”

    Is that what you have in mind?

  70. Joe Says:

    Urbino said:
    “ISTM conservatives ARE using at least your 2d tactic, Joe, on all of the examples I named except the first 2”

    And exactly what type of restitution or reparation are these “victims” seeking? For the most part, they are just complaints imploring the country to change moral direction.

    As far as the policies I would put in place to correct the status quo… I’ve got nothing new to add. We’ve put money into education and it hasn’t worked. We’ve put “ladders of opportunity” in place with moderate success, but not without the negatives of unfairness and resentment for those that the ladders pass over.

    You complain that conservatives haven’t shown the patience to allow these measures to work. I would counter that liberals haven’t shown that patience, either. For them, the change is never big enough or fast enough.

    I don’t know that it can be fixed by anything other than time and the generational change that Obama alludes to in his speech.

  71. urbino Says:

    And exactly what type of restitution or reparation are these “victims” seeking?

    Well, on all the Warren court issues, they want either (or both) the Supreme Court to backtrack and issue opinions favoring their views, and/or constitutional amendments passed that write their views into the Constitution itself. Actually, they think the Constitution already inherently favors them; they just want it more explicitly on their side. As I’ve said before, nobody’s got a bigger sense of entitlement than conservative “values voters.” They think the whole country, in its very marrow, belongs to them, always has, and always will. A bigger sense of entitlement simply isn’t possible.

    You complain that conservatives haven’t shown the patience to allow these measures to work.

    That’s not quite my complaint, Joe. My complaint is that, regardless of any and all corrective policies, it’s unreasonable to expect the effects of 300 years of pervasive, systemic discrimination to evaporate in 40 or 50 years. Economic, educational, social, and political institutions are massive, ponderous things; they don’t turn on a dime. Especially when racism is still very much de facto present in them, even if no longer de jure.

    My complaint is that it’s also unreasonable to expect people who are still suffering those effects to just turn that frown upside-down, trust white people and all those institutions like schools and courts and government that used to be explicitly designed to screw them.

    I hear you saying that’s not what you expect, but I also hear you saying Wright just “fosters negativity [and] victim politics” because he expressed that pent up frustration and rage, and that Obama, despite having never expressed it, and in fact having only ever expressed and evinced a desire to move beyond it, can’t be trusted not to be just like him, because he favors policies that are directed toward the same goals as those proposed by nearly every Democratic politician since JFK.

    I honestly have a hard time seeing the difference between saying that and saying there’s nothing we can do to fix things, so black people should just get over it; other than being more polite.

  72. DeJon Says:

    Just to provide contrast, I provide Pat Buchanan’s input on the Obama/Wright flap.

    While I know that he is a human being with a life that someone appreciates… I wish he would stop attempting to contribute to the national dialog. With this meager offering, he exposes himself as a racist, self-congratulating dim wit with no ability to look beyond his own pitiful state of being.

    His views make me want to puke… Enjoy!

    PJB: A Brief for Whitey

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