Monday, March 17, 2008

Another Specious Charge of Racism

Image credit: Cujo359

More cause for depression showed up at Firedoglake today:

If you wondered how the nation's mainstream media would ensure that racism and religious militarism influence the next election, just watch MSNBC and ABC stage endless faintings about "Obama's pastor problem." America's DC pundits are bullying a black candidate while making racist attacks on black pastors and churches, thinly disguising them as a defense of American civility and patriotism.

ABC’s and MSNBC’s Racist Attacks on Black Pastors

This article strikes me as another specious charge of racism in a campaign that’s already had too many of them. Obama belongs to a church that openly declares itself afro-centric:

We are a congregation which is Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian... Our roots in the Black religious experience and tradition are deep, lasting and permanent. We are an African people, and remain "true to our native land," the mother continent, the cradle of civilization. God has superintended our pilgrimage through the days of slavery, the days of segregation, and the long night of racism. It is God who gives us the strength and courage to continuously address injustice as a people, and as a congregation. We constantly affirm our trust in God through cultural expression of a Black worship service and ministries which address the Black Community.

Trinity UCC: About Us

To me, and I think to most people who aren't in Obama's camp, that’s going to sound a bit fishy when the man promises to bring us all together. Given that he hasn’t had much of a track record of doing that, it’s reasonable to look at his background and associates to see what might be learned from them.

Would anyone think that if John Edwards or Chris Dodd had belonged to an “unashamedly white” church that they were OK? Edwards was pilloried as a racist even though he never gave anyone real reason. Dodd probably only escaped that label by being too small to matter.

You don’t need to posit racism to explain any of this stuff. The people Scarecrow mentioned on the ABC and NBC shows are there all the time. There’s already an imbalance in favor of the conservative, rich, and male. One also needn’t posit racism to understand Fox’s fascination with the subject of Pastor Wright. Some of the things Wright has said would set off alarm bells with just about anyone if they were taken out of context. Explaining that context is a much better counter than calling people racists when they probably don’t deserve the label.

Claiming Obama just wasn't there isn't going to cut it, either, for what I think are obvious reasons.

I agree that black people have something to be angry about. That doesn’t stop me from thinking that some forms of that anger sound just as intolerant as white people who complain that black folks get all the breaks, or that they’re all no good because so many are in jail. Bigots are bigots, no matter what ethnic group they come from. When you're on the other side of that anger, and it seems to be directed at you for no good reason, you're not going to take it as valid.

A quick look at the Wikipedia entry on black churches suggests that black churches are an integral part of their communities, as does a review of the civil rights movement in this country. They are, to some extent, different from their counterparts in mostly white neighborhoods. That's what Obama supporters ought to be pointing out. Part of the process of bringing people together is understanding each other's point of view. Giving people labels they don't deserve only serves to hinder that process.

UPDATE: While it's not directly related to this article, Sen. Obama is giving a "major speech" tomorrow on race relations and Pastor Wright. Taylor Marsh notes:

One thing Senator Obama should not do is defend Rev. Wright. One thing this does prove, which Obama refused to admit early on, is that some 1960s conflicts are still very much alive. Just ask Rev. Wright. Obama needs to speak about how Wright is the past and Obama is the future, with their relationship and what he's learned from Wright the reason he's the one to lead us out of the racial conflicts of the 20th century. Obama is a truly gifted orator so this could work. Frankly, for the sake of the Democratic party, I hope it does.

Oratory to the Rescue?

Taylor's right in this assessment. What's more, he needs to avoid the sort of disingenuous excuses I mentioned earlier. Whether they are literally true or not, no one with any sense is going to believe Obama wasn't aware of Wright's opinions. It would probably be best to just say they disagree and move on.

No comments: