I think we can all agree that Reverend Jeremiah Wright is loopy on many levels. His belief that AIDS is a result of a secret government program against its own citizens pretty much cements his place in the nut house. But not everything that has come out of this mans mouth is crazy. It would be easy to lump everything together (as many Neo-cons love to do), but if you have an IQ slightly higher than that of your average head of lettuce, you can pick out truth from fantasy.
Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s now famous tirade about America’s foreign policy inciting the terrorist attacks of September 11 is interesting to me. Not because it is controversial… any intelligent person can look beyond the rhetoric and understand that the terrorist attacks on the US were the result of America’s activities on foreign shores. To deny that is akin to denying that the sky is blue or that water is wet. No, what I find interesting about the whole thing is how some people reference race and color in their commentary.
To me, the funniest part of this whole situation is when white people comment with their opinion about race relations. White people will never understand the experience of people of color no matter how low they sink… no matter how poor, no matter how deeply they invest themselves in low income communities, no matter who they marry, no matter where they go to school… white people are culturally retarded when it comes to race.
When I hear a white person say, “I grew up in a ghetto and poor! I understand race!” I want to laugh until my sides burst. You are white… you have NO FUCKING CLUE what it means to be of color. You have no idea what it is like to live your entire life thinking that if someone mistreats you, the chances are better than good that they are mistreating you simply because you are not white. The paranoia is all encompassing and no matter how hard you try, you are always under the impression that you are the target of racism.
White people, no matter where they are from (be it a ghetto in New Jersey or a palatial estate in the South) or what their economic situation might be, don’t grow up saddled with racial paranoia. Because of this simple idea, white people can never have an opinion that matters when it comes to race relations. Your understanding of the world is not based on color. You don’t understand it, how can you comment on it with any level of understanding?
For a white person, there are any number of reasons why someone make not like them… or want to wish them harm… or discount them… but for someone of color, the primary thought process will always be, “this person doesn’t like me because I am not white.”
Now beyond color and race, Wright said some things that bear further scrutiny. I have been reading everything I can about what Rev. Wright has said in his sermons and can safely say that not many things he has said are all that new. Some of them are downright ridiculous, but some of them are also based on historical fact. Of course, white people and more specifically, white neo-cons want to make sure that people see what he has said as some form of Anti-American sentiment. Just like Neo-cons paint anyone who is opposed to the war in Iraq as being unpatriotic or traitorous. It is simply a way of saying that if you aren’t with them, you are against them. That is my favorite thing about die hard republicans (aside from being predictable)… they know how to swing a flag better than anyone.
Let’s take a look at some of the things that Wright said:
“I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday,” Wright declared. “He was on Fox News. This is a white man and he was upsetting the Fox News commentators to no end. He pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, that what Malcolm X said when he got silenced by Elijah Muhammad was in fact true: America’s chickens are coming home to roost.”
Wright then went on to list more than a few U.S. foreign policy endeavors that, by the tone of his voice and manner of his expression, he viewed as more or less deplorable. This included, as has been demonstrated in the endless loop of clips from his sermon, bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki and nuking “far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye.”
“Violence begets violence,” Wright said, “hatred begets hatred, and terrorism begets terrorism.”
Is any of that crazy talk? Is any of that untrue? Neo-cons would have you ignore the context of his message and instead focus on what other crazy things he has said. It is much easier to discredit by association that it is to systematically dismantle an idea afterall. But, is Wright wrong?
While Wright does believe that America holds some responsibility for 9/11, his views were actually influenced by a career foreign policy official. His name is Ambassador Edward Peck, and he is a retired, white, career U.S. diplomat who served 32-years in the U.S. Foreign Service and was chief of the U.S. mission to Iraq under Jimmy Carter. The ambassador, who has offered controversial criticism of Israeli policy in the West Bank also warned against the Iraq War.
It is easier to portray Wright as a crazy bigot, than it is to take what he has said within the context of his sermon. To take snippets and say, “here is a man who hates America and is a racist.” The Neo-cons want you to believe that he is anti-American, because they they can pin that label on Obama by association. The amount of venom that neo-cons are spewing in Obama’s direction is proof that America is not ready to reliquish the mantel of the world’s most racist country. More racist than South Africa, than 1930-40s Germany.
The United States is the gold standard by which racism can be measured. Until the day we are all the same color, race will always play a role in how we view each other and the world around us. There is no escaping that, but one thing we can start doing before then is to stop trying to pretend that color doesn’t exist.