I'm reading comments about the scandal of Rev. Wright's comments and now Obama's attempt to address them from his own point of view. I worried at first that the nation would be derailed from the primary race into a fear-fest by the remarks of an inner city black pastor speaking to his own congregation about the ideas he felt were nourishing to them (never anticipating that they would be the subject of national scrutiny with the intention of derailing one of the bright rising stars of politics this century).
I've changed my mind. This topic deserves center stage because it reveals the gross misunderstanding of the white community when it regards racism and black history in America. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that this discussion is the one that is long overdue in the states and has been suppressed since the assassinations of MLK Jr. and Malcolm X. Geraldine Ferraro's comments now rise as petty hand-wringing "take my marbles and go home" whining compared to the much more explosive force of Wright's ideas, suddenly unleashed on an unsuspecting, far-too-comfortable and trusting, white middle class.
That blacks have lingering feelings of oppression: not acceptable.
That blacks see the white race as the perpetrators of the most violence in the history of the world: dare not speak it.
That blacks live daily in a different reality than we whites: not the fault of whites (oh no!) - theirs: for not rising above it cheerfully, without criticism.
It is amazing to me the way no matter what black Americans do, they are painted together with one brush. That Obama has transcended race in his quest for the White House, has not allowed a limited vision of his future to dictate his place, has made use of the advantages offered through the Civil Rights Act to become an advocate for those whose rights continue to be threatened... this is of no consequence. The fact that he attended a church with a pastor who felt free to speak his mind (to even dissent with a "Damn America") is enough to say that Obama is all of that and therefore dangerous.
Let's look for a minute at the Southern Baptist beliefs, shall we? People without Christ go to eternal hell, including Catholics. Women are inferior to men in role and therefore are not equal to men in their ability to lead spiritually. How about the long relationship between war and standing for violence in the American Christian tradition that runs counter to the pacifism that characterized the early church? These are the beliefs of a Huckabee. Shall we also delve into the strangely unsubstantiated views of the Mormon church too because of Mitt Romney's candidacy?
Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell could say that the two towers fell due to our immorality (God keeping score on homosexuals and abortions) but Rev. Wright can't say that our capitalist, insensitive foreign policies led to the attacks on 9/11. Yet of the two, whose assessment deals with facts and reality?
In reading black theology and studying it for two semesters (and then again while working on my thesis) what stood out to me most was that the black Christian community is caught between "white man's religion" and a genuine experience of hope gained through the struggle to be free of the white man's domination. That hope comes through the message and person of Christ. It's the hope that fuels Barack Obama's passion for politics. It is a hope that might even say, "Damn America's past; Bless America's future." We can't get there through a pretense that somehow white America had nothing to do with the present conditions of black experience. In church on Sundays, the black community should finally have the dignity of a space to say what they think, what they need to to get beyond the nearly 400 years of second-class status we've accorded them.
One commenter to Obama's apologetic related to this scandal wrote along these lines: Here we whites ended slavery and gave blacks civil rights. And this is how we're repaid?
There you go. That's the problem in its starkest version. Get outside yourself and listen with different ears. Allow yourself to be troubled, pushed back, knocked out of your comfort zone. I'd contend that's how it is for many blacks every day.