Thursday, March 20, 2008

so, what have we learned?

Obama Tries to Shift Focus Away From Race but sees a drop in support, according to a poll mentioned in the Times.

What have we learned from the past few days? Well, that Americans are dumber than ever when it comes to talking about race or racial identity and that no one will ever say the words 'white privilege' on air.

Jesus. As long as Obama stayed imbued with the halo of his media-created 'magical negritude' then he was all right. But - as soon as he became associated with a less moderate point of view about America and America's treatment of communities of color, then he's militant and somehow unworthy of the candidacy.

(And HRC? All she has to do is sit back and watch it all happen.)

I spoke with someone about this today (a white woman that I respect a great deal) and she said that what disturbed her most about how this whole thing is playing out is how this is impacting speech. (And let's be clear about one thing - you might not like what Wright said but it's not hate speech.) Not only is this an instance of 'guilt by association,' something that would never seriously damage a white political figure, she said, 'If churches are where communities can safely vent their frustrations and troubles, then this means that those spaces are no longer safe.'

Here in Chicago, are we suddenly going to pore over the sermons by people like Rev. James Meeks or even Fr. Michael Pfleger at St. Sabina's if they say something critical of white supremacy?

Because that's what Wright was talking about: White supremacy. Not you, oh clueless, individual white person. Get over the interpersonal and intentional way of framing your discussions about race or racial justice. It's not about YOU, it's about the structure of white supremacy in this country. How many times do we have to say this before you frakking get it??

(Angry? Yeah, I'm angry. I'm always angry when I'm confronted with stupid.)

But, more importantly, we've learned that the much-ballyhooed 'post-racial' era in America is about as real as a jackalope.

(The president of the Chicago Urban League wrote a letter to the Editor here in the Chicago Defender about her reaction to the flap.)


Greg said...

Hmmm, maybe the gun is being jumped here. Frankly, I'm 48 years old and Obama's speach was far and away the best political speech I have heard in my adult life. Then I saw the poll results, and then I noticed that the data was collected between March 14 - March 18 - i.e., before Obama's speech. So, I'd like to see what a similar poll taken today says. In any event, the poll does not give any indication of the public reaction to Obama's speech. It might also be interesting to know why this point was not made in the article about the poll.

Anonymous said...

Greg, please, I am sure you have heard much better.

This song comes to mind about the whole fiasco. "I SEE YOUR TRUE COLORS SHINING THROUGH, BUT THAT'S WHY I LOVE YOU, YOUR TRUE COLORS, SHINING THROUGH..." Sorry, Phil Collins if I messed that up, but I got your message.

Personally, I am glad that Obama has finally decided to say, Hey, I'm a black man, and another thing, I believe that I have been victimized too, by the white man. My friend and pastor that I sat under for 20-years, Jeremiah, said those things because he is angry, and I agree with him. Of course I can't let the white people know it, because then, they won't like me. I have to be neutral in order to be accepted by the privilege of society. Truly, I am a black man, a liberal, why else would I continue to associate with a church such as that,I must agree with something about that church. One day I will run for president,I am going to need that black vote.


ding said...

i'm probably feeding the troll here but i'd really like to know where you've heard a speech as nuanced as the one Obama gave on race and race relations. and nowhere in that speech did he say he was a victim; he did say, however, that the policies of this country have negatively impacted communities of color as well as poor white communities.

i honestly don't get you, Anonymous. you seem to have some little grasp of power and race relations in this country yet you have such a disdain of Obama that is baffling.

to me, you epitomize Homi Baba's 'doubled subject' exactly.

post another annoying, unhelpful and deliberately obtuse comment and i'll delete it.

ding said...

and, Greg, you may be right. i may have ramped up to Militant Black Anger Level 4 rather abruptly.


Songbird said...

I don't think you ramped up too high, and I'm a middle-aged white gal. I found the sound bites disturbing, and then I made myself think about why: because I am so careful myself in the pulpit! It's completely wrong to hold the person in the pew accountable for words from the pulpit. I don't believe it would ever happen to a white candidate. We are dealing with racism here, a white supremacy so subtle to most white people that we can't recognize it when we see it.

Greg said...

Well, I may also be wrong. I don't own a television, but I've heard through the grapevine that the coverage of the speach has predictably analyzed this and that soundbite and completely missed the overall point and tone of the speech. *Sigh*.

Anonymous said...

It's completely wrong to hold the person in the pew accountable for words from the pulpit. I don't believe it would ever happen to a white candidate. We are dealing with racism here, a white supremacy so subtle to most white people that we can't recognize it when we see it.


Jeremiah staff should have edited the tape since it was a sermon just for the people.
Songbird what you wrote sounds like white guilt. No need to feel guilty. Even though Ding now feels superior that you admitted it.


ding said...

Wow. You are rude.

i don't feel superior to Songbird at all. i feel glad that there's someone who is thoughtful about racial justice and that this someone is in a pulpit, able to model that kind of thoughtfulness.

without this kind of thoughtfulness (which is everyone's duty - not just white people - if we want to live in a racially just society) what's our alternative, Anonymous?

Do you not think that white supremacy exists?
Do you not think that a move toward racial justice would be useful or necessary?
Do you not think that being critical of the ways that policies and practices impact communities of color aren't important?

I'm trying to get a gauge on just what your issue is, dude.

If you're fine with white supremacy, with accepting white privilage unequivocally, with labeling the desire to achieve racial justice as 'white guilt' (which belittles the effort and the person making the effort), with leaving crucial bridgebuilding within and to communities of color unattempted, then this is NOT the right forum for you.


ding said...

@Greg: another commenter at another space I write for reassured me of the same thing about the poll. She also mentioned that the post-speech results showed that Obama got at least a 2-3 point bump from it.

And be glad you don't own a TV. The coverage has been sickening. The media has been really really stupid about this whole thing. (And really clear that, for the most part, they don't have friends of color and have never set foot in your average black church on Sunday.)

@Songbird: your comment reminds of the one time we had a guest pastor give the 11 am sermon for commemorating MLK's birthday. She was pastor of a fairly large black presbyterian congregation as well as a professor in the seminary. Her sermon was, in my mind, a relatively mild one about the need to keep racial justice as a guiding principle in the church and to encourage people to be thoughtful about their own prejudices and blindnesses.

You could feel the ripple of discomfort roll across the congregation. It wasn't as if the congregation hadn't heard sermons like this before - but hearing about racial justice from a kindly scottish pastor is one thing and having a stern black woman say it is another.

Several people actually got up and left during the sermon and there was a lot of indignant 'Well, I'm not a racist! How dare she call me a racist!' talk during coffee hour. This - in probably the most progressive Presbytery in Illinois, in the largest and most progressive congregation in Chicago.

So, yeah, if folks aren't willing to acknowledge white supremacy as an actual force and ideology woven into our politics, policies and practices, then there's really no point in being surprised that people won't 'get it.'

ding said...

PS: and if folks really wanted to hear some radical, socially militant preaching, all they'd have to do is look up Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina's. The man might be Irish but he's the most militant black man in the south side of Chicago, other than Louis Farrakhan.

Wasp Jerky said...

It's been amusing to see the reactions to Wright. The things he said aren't all that different from the writings of the minor and major prophets. Actually, Wright was pretty tame by comparison. I mean, it's not like he was talking about donkey semen or anything.

(Oh, and Frank Schaeffer has an interesting take too.)

ding said...

What I love most about Schaeffer's piece are the comments - are people deliberately stupid? Are they not reading carefully enough?

And have folks not read 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God'? People need to learn the definition of 'jeremiad,' if you ask me.

Anyway, you're right. At least he's not talking about donkey semen. (Though...what kind of sermon would mentin donkey semen??)

Molly Malone said...

it is upsetting though that challenging white supremacy is tricky. one of the best sermons i ever heard was from one of my former pastors, a white man, who preached about the sin of white skin privelege. it was great, refreshing and really spoke to something i felt i had known all the time, but couldn't quite articulate. i don't remember any negative blowback from our 95% white congregation. later, at another church, we had black pastor. i remember him preaching racial reconciliation, but never anything as direct as that sermon. but i always wondered what kind of reaction he'd've had w/ our 50%-50% white/black congregation with that sermon.

kind of a nonsequitur, though:
Obama's speech has made me more confident than ever that he is the person who should lead our country.
I voted for him in the primaries, and now am proud and glad i didn't vote Hilary as I was wavering on. this white girl was leaning barack, and am now totally Pro-Bama!

belledame222 said...

are people deliberately stupid?

you know, i do find myself asking that question increasingly often, in a -variety- of contexts.

ding said...

and the answer is always 'yes,' isn't it? sigh.