Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Reverend Wright

Regarding Reverend Wright's speech at the National Press Club: I did not see it when he gave it, but I watched it on line all the way through soon after, and then I watched as he took questions. As I was watching and after the Q and A, I thought what a terrific educational presentation he was giving. I also remember thinking something like, "Well, I guess this should put to rest all that right wing stuff we've been hearing recently." And it crossed my mind that "this guy is from Philadelphia--Germantown, in fact! Damn!" The man's theme was "reconciliation and transformation" as expressed from the pulpit historically, and in particular in the "Black Church", with which, he pointed out, many white commentators, journalists, historians, etc. have been and continue to be unfamiliar. He invited them to stay around for the next two days at the symposium that was starting then. It was during the Q and A that he was asked provacative questions about Louis Farrakhan, etc. He handled all of these with insight, some humor and generally with restraint.

Silly, naive me. Please understand: I am no stranger to the commercial media and its distortions, racial insensitivity (or worse) and spin, etc. In addition,I worked as a history teacher for 35 years in a large urban school system where I think I might have learned more history than I taught. What I am trying to say is that I considered myself a little bit savvy about some of the issues the reverend was addressing and about what the press response might be.

But I must say I have been stunned by the deafness of most of the media commentators and the editorials. What exactly "offended" them? Was it that the Reverend Wright gave an articulate talk which cited uncomfortable facts of American history? Was it that he used big words with ease and delivered his talk with only occasional references to his notes. Was it that he mentioned that his denomination, the United Church of Christ, was in fact majority white? Was it that he handled some baiting questions without hesitation or waffling? Or was it his implied questioning of the patriotism of the Vice President of the US? This when he was asked if he considered himself patriotic. Actually, he had already dealt with the question and mentioned that many of his parishioners had served in Vietnam and both Gulf Wars as well as Afghanistan. But when he was asked again, his response went something like this (he does not waste words): "I served six years in the military. How many years did Cheney serve?"


Anonymous said...

I understand the points but the issue is really, in the great fixed game of capitalist politics, Barack Obama, who has a very serious chance to be both president of the U.S. and a different sort of president, a progressive president who will facilitate necessary changes and in the process win large victories for the forces of anti-racism, not Reverend Wright.
I rarely agree with capitalist media analyists but I did find myself agreeing with those who were saying that Wright's presentation was about Wright, about his playing to an audience regardless of its effects on Obama's campaign.
I have taught history for thirty nine years(this coming September) and I teach it to get students to think critically and analytically.
Journalists and media people generally not about learning but about repackaging in an entertaining way conventional wisdoms, making stereotypes interesting and fun.
Wright spoke as a preacher on a wide variety of issues. Had he said, I know and respect Barack Obama and I understand that he has spoken critically about these things that I have said because he is critical of them and doesn't support them, he would have done significant good. Had he spoken about his understanding of what Barack Obama did in the South Side Community where he Church is for his constituents, why he knows and respects Barack Obama as a person and a leader, he would have done significant good. Had he then said that those who have since the 1970s treated urban African American communities with "malign neglect" put over two million people in prison(a dispoprtionate number of them minority people) and in effect glorified punishment as they have intensified social inequality, he might have done signifcant good. But he didn't.
I thought his interview the Bill Moyers was good, but his presentation to the National Press Club was bad. He gave the enemies of the Obama who weren't interested in his commentary on the history of the African-American Church, campaign ammunition and he should have known what he was doing. He played directly into the hands of those in mass media who have largely fabricated African-American and Jewish-American conflict for decades by his comments on Louis Farrakhan formerly known as Louis X, enemy in the Nation of Islam of Malcolm X, who has in my opinion never developed beyond a narrow clerically based national chauvinism, rooted in a theology that is and has always been ideologically racist, irregardless of its role in providing a self-segregating world that has freed some African-Americans from a life of crime and its influence in some African-American communities which I have always considered more a response to the hypocritical denunciations it regularly receives from establishment media sources which have no interest in advancing the rights of African Americans.

The issue though is the Obama campaign, not Wright. Wright did what he did and Obama responded as he had to. At this point, Obama should move on and Wright should, as they used to say in my old neighborhood, "take a vacation," at least from the mass media which is using him to attack Obama, regardless of what he thinks they and he are doing.
Norman Markowitz

Anonymous said...

Barack Obama is no progressive and he sat in Rev. Wright's church and listened to him spew lies and hate for 20 years and said nothing.

I do not believe that Sen. Obama is a bigot, a racist or anti-Semite, but he is naive. Rev. Wright's defense of Farrakhan showed him up for what he. Farrakhan as late as December 2007 was denouncing Jews as Satanic, robbing blacks of their property by the purchase of BET by a corporation with some Jews in the CEOs. Rev. Wright also referred to Zionists as terrorists. These guys love everything Jewish except Jewish success.

If Obama is the nominee, as the saying goes, I will hold my nose and vote for him. I don't need more reactionaries on the Supreme Court.

Anonymous said...

How do you know what Wright said for 20 years? Or are you just repeating Bill O'Reilly's talking points? Because he said the exact same thing you did.

Anonymous said...

although I picked this comments up late, we shoud remember that the number one anti-Semite in the U.S. is Patrick Buchanan, who has written books suggesting that the isolationists were right and we didn't have to fight Hitler(and build up the Soviets) who has dabbled in anti-Semitism over the years and who appears regularly in the capitalist media. We should also remember that the rightwingers on Fox and in the Murdoch press who today "cheer on" Isreal and call Blacks and people on the left anti-Semites are the political descendants of the people who called New York "Jew York" in the 1930s and 1940s, who in the words of one rightwing Senator who fought to block Jewish survivors from coming to the U.S. after the war, "why do we hate the Jews? Because they are (the N word) with money and brains."
Too many Nazis and East European fascists were recruited by the CIA to fight the cold war, too many fascists everywhere were rehabilitated with the support of the U.S. government to fight the cold war to blast Barack Obama. As for Wright, his forays into Black nationalism are really fairly similiar to the attitudes of Jewish nationalist or Zionists who saw the non Jewish world as enemies. As for Israel, without getting into its tangled history, we might remember that the U.S. and its allies blocked arms shipments to it in 1948 and without the arms it received from Communist led Czechoslovakia at the time, it may very well have been destroyed.
Farrakhan is a racist demagogue who uses anti-Semitism when it suits him as part of a larger anti-white ideology. The people who today on the right who make charges of anti-Semitism, would and will, in my opinion, turn in a minute and use anti-Semitism to divide people here and/or if the U.S. ruling class decides to drop Israel as a military middleman to protect the oil of the Middle East.
Norman Markowitz