Monday, March 17, 2008

An Interesting Debate on Race, Obama, Wright, Clinton, and History

I am now in the midst of an interesting debate/conversation over at Tyrone Malone's Urban Eye blog. The blog is primarily an African-American themed blog, but I am a regular reader. In a posting entitled The (Jeremiah) Wright Stuff, Ty gave his thoughts on the current dust-up in the Democratic party between Barack Obama (who he refers to as "Smooth Barack") and Hillary Clinton (aka "Sister Hillary"). The basic gist of the posting was that no matter who gets the nomination, they are in for a whirlwind of negative crap from the Republicans.

Based on the title of the post, you can gather that Ty was mainly referring to the recently uncovered videos of Obama's former Pastor, Jeremiah Wright, saying some rather incendiary comments. Last week, when the videos surfaced, I was worried that they could unfairly sink Obama's candidacy. I wrote the following comment:

Good posting. This Wright thing is a bigger deal than you may be making it out to be. I don't think America is perfect - far from it. But, I am not running to be its leader. Americans have always wanted - in good times and bad - the president to be a cheerleader for the country. I know Barack Obama is a patriotic man, and would be a fantastic president. No one will find this out if Obama continues to associate himself with people like this Wright character.

As unfair as it might seem, when white religious nutcases like Falwell, Hagee, Robertson, Parsely shoot off at the mouth, it is generally dismissed as the rantings of a crazy person. No one even asks them to disavow the statements they make (which are often anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, anti-gay, etc.) But it seems that there is a double standard when it comes to black religious nutcases like Wright or Louis Farrakhan. Sorry if this offends, but those two are batshit crazy. Obama will have to move away from someone like Wright if he is going to get elected in this country. He cannot remain associated with him if he is going to become president. The Republicans will run that tape of him saying "God Damn America" and saying the US had it coming for 9/11 over and over and no amount of explanation from Obama will clear it up. He needs to move on this quick. Is it fair? No. Is it necessary to win? Yes.

Blacks, whites, Latinos, or whoever have all had different experiences growing up in America. That is a fact. But no one - and I mean no one - can get elected to be the top dog in the US when their "spiritual adviser" is caught on tape saying the things he said.

No matter what, the general election campaign this year will be a very tough one, and I am hoping Obama wins. Everything is pointing to a big win for the Dems. This kind of thing is exactly what levels the playing field for the GOP. They have already planted the false notion that Obama is a Muslim (13% of Americans in a recent poll said they believed it). Now the right can use this as another way to make Obama seem "different" and unelectable.

You and I and most rational people know that Obama is not some America-hating, radical jihadist, who celebrated 9/11 and hates Israel. But these kind of attacks are not targeted at rational people, and rationality is not a requirement for voting. Obama, as the 1st major party black nominee for president will be held to a different standard than John W. McCain or even Hillary (if she was the nominee). It sucks, but it's true. And that won't change unless he gets elected. With friends like Wright, it won't happen.

Personally, I feel like that was a well reasoned comment on the situation. Ty agreed. But a different reader, Tini, took objection to my referring to Wright as a "nutcase," and went into a litany of grudges (most of them completely legitimate) that the African-American community has with the US government, which he says make Wright's comments more understandable. Here is his comment:

Thanks for sharing your views. I do take pause at you calling Rev-Wright a nut case as I suspect you would also consider others like Fredrick Douglas, Nate Turner and some many out spoken Americans who have darned to call this country on the hypocrisy of its government!

I too say GOD DAMN AMERICA for using blacks a part of the Tuskegee experiment. I too say GOD DAMN AMERICA for doing nothing during the Jim Crow period where Blacks had no laws that Whites needed to abide by and lynching was the law of the land.

Why am I a nut case for DAMNING a government for supporting all of this and so much more?

When the planes hit the towers on 9/11, I never once asked "Why did they do this to us". I knew darn well why they did what they did. Anyone who knows American history will know what drives people around the globe to HATE the hell out of us. We have EARNED that badge of dishonor.

So, for Obama to have to denounce and reject the reality that is his and a lot of others, is not a good thing. It is however as you said necessary if he wants to win the White House. But to me he loses a part of himself in doing so.

While I probably shouldn't have stepped back into the fray, I decided to respond:

That is why you won't ever be elected president.

I did not say that what he said was inaccurate, or that he should be prohibited from saying such things; only that no one associated with a presidential campaign can get elected while saying it. You can't make change in America without winning elections, and you simply won't win with those statements. That is not a value judgment, it is reality.

If you are honestly going to put Jeremiah Wright on the same level as Frederick Douglas, then maybe you might be a little crazy. (No offense) If you want to believe that 9/11 was deserved because of Jim Crow and segregation or the Tuskegee experiments, you have that right to believe that. I happen to disagree. I also think that people like Wright, you, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson who argue that Americans are responsible for 9/11 are, in fact, nutcases.

My cousin, who died on the 82nd floor of the WTC did not deserve to die over it. My family came to the states in the 1900s, never owned slaves, lived in the North, and participated in the Civil Rights movement. How exactly did he deserve to die that day? Why should he have been forced to wear the "badge of dishonor" as you call it?

America has done plenty of bad things in its history, no question. But we pale in comparison to countries like China, Russia, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Congo, Britain, France, and nearly every other nation. Name a perfect nation in this world, and I will refute your claim. History books are filled with man's inhumanity to man.

In a different posting on the blog, Ty reveals that the commenter, Tini, is a member of the church where Wright ministered. He, no doubt, knows and admires Mr. Wright. I wrote an entire angry response to his comment, but erased it and started over. I realized that there was no need for me to lash out an attack this guy because of what he said. I strongly disagree with what he said regarding America "deserving" 9/11, but it is impossible to disagree with the fact that African-Americans have gotten the shaft in this country from day one. It might leave one with a different perspective on the current situation. Many blacks might feel like there is a score that needs to be settled. While I understand that sentiment, it is clearly a detriment to this country ever achieving racial harmony. Electing an African-American as president would certainly help, though much of Obama's success nationally stems from his lack of angry rhetoric. He does not talk about settling old scores, he talks about a different future where this kind of animus will no longer exist.

It's a future that a lot of blacks and whites (and Latinos and Asians and whoever else) would like to see. Obama could go a long way toward realizing that future, but in order to do so, he will have to shed some baggage (like Wright) that could derail his campaign. I know it may seem unfair, or that there is a double standard (which there is), but that is the current reality we live in. Change can't happen without getting elected first, and to get elected, you cannot run on a platform of settling old scores. Obama hasn't been doing that, and he shouldn't start doing it.


Tyrone Malone said...

Yo D-Splash!

Thanks for pushin' the debate, homey. We can't move the conversation forward if we can't talk openly and honestly about our feelings *and* appreciate each other's views.

I appreciate the fact that you've been a loyal reader of 'The Urban Eye' since jump despite the southside slant and my goal over at that joint has been to put out a perspective which points out the issues but respects all views. My closing tag 'Peace@Least' is what I'm looking for when it comes to race relations so I appreciate the fact that you and 'Tini Mack can come together and express your differing views in a positive way.

We'd all be that much further along if everyone could do that - black, white, Dem, Repub - the level of hate and divisiveness out there is CRAZY!

Big ups, my brother - keep holdin' it down over here, man!


Tini' Mack said...


This is Tini hanging out on the dark stuff blog.

You captured our discussion on the topic very well. I do appreciate you for understanding that there is more to this topic that what appears on the surface.

I'm looking real hard to fine where you made a "nutcase" remark in your mail and I'm coming up a tad bit short :-)

Your last 2 paragraphs are right on and i agree with them even when they represents a harsh reality of the world in which we lived. I told myself after the Katrina storm, which greatly impacted and still impacts my family, that nothing said or done in the arena of Race in this country would ever suprise. The storm came, and the levee's broke but it was what did NOT happen after the levees broke that I as a Black person can never forget. That was a defining moment for our government to change the mind set of so many of its Black citizens. But the goverenment at all levels, including the local level failed us. 4 days in responding to her own citizens and calling the refugees when we mobilized around the world in 1 and half days when the Tsumai hit.

I know some will say that it was not becuase the people were Black but to that I say it is becasue the people were Black, that the goverenment should of risen to the occasion to prove that we ALL matter. Not some, but ALL.

All of this to say that you are right on the money even when it seems unfair, or a double standard. It is what it is and Obama has to deterimine how best to deal with it as I hope he does not throw our Pastor, our community, himself, nor those outside of the Black community who support him under the Bus in order to keep this movement alive. If it dies on the subject of race, that would be a pity but it would also a fitting underscore to show how far we have come as a nation and how far we have still to go. I have not yet heard his speech but will share my views when I do. Would like to hear yours as well.

Keep doing what you do and if ever you are in Chic-Town on a Sunday, give a brother a shout and we can head over to Trinity United Church of Christ to catch experience. I do mean this and you won't be looked at as a "nutcase" :-)And if you don't like the sermon, I'm darn sure you will love moms smoothered chicken and banana pudding after service!