Thursday, March 20, 2008

Obama's Speech on Race

Well, the accolades have poured in from the media elites, so I will not pile on. It was a great speech. Rather, I am taken by the response from the Right, specifically what appear to be gelling as bases for attack ads. The lapses in logic have been eating at me, to the effect that I had to write a point/counterpoint - if for no other reason than to keep my blood pressure down. So, here for your consideration are some of the points I hear being made:

1. The vast majority of Americans, when they hear the hateful words of Wright, can’t stand it and would have walked out of the church. Meaning what? That the congregants at Trinity and other like churches are not like the “vast majority” of Americans? Invoking the notion that one’s choice of worship needs to be constrained by the practices of the many is not only patronizing, but also flies in the face of one of the founding premises for this country – freedom of religious expression. Besides, it may be that the nobler virtue is engagement. Wrestling with uncomfortable issues, discussion, debate, prayer, dissent, and other like actions are elements of engagement. One engages those with whom one desires to create or maintain a bond, possibly for a greater good, or a higher purpose. Sounds rather Christian to me.

2. Obama sat there for 20 years and heard this hateful speech, so he must have remained because he agreed with it all. This reveals a clear ignorance of the principles of fellowship and the breadth of ministry as practiced at Trinity and churches like it. It fixates on excerpts from a few sermons, out of the hundreds of sermons that would have been preached by Wright and other ministers at Trinity over the years. It assumes a fractal relationship between the excerpts and the sermons and ministry as a whole, wherein the excerpts encapsulate all that one needs to know to form a conclusion of the merits of the ministry, and that such a conclusion, once drawn, is sufficient to inform one’s judgment to disassociate. An excerpt is not a sermon; a sermon is not a minister; a minister is not a church; and a church is not a faith. What does a church do? What services does it provide? Who does it serve? What role do members play? The underlying assumption here seems to be that congregants are nothing more than mentally passive dupes that do nothing but listen to sermons who's primary content is venom. The unspoken implication is that this then predisposes attendees towards hatred and violence. "Oh my, aren't those angry black people frightening. Lock the doors!"

3. Obama’s speech on race was an effort at “disavowing everything” while courting the support of the Black community, who buy into the “victim approach.” Inaccurate. Obama is not disavowing “everything.” In fact, his focus was on asserting his disagreement with the words of Wright that many have found offensive. The notion that the speech was aimed at pandering to Blacks is unfounded and ignores political reality. Obama is winning 80-90% of the black vote. What’s left to court? If anything, the speech was outreach to the uninformed in general, non-blacks more specifically, and whites in particular.

4. Approachable and non-threatening "good Blacks" like Juan Williams or Larry Elder have been helping Whites understand the segment of the Black community that languishes in victimhood. Not sure that seeking the advice of a conservative friend counts for balance, thoroughness, or journalistic integrity. Just sounds like a search for affirmation amongst the familiar. Not much of a stretch. I heard one commentator suggest to Pat Buchanan that he should visit a Black church to learn more. He responded by saying, "Why should I? Why would I go there?" It was if he had been asked to visit Antarctica in a bathing suit.

5. Associating with a minister that gave an award to Louis Farrakhan reveals either poor judgment, or agreement with all of Louis Farrakhan’s views. Guilt by association is alive and well. What was the award for? Lifetime Achievement? Achievement of what? The award was given to Farrakhan for his efforts to enhance the lives of blacks in Africa and the Diaspora. To those outside of the Black community and outside of Chicago, the deeds of Louis Farrakhan may be overshadowed by his rhetoric. Without attempting to excuse his statements, it is my understanding that the award was given for his actions, i.e., community re-entry programs for offenders, education and social outreach programs, etc. Trinity and churches like it are focused on substantive action that benefits the Black community. The word “achievement” is most critical here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I trust your poignant comments were shared in media other than this blog. More people in this nation can benefit from your observations.