Right-wing reactionaries thought manna had fallen from heaven along with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s denunciation of the crimes of America. That’s because Rev. Wright is Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama’s personal preacher. But while the demagogues falsely label Wright’s sermons as racist and anti-white, his remarks express truths that resonate with the experience of black Americans and cannot be forever hidden.
Anyone can go and watch excerpts from Rev. Wright’s sermons, edited for maximum incendiarism by arch-conservative, Fox Network Hyas muckamuck, Bill O’Reilly. Yet, all the editing tricks in the world cannot paint Wright’s sermons racist. But then that’s the cry raised when African-Americans say anything on the mark about the experience of racism in America, an experience that has made them sensitive to the crimes and injustices of this country perpetrated abroad, as well.
As if four hundred years of slavery, and one hundred years of Jim Crow state segregationism were not enough to prove the racist legacy of this country, African Americans are still subject to discrimination across the entire society, with inferior schools, inferior health care, wage discrepancies, housing discrimination, racist assaults, unfair drug laws and a still racially insensitive judicial system. CalexanderJ over at Daily Kos hit the mark with this quote from the comedian Chris Rock:
I think Chris Rock said it best when he said, “to blacks, America is like an uncle who paid your way through college, but molested you.” This quip reflects our (African American’s) recognition of the vast benefits living in America has provided us which we are truly grateful for, but it also acknowledges that we haven’t forgotten, the travesties that America inflicted on our race.
Travesties like slavery, lynching, and segregation, laws against miscegenation, Nazi-like experimentation (Tuskegee) mandatory sterilization laws. And most of this, slavery aside, within the lifetimes of many Americans. It was only thirty or more years ago that the government’s FBI targeted Black leaders with its COINTELPRO program, which included blackmail, the use of agents provocateur, and assassination.
Let’s look at what Wright actually said
He said the U.S. is “a country and a culture controlled by rich white people.” He dissed liberal saint Bill Clinton, whose wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, is running near neck and neck with Obama for the nomination. “Bill did us just like he did Monica Lewinsky.” Suddenly, Jeremiah Wright is the only man in America that can’t make a Monica Lewinsky joke.
But Bill Clinton’s welfare “reform” was no joke to African Americans. Clinton lined up with Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” Republicans to pass a draconian welfare “reform” bill, which severely limited aid payments to poor families and many single mothers, who were disproportionately African-American. Millions were thrown off the welfare rolls, while the poverty rate continued to rise. Children were forced to fend for themselves as latch-key kids or join up with gangs, as single mothers worked part-time or low-paying jobs that barely made the bills, much less have the hundreds of dollars left over each month for decent childcare.
Reverend Wright denounced the government trafficking in drugs to support their right-wing insurgencies abroad, while building bigger prisons and passing onerous sentencing and drug laws at home, whose impact fell hardest upon black Americans.
Wright excoriated the U.S. government for its lies making false connections between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida (something the Pentagon owned up to, very reluctantly only last week), its lies about Iraqi WMD, and even more lies tying 9/11 to a rationale for the aggressive invasion of Iraq. Nor did Wright stop there in challenging the U.S. government for its history of support to the former apartheid of South Africa, and to the Israeli apartheid-like treatment of the Palestinians.
And nothing he said was wrong… unless it is his assertion, supported by many in the black community, that AIDS was some kind of plot by the government against black people. But after everything else, can you blame them? And, by the way, it’s not like the United States and other countries haven’t thought about aiming biological warfare against specific races and nationalities. New genetic engineering techniques and DNA mapping has brought the possibility of making “ethnic” weapons from fantasy to dangerous near-future threat. (See the discussion of this by the well-respected watchdog group, the Sunshine Project.)
But if Wright was off on AIDS, he nailed this country on its shameful indifference to its history of mass murder. “We bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Wright thundered, killing far more than the thousands who died on 9/11, “and we never batted an eye.” If the preacher really wanted to nail the point home, he could have mentioned the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children killed by the U.S. in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Or, for an earlier generation, there were the one million Vietnamese killed by the U.S. in the 1960s-1970s.
Finally, perhaps, it was Wright’s Malcolm X-like pronouncement that drove the racists into a frenzy. After John Kennedy was assassinated, Malcolm famously intoned that America’s chickens had come home to roost. Knowing what we do now about CIA assassinations and assassination attempts during the Kennedy years against Castro, Lumumba, Diem, and others, Malcolm X’s comment seems more prescient than any of the establishment pundits of his time.
Rev. Wright reminded his African-American congregation that 9/11 happened, in part, because the “stuff we did overseas is brought back into our backyards.” In fact, the growth of Islamic fundamentalism was fueled by U.S. and Western backing of corrupt and torturing governments, compliant with the needs of American business and foreign policy. Even further, Islamic obscurantists were funded by the CIA to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, and used as soldiers in the U.S. battle against the Soviet Union in the Cold proxy war that was Afghanistan.
Racism and the American Presidency
Barack Obama is a mainstream Democratic Party politician. But he wants to be President of the United States. He may be what he says he is, an idealistic man. He may be nothing but another phony false hope for the poor and downtrodden, and especially for African-Americans. Neither of those possibilities matter at the moment, because he is black. (His mixed parentage also is irrelevant in the light of American politics.)
America is a deeply racist country. It was founded on slavery. It kept millions in legal second-class status for over a hundred years. Outside of sports heroes, black children have few role models in the mass media. Their job prospects and their social mobility is terrible restricted compared to other groups in America. Blacks are vilified as having low IQ, being naturally criminal, or naturally ADD. They fill U.S. prisons in vastly disproportionate numbers.
There are many who hope that an Obama election can help change all that, and heal past wounds. The reality that is white racism in the United States is just beginning to raise its terrifying face in this election, having hunted around the borders of Clinton-Obama electioneering. The Wright story may or not be a calculated plant, but I suspect it’s worse than that. The vilification of Wright by a vast majority of the media — even Obama has (sadly) condemned Wright’s statements — is an offshoot of the racist culture of this country, fertilized by decades of backpedalling by the civil rights movement.
I’ll say this, Obama is a brave man, as he is facing a behemoth in American racism. And he is an intelligent man, but the pressures he is and will be facing are immense. I wish him well, and I hope he does not cave in and throw his truth-telling friend and pastor under the wheels of a vindictive, blinded monster fearful of losing its phony race privilege. Because in America, it really is a small group of mainly white people that control this country. And they will not give up their power gently. They are readying this country for an outbreak of terrible racist propaganda.
Now we’ll learn how much “progress” this country has really made in the last forty years, since the assassination of Martin Luther King, and the end of black hopes (for that time) in the smoldering ruins of the nation’s ghettos.
Also posted at Invictus