There has been quite a furry over the past week concerning some admittedly controversial statements made by Senator Obama's pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Yet, if we look at Rev. Wright's statements in full context, they are nothing more than a man speaking truth to power. Rather than acknowledge the truth about the dark past of America, and in some instances the present, we are quick to charge anyone who removes the veil of our history, as being racist and/or anti-American.
African American religious leaders have historically combined sociology, theology and politics. In some instances, it has been done to inspire change, and in other instances, to inspire awareness. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a prime example. Yet, he was considered an agent of change and is celebrated for his courage and involvement in the Civil Rights movement through non-violent means. Why now is Rev. Wright viewed differently and even vilified? Is it because Dr. King was more eloquent in his speech than Rev. Wright. No! The answer can only lie in the fact that Rev. Wright is the pastor of an African American presidential hopeful who has seemingly wooed white America by running a campaign that has made every effort to transcend racial divisiveness. In other words, if Senator Obama is removed from the equation, how interested is America in the veracity or inflammatory nature of the comments made by Rev. Wright?
In all fairness, the comments of Rev. Wright deserve a closer analysis in order to determine whether they are in fact racist and anti-American, or, is the media engaging in nothing more than sensationalism in an effort to diminish Senator Obama's cross cultural appeal.
One of the primary comments criticized by the media is that Senator Obama knows what it means to be a black man in an America controlled by rich, white people. Does the malfeasance lie in the fact that Senator Obama grew up as a black man in America or that America is controlled by rich, white people? Certainly it cannot be the former. It is irrefutable that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are rich, white men in control of economic, social and political policy in America. The question then becomes, is it racist or anti-American to say that Ameica is controlled by rich, white people or is this a truth spoken to power?
Another comment which is more shocking than anything else is Rev. Wright's announcement that Senator Clinton can never know what it means to be a black man in America, and, she has never been called the "n" word. Yet, whether we are speaking of Hillary Clinton or any other white person of privilege in this nation, the fact remains they can never know what it has meant, or what it means, to be a black man in America. Neither can they know how deeply hurtful it is to be called the "n" word or worse yet to be treated as a member of the "n" class. Unfortunately, as progressive as we would like to consider ourselves, racism is alive and well in our society. We have made strives but we still have a long road ahead.
Interestingly, although Bill Clinton has been spoken of as the first black president of the United States, Rev. Wright said Bill Clinton did to black people what he did to Monica Lewinski, "he was riding dirty." In other words, Bill Clinton had an intimate relationship with a mesmerized young woman with no intention of treating her with dignity or respect. The impact of the three strikes laws on the African American community and funding of prisons to the detriment of education and healthcare is analogous.
A close look at any state budget in this country will reveal that the majority of state resources are directed toward prisons to the detriment of education and other necessary state programs. Many states are experiencing critical budget crisis but they will not compromise where the prison systems are concerned. In the past five years alone, states have faced a combined $200 billion in budget gaps. Meanwhile, prisons continue to consume a larger portion of the state budget pie--$35 billion annually in 1999, up from $17 billion in 1990--rendering them a bigger target for budget cutters. From 1985 to 2000, prison budgets grew at six times the rate of higher education budgets. If imprisoned, the Black man provides jobs and economic opportunities for the white underclass. The three strikes law and mandatory sentencing is a good way of ensuring the prison system stays in business and correctional officers employed.
Another example is Bill Clinton's welfare reform which eliminated Aid to Families With Dependent Children and forced women into low paying jobs with no consideration for child care. Thus, a new category of the working poor. Yes, Bill Clinton has a relationship with African Americans but has he really treated us with dignity and respect?
Finally, Rev. Wright spoke of the lies of the American government. According to Rev. Wright, the American government lied about the connection of Al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein; the connection of 9/11 to Operation Iraqi Freedom; and, weapons of mass destruction. Ironically, the goal of the democratic party is to unseat the current administration because of these very lies and the detriment they have caused to our economy and standing in the world. The remaining Bush supporters are among the rare few who choose to think otherwise. They (Sean Hannity) are also believed to be the originators of this controversy.
Once again, the American public is being duped. Unfortunately, Senator Obama is receiving the brunt of it all. He is now being charged as being associated with a racist and anti-American minister by white Americans and lacking allegiance by African American ministers. There has been no focus on John McCain's spiritual advisors or the Reverend Billy Graham who was heard on tape speaking against the Jewish people to former president Richard Nixon. Hopefully, Americans will look beyond the rhetoric and analyze Senator Obama's capacity to be president based upon his record and ideological perspectives about the issues that really matter to this country.