On the heels of the Geraldine Ferraro uproar, came the release of some videos yesterday, followed by a deluge of blog posts and comments regarding the words of Sen. Obama's pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. No need to post any of the videos here as they've more than made the rounds of network and cable television stations and the internet.
What amazed me was the number of people who vehemently expressed disgust, surprise and fear about the comments therein. I found much truth in the sermon, though I disagree with the characterization of Bill Clinton "riding us dirty like he did Monica Lewinski," since I, like most of the American middle class enjoyed, an economy unparalleled by the last seven years of Shrub (that's what having a "colonized mind"will do for you I guess).
There were Clinton supporters expressing some real schadenfreude at the senator's apparent comeuppance. There were Obama supporters staunchly defending their candidate saying he could not be held accountable for what others say - strange, since they just as rigorously and continuously held Sen. Clinton accountable for Ms. Ferraro's comments. But I digress. There were other Obama supporters who felt and said they had been "hoodwinked and bamboozled" by the senator's talk of "Change We Can Believe In." I came away from all this with a headache and a thought: America REALLY needs to talk openly, honestly and productively about race. If it took Ferraro's and Wright's comments to get us closer to that discussion - so be it.
Let's be clear. Communications between blacks and whites have historically been, and continue to be, difficult. Different cultural styles seem to play the most important role in that great divide. And, even though it is so important to bridge that chasm with acceptance and respect, I'm not so sure that many of us are willing or able to go there.
There are obvious differences in the way we communicate. Blacks tend to be emotional when they discuss issues that are extremely important to them. Our voices often become louder and our speech more rapid. This is definitely reminiscent of those Sunday church services, where the minister's voice rises and falls and his sermon is peppered with exclamations and questions that could be felt in the pews.
Much like the "call and response" of slavery days, the congregation would invariably throw in more than a few "Amens!" "Praise the Lords!" and "Preach Revs" to let the minister know that they were "feeling him," as my kids would say.
Conversely, when whites engage, it is the exact opposite. They seem to work very hard to deliver their message in calm, deliberate tones presumably to show that they are reasonable, proper and in control. So, when the two groups get together to discuss important issues, the result can be, and often is, miscommunication.
The emotion blacks express tends to turn whites off, and the seeming indifference of whites infuriates blacks. What whites deem aggression, blacks call passion. What should have been constructive discourse, degenerates into name-calling or worse. Nothing is accomplished but bitter, hurt feelings and meaningful communication is non-existent.
I think Sen. Obama missed an excellent opportunity to become a real instrument of change that could, and would have guided the much needed dialogue about race in this country. Well, only if all who voted for him really believed in overall change, that is. Maybe if he had not distanced himself with his "change - speak" that so publicly seemed to ignore his associations in the Black community, many whites and others would not have inferred that "change" meant, "We don't have to talk about or deal with issues of racism - institutional or otherwise."
Had he been honest about ALL his beliefs, to include the Black empowerment about which Trinity United Church of Christ preaches (definitely not a bad thing even though it frightens the bejeezus out of some white folks), Rev. Wright's sermons would not be the "bombshell" it is today. Granted, he may not have won as many states/delegates as he has, but you never know -- he may have.
All I'm saying is, you cannot heal wounds whose existence you ignore - and the wounds of racism run deep. It permeates all of our institutions which materially affects the lives of Blacks in this country. He chose to straddle that line (a political strategy maybe?) instead of being 100% honest and now it seems to be exploding in his face - at least right now.
I remember listening to Rev. Sharpton's radio show last year on the day designated for Rev. Wright's daughter's segment. She expressed her concern that Sen. Obama's "handlers" had convinced him it wasn't a good idea to have Rev. Wright fully participate in his announcement ceremony in February on the Old State Capitol steps -- "where Lincoln once called on a divided house to stand together" (Rev was there, though not in the capacity they all originally thought he would be).
So in some part of the campaign, they saw the presence of Rev. Wright as a liability and tried to contain it. Guess they could have been right.
Last night I was thinking out loud, "He still has an opportunity to be totally honest to the American people, his church and himself , but not by dodging this as a non-issue, because it obviously IS an issue to a lot of people. It may not be politically expedient, but it may be the only thing that turns this one around."
Well, this afternoon, with the groundswell of dissenting opinions about what he should or should not do regarding Rev. Wright, Sen. Obama released a statement to CNN and ran this post echoing the statement, in The Huffington Post: On My Faith and My Church."
After listening to it on CNN and reading the actual words on The Huffington Post, this quote immediately jumped in my head:
"True self is the part of us that does not change when circumstances do." -- Mason Cooley. Seems he chose the hard place of the presidency over the rock, that was his pastor, mentor and spiritual advisor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.