Is Wright Right?

Everyone, including Obama, is supposed to reject and repudiate everything that Reverend Wright has said about America and white people. Problem is, most of what he’s saying is true, or at least arguable.

Claim 1. American foreign policy was responsible for the 9-11 attacks.
Well, I rejected this idea the day after 9-11, when I first saw it posted on a prominent Internet list called NetServe. Having watched the buildings fall and seen some real blood, I was just in too much shock. But a few weeks later, having calmed down a bit, I could not deny that American foreign policy was at least part of the reason behind the attack. Al Qaeda is mad about US army bases in Saudi Arabia, and America’s propping up of dictators in the Middle East. We can argue whether or not it’s appropriate for the US to have bases near Mecca, but it’s inarguable that these policies are at least in part responsible for the war in which we’ve found ourselves.

Claim 2. America is bad to blacks, and black Americans might better sing “God damn America” than God Bless America.
According to the NYTimes, by 2004, 21 percent of black men who had not completed college were incarcerated. By their mid-30’s, 6 in 10 black men who had dropped out of school had spent time in prison. In the inner cities, more than half of all black men do not finish high school. We also shouldn’t forget that a great majority of black Americans are the descendants of slaves who were brought to this country against their will, and who built a great portion of the cities and infrastructure they are still not entitled to enjoy today, thanks largely to land management and employment policies that excluded them for more than a century.

Claim 3. AIDS is a man-made virus.
I don’t agree with this one, personally. But throughout the 80’s and early 90’s, this was still considered a leading theory for the virus’s origins. Controversial but well-researched journalists, such as Spin’s Celia Farber, still present credible alternatives to the HIV-causation theory of AIDS. The theory that AIDS migrated to humans as we ate monkey-brain is far from proved, and the virus still behaves and mutates in a fashion that confounds researchers. Two medical researchers with whom I’ve spoken over the years have told me that AIDS “doesn’t act like a natural virus.” Beyond this, the government’s slow response to the AIDS crisis was similar to its reaction to Hurricane Katrina – and it did seem as though the victims were regarded with a similar lack of urgency because they were mostly blacks and gays.

Claim 4. The US Government puts drugs on the streets.
This one most probably came from the well-publicized series of articles in the San Jose Mercury News about the CIA importing drugs and selling them on US streets. Although the New York Times later found the evidence scant, the mythology behind these claims is compelling and persistent. While no proof has been found that arms were given to contra fighters in exchange for drugs, we do know that the same people bringing the illegal arms from the USA to Nicaragua were bringing back drugs to the US on the same small planes. Further, the US occupation of Afghanistan has led to the largest crop of poppies and export of heroin in that nation’s history. Either through intentional policy or incompetency, America fosters the Afghan heroin industry.

White Americans are still afraid of blacks because they know that black rage is justifiable. If anything, whites are probably surprised that blacks aren’t more angry for the way they were and are still treated. Obama is acceptable as long as he represents an easy way out of the racial injustice from which we’ve been attempting to extricate ourselves for almost two centuries. As Thomas Jefferson said of slavery, “it’s like having a wolf by the ears.” Until now, Obama has represented a way out of karmic debt. Wright reminds us that even if Obama is elected, there will still be black people angry for the continued culture and policy of racism in this country.

The real lesson to be learned from Obama’s association with Wright and subsequent scandal is how ludicrous it is for us to demand that our elected leaders be Christians at all. (I can only guess that a man as intelligent as Obama joined the church to begin with as a way of engendering himself to Chicago’s black community – itself a cynical charge.) Religion can no longer be a prerequisite for political office, and in the age of YouTube, the silly and dangerous superstitions espoused by our religious leaders will now come to light. Religions were created, in part, as repositories for ethnocentrism – as ways of justifying our wars against other tribes and nations. It’s part of their most central programming.

Should Hillary Clinton reject and repudiate her pastor’s belief that me and my family are damned to hell for not accepting Jesus as Lord? Have you ever listened to the words of the prayers the Senator Joe Leiberman says out loud every Saturday morning? Why didn’t all conservatives reject Pat Robertson’s support when he blamed 9-11 not on US foreign policy, but on the gays and non-believers of New York who brought the attack on themselves? Had they never heard him say stuff like this before?

I don’t know whether I’d be more worried about a candidate whose minister believed that US policy was in part responsible for 9-11 (it was), or one whose minister believed that the world was created by a supreme being in six days, a few thousand years ago. Or, as in the case of our president, that the end of the world as predicted in the Revelations will occur in our lifetimes.

Just because the rage behind such destructive visions is expressed by a calm white person instead of an angry black one doesn’t make it any less violent and inappropriate.