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The Door is That Way

If America is so awful - nobody's making you stay.

By Hobbes  |  March 21, 2008

The American political scene has been preoccupied with a growing controversy over incendiary remarks made by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who happens to have been Mr. Barack Obama's spiritual mentor and his personal pastor for over twenty years.  No doubt most Americans have heard what he's said, and have seen the video clips on YouTube and the TV news, but it's worth a quick review.

The statement seen most frequently in soundbites, and which appears to many to encapsulate Rev. Wright's view of the world, is this one:

The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.'  No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people.  God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.

We've become accustomed to hearing black people use words for which a white person would be flayed alive, but it's still jolting to hear this from the pulpit of a church:

Barack knows what it means living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people.  Hillary would never know that.  Hillary ain't never been called a nigger.  Hillary has never had a people defined as a non-person.

Americans also generally expect their churches, if no place else, to be free from gratuitous sexual crudity:

Hillary is married to Bill, and Bill has been good to us.  No he ain't!  Bill did us, just like he did Monica Lewinsky.  He was riding dirty.

In some ways, the most devastating statement was made the Sunday after the terrorist attacks on 9/11:

We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye... We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost. [emphasis added]

From twenty years of Sunday sermons, no doubt it would be possible to grab snippets here and there from the record of most any pastor and come up with something odd, though Rev. Wright's venom and bile far surpass anything most Americans can imagine hearing from any pulpit.  Mr. Obama has, quite rightly, repudiated these sentiments, though a serious question remains as to why he had no problem sitting in the pews listening to this sort of thing for two decades, to say nothing of allowing his young daughters to be brought up under this man's leadership.

The issue of Mr. Obama's personal beliefs and judgment, while vitally important as we decide who is to be our next president, is a relatively minor issue for the long term.  Barack Obama, President though he may become, is just one man.

The Rev. Wright is now retired.

But the black church, with its influence on black culture, goes on forever.

Widespread Corrosion

In his speech addressing the controversy, Barack Obama said,

Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes.

No doubt this is perfectly true.  However, hardly a month ago, he stated a different point of view:

I don't think my church is actually particularly controversial.

Is Barack Obama playing a Slick Willie act here?  Many commentators are saying so; but, it seems to Scragged that the reality is far worse: Mr. Obama was telling the truth both times.

He did, indeed, hear sermons that "could be considered controversial," to say the least - but in the community of black churches, the Rev. Wright's hateful anti-Americanism and bigotry is not only not considered to be controversial at all, it's treated as revealed truth.

As the media and analysts begin to digest this point, abundant evidence is coming out in support of both of Mr. Obama's assertions.  According to University of Chicago theology professor Dwight Hopkins,

If we took a field trip to a thousand black churches across the country on Sunday, you would have a very serious wake-up call on the nature of those messages.

There are thousands upon thousands of black churches all across the country, and to make a blanket characterization of all of them would be absurd.  There can be no doubt, however, that Rev. Wright does, at the very least, reflect the views of a significant portion of the black churchgoing community.  Is Rev. Wright the result of black alienation, or are he and like-minded leaders its cause?

Some say that these sermons are just "letting off steam," so to speak, and don't really connect to the real world.  If the sermons restricted themselves to events in the Bible, that might indeed be true.  But preachers of this persuasion are famous for being politically active, as indeed is Rev. Wright's own Trinity United Church of Christ - that may very well be why Barack Obama joined it in the first place.  These sermons do not deal just with ancient history, but are very much rooted in events of today.

Rev. Wright has claimed that the CIA intentionally distributes illegal drugs to blacks with the goal of keeping them down and that the AIDS virus was developed by (presumably white) government scientists as an instrument of genocide against blacks worldwide.  This has had a very real effect; according to a chart on page 86 of Contemporary Controversies and the American Racial Divide by Robert Charles Smith and Richard Seltzer, an astounding 73% of blacks consider the CIA charge to be true (compared to 16% of whites).  If black leaders are telling these appalling lies to ordinary black people, it's no surprise black hatred is so great.

Tolerance for the Intolerable

How can we allow these horrendous untruths to go unchallenged?  Postmodern thought and liberal media bias certainly contribute.  The Los Angeles Times published an article on the Wright controversy.  At the very top of the article came a photograph of a black lady reporter covering an anti-war protest.  The caption reads:

Mary C. Johns, covering a war protest Wednesday in Chicago, edits a newspaper for public-housing residents. She says many of her readers found the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's comments about race reflective of their truth. [emphasis added]

Re-read that paragraph several times to let its full impact sink in.  The Rev. Wright's remarks are reflective of their truth - that is to say, reflective of the "truth" experienced by black people.

Is this to say that it is true, that for black people, the CIA provides illegal drugs to keep them down and that white folks invented AIDS to kill them off - but that it isn't true for white people?  That thought makes a mockery of the very meaning of the word "truth."

Either those allegations are true, or they are not.  Either they are historical events that did in fact take place, or they are not.  If they are true, then prosecutions, trials, convictions, and, yes, the death penalty are required for everyone involved, without delay.

If however, they are not true - if the inner-city drug problem is not being caused intentionally by the CIA, and if white people did not cook up AIDS and release it into the black community - then saying so is not merely a lie.  It is not merely an incredible slander of an entire race on the order of the famous racist forgery Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  It is not merely a gross disservice to ordinary black people, who are moved to blame others for their problems instead of confronting them themselves.  It is an act of treason, no less.

Barack Obama said of Rev. Wright, "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community."  To a large degree, he's right - Rev. Wright's filth accurately reflects the vile beliefs of a large portion of the black community.  That makes disowning him and those who agree with him difficult, but it also makes disowning him more necessary, not less necessary.

The attitudes and actions of the KKK were an accurate reflection of the attitudes and actions of large parts of the white community in the South - very much so.  Supporters of the KKK won democratic election for decades on end.

Did the fact that the KKK could win elections make Jim Crow any less wrong?  Would we find it acceptable if a Southern senator said, "I can no more disown the Grand Wizard than I can disown my redneck cousins"?

The very question is absurd.  We are all morally obligated to repudiate hatred - no matter who it's from.  Of course racism is evil - no matter from whom it emanates, or at whom it's directed.

If there's one thing that our experience with America's original sin has taught us, it's that race hatred cannot be overlooked, brushed aside, or glossed over - it must be brought out into the daylight, where its true ugliness can be seen and rejected.  That's exactly what became of the KKK - it's not illegal to hold those nauseating views, or even to hold white supremacist marches, but whenever the men in sheets come out, they are vastly outnumbered by Everyone Else who holds their views in contempt and places the KKK marchers in the gutter where they belong.

Exposing The Original Solution

As every schoolchild knows, Abraham Lincoln was the Great Emancipator who freed the slaves.

It's less well known that, for many years, Lincoln was a strong advocate in favor of repatriating freed slaves to the African countries from which they came, or perhaps to some other convenient but non-American place, so much so as to propose a Constitutional amendment to that effect.

President Lincoln is rightly credited with having the first official delegation of black Americans at the White House as guests (as opposed to servants), on August 14, 1862.  The purpose of the meeting was to organize the emigration program.

Why, then, did this never come to pass as Lincoln had long desired?  Because blacks didn't want to go, and Lincoln recognized that it was wrong to force them to go if they preferred to stay in America.

The Bottom Line

Today, we have come a very, very long way from the days of Jim Crow, to say nothing of slavery.  There are, for all practical purposes, no legal barriers to black advancement.  America truly is the land of equal opportunity, as Mr. Obama has recognized:

I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

He's absolutely right.  America is not perfect, but we try.  In so trying, we have reached heights of fairness, opportunity, and success that would have been an impossible dream for the people of any other nation, creed, land, or era.

Barack Obama, for all that we fault his policy prescriptions, has a grasp of the fundamental truths concerning the greatness of America.  His pastor, alas, does not, and it would appear that a large portion of the black community doesn't either.

It's been said of America, "Love it or leave it."  If you truly believe that the American government wants to repress all black people via illegal drugs; if you really believe that America sponsored the development and spread of AIDS; that, in short, "God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human" - then, no matter what your color, the door is that way.  Don't let it hit you on the way out.