Thursday, March 20, 2008

Obama: Lessons of Race in America

One of the more unfortunate incidents of this Presidential campaign, which was predictable in many ways, was the manner in which the media and opposition would impose and infuse the issue of race against an African American candidate. The greatest limitation of being an African American candidate for national office in this country has always been the marginalization of such candidates in the eyes of white voters, who see such candidates as black-only candidacies. This is what doomed Jesse Jackson’s run for the White House in 1984 and 1988.

What is being done to Barack Obama by the media and the Hillary Clinton campaign is no less subtle. That Senator Obama would even have to make a speech about race, in the backdrop of Reverent Jeremiah Wright, is nothing short of white privilege’s way of reminding blacks of the extra responsibilities they have to prove they are worthy of white political support. This is a harsh statement to make, and I write this as a white man, but it is undeniable to anyone who pays attention.

Did Hillary Clinton have to make a speech on race after her campaign finance manager, ex-Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, declared that Obama is only getting attention because he is black? Not only did she not give a speech about the event, Senator Clinton waited for more than a few days, particularly after the Mississippi primary, knowing that Ferraro’s words would help her to re-whiten her base of support, before formally separating herself from Ferraro's remarks.

When the late Jerry Falwell endorsed John McCain for the White House right before his death in 2007, there were practically no criticisms in the major media outlets about Falwell’s past statements on 9-11. Most amazingly, when Falwell died in May of last year, he received numerous medias tributes as a “man of God.” This is the same man of the almighty who called the civil rights movement a Communist plot designed to destroy the US. The same man who claimed the Teletubbies were part of an international gay conspiracy. The same man who claimed that gays, feminists, and pagans were the reason the US was attacked on 9-11. All we heard about, though, was how swell and nice a man Reverend Falwell was.

Enter right-wing tv shock jock Sean Hannity, a self-professed fan of southern culture and country music--a person who has about as much in common with the aspirations of black people as a man on the moon. Realizing that Obama is the more viable candidate, by his own admission, his friends at Fox “News” conducted an extensive background check on Obama and Reverend White, and they discovered some of his past sermons, among many over the course of a few decades, making controversial remarks about 9-11, race, and America. Suddenly, Jeremiah Wright, according to Mr. Hannity and his allies at the New York Post, transformed into a “preacher of hate,” a “black separatist,” “anti-white racist,” and “America hater.”

Notice, where was Sean Hannity and the editorial board of the New York Post when Jerry Falwell endorsed John McCain? It is worth noting that the New York Post is headquartered in the city that Reverend Falwell claimed “deserved” to be attacked on 9-11. Where were Sean Hannity and the editorial board of the New York Post when John Hagee, a televangelist, endorsed John McCain, in spite of the fact this is a man who has previously claimed Jews were destined for hell and caused their own misery during the Holocaust? In fact, when McCain was quizzed on Hagee’s views, he refused to repudiate the good reverend’s beliefs, an act, had it been Obama refusing to denounce any of the remarks of Reverend Wright, that would have earned screams for Senatorial impeachment from the commentators of Fox News.

To put it bluntly, if Barack Obama was white there would be no attention paid to what his preacher said (anymore than the Sean Hannitys care about John Hagee's allegations that the Jews caused the Holocaust). There is even less uncertainty that because Senator Obama is black, he is being politically coerced into delivering a speech on the issue, knowing that as a candidate of a community that represents a seventh of the population, he has no choice but to placate voters--voters being hammered daily by Mr. Murdoch’s news outlet about how un-American Obama is because of his preacher's past statements.

The racial hypocrisy is disturbing enough, but should it surprise us? We hear constantly from the Bill O’Reillys and Rush Limbaughs about how we have reached a post-racist panacea in America. Their denial of race is simply a mirage, all the more so when they decide to rediscover the issue from the speeches of a reverend whose church they would never be caught dead frequenting. It is even more remarkable because so many of these conservative commentators have their own race problems, initiated by their past statements on the issue--be it Rush Limbaugh’s past claims that Africans have “bones in their nose[es],” or discounting the voices of African Americans as “just 12 percent of the population…who the hell cares what they think.” To Fox News hosts like John Gibson, who claims the white race is being imperiled by a lack of breeding and non-white immigration. To Bill O’Reilly, who claims that immigration from Mexico undermines the white power structure, to which he asserts protects America.

If you want to see the way the average white conservative in this country thinks, just watch and listen to the more honest ones. There are exceptions, to be sure, but for every one libertarian that only cares about making money, there will be a couple of Michael Savages reminding everyone of the evils of Spanish speaking peoples.

And yet, how often will the mainstream media call these people to account for their views? When was the last time The New York Post lambasted John Gibson on its front page? And these are not the views of their preachers. These are the actual people. However, Senator Obama is expected to answer for his pastor. Such is the moral hypocrisy of the “white power structure” that Bill O’Reilly sees as the bulwark of civilization.

For the record, Senator Obama delivered what was probably one of the most eloquent speeches on the issue of race in recent memory by a public figure, even if compelled by the injustices of an intolerantly manufactured political landscape. Whether it will work in diffusing the issue to the point that Senator Obama can build on his support base, only time will tell, but it is probably not an accident that Hillary Clinton is ahead in the polls for the first time since Super Tuesday. Operation Chaos, as the white-right on radio talk show dubbed their campaign, is in full swing. Of course, for them, there is nothing discriminatory about it. After all, according to Rush, "blacks are only 12% of the population in this country, so to hell with them." Who could not enjoy having a country populated with such loving people?


JaaJoe said...

Sean Hannity is a Hypocrite! I recently found this article - The SEAN HANNITY AND LAURA INGRAHAM HYPOCRISY.
Very Interesting take on the Right's attack on Obama and his Reverend.

TA said...

Thanks for the post. Ah, yes, a fellow recovering Catholic. I struggled with this nonsense for years, until I finally grew up and said to heck with these people (the church and their hypocritical toadies like Hannity). They're still there, though, preaching that women should be good breeders, that all contraception is the work of the devil, and priests must remain celibate. Of course, that there is probably not a single married Catholic who follows the contraceptive rule, or too many priests these days who can keep their own clothes on, tells us what a joke and mockery it has all become.

I would laugh, if only it did not destroy the lives and independent thought of so many unsuspecting people who spent their childhoods brainwashed by these people. But hey, some black preacher said something about America being damned in the bible. No one says a thing about President Bush giving immunity to Pope Benedict in the US, in the event some judge issues an injunction or order for him to testify at one of the many lawsuits and criminal prosecutions of his pedo employees. No, that's OK, even after ole Ratzinger relativized the child sex scandals in the US Church as being a product of biased reporting. Where is the outrage there? That still amazes me, when I think about it.