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Race, Obama, and white privilege

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Geraldine FerraroObamaIt is impenetrably difficult for we who are white to see what white privilege has handed us.

Sometimes I wonder if the common white “I am color-blind” outlook really amounts to just plain blindness. For to ignore color is to ignore the elephant in the room: being white is still very different from being non-white in the USA. Self-professed color-blindness, which has such a noble ring to those with the upper hand, may say to non-whites, “I am blind to how the past affects you and me today.”

It may be like saying, “You don’t hurt. If you do, that’s sad, but it has nothing to do with me. For since I bear you no ill will, I am no racist. As far as I’m concerned, we’re equals.”

Perhaps the operant phrase is as far as I’m concerned. Might it mean “My (white) view is the view by which we’ll operate”? Might it be the basis of Geraldine Ferraro’s rage: that her white view of what racism is—something like “harboring ill will toward people of color”—is, to her, the only view that matters?

Might the elements of racism that invisibly color our own outlooks be as pernicious as the more obvious ones we detest in others?

Roger Cohen, in a NY Times opinion piece, writes an eloquent, poignant personal reaction to the Obama race speech. I encourage you to read it all. Here are some excerpts:

Beyond America’s Original Sin

There are things you come to believe and things you carry in your blood. In my case, having spent part of my childhood in apartheid South Africa, I bear my measure of shame. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

March 22, 2008 at 6:29 pm

A landmark: Text of the Obama speech on race

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“A More Perfect Union”
Remarks of Senator Barack Obama
Constitution Center
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tuesday 18 March 2008

“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

March 18, 2008 at 5:51 pm

Posted in patriotism, Politics, Race

Whose conversion is this?

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Here’s a story of a Christian conversion.  Can you guess who’s talking?

So one Sunday, I put on one of the few clean jackets I had, and went over to [a church]. And I heard [a pastor] deliver a sermon …  And during the course of that sermon, he introduced me to someone named Jesus Christ. I learned that my sins could be redeemed. I learned that those things I was too weak to accomplish myself, He would accomplish with me if I placed my trust in Him. And in time, I came to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world and in my own life.

It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of [this church] one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany. I didn’t fall out in church, as folks sometimes do. The questions I had didn’t magically disappear. The skeptical bent of my mind didn’t suddenly vanish. But kneeling beneath that cross [at the church], I felt I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth and carrying out His works […]

Answer after the break. Read the rest of this entry »

Jeremiah Wright on Bill Moyers Friday, April 25

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Now here’s television serving the public: Bill Moyers will interview Rev. Jeremiah Wright, long-time pastor of Barack Obama, on April 25. What a marvelous chance to hear Wright tell his own story, rather than hearing it sliced and diced by sound-biters.

clipped from www.ucc.org

Jeremiah Wright to be interviewed by Bill Moyers

In what will be his first interview since snippets of his preaching became a central issue in the U.S. presidential campaign, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. will speak publicly to veteran journalist and fellow UCC member Bill Moyers.

The interview will be broadcast on Friday evening, April 25, on Bill Moyers Journal, a PBS news series that airs nationally. Check local listings at www.pbs.org/moyers.

Wright retired in March after 36 years as senior pastor of the 8,000-member Trinity UCC in Chicago, where U.S. Sen. Barack Obama has been a member for more than 20 years. Trinity UCC is the largest congregation among the UCC’s 5,700 churches. […]

Following his appearance on Bill Moyers Journal, Wright is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the NAACP Detroit Branch on Sunday, April 27. He is also slated to speak on Monday, April 28, to a breakfast gathering at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

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Written by Monte

April 19, 2008 at 12:46 am

A better look at Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Trinity Church

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So OK: let’s really look at Barack Obama’s pastor and church

Here are excerpts from people in a position to offer an informed view. The emphases are mine.

First, Prof. Martin E. Marty of the University of Chicago, one of America’s most distinguished professors of religion, quoted at the urban legends debunker Snopes.com:

Martin E. MartyTrinity is the largest congregation in the whole United Church of Christ, the ex-Congregational (think Jonathan Edwards) and Reformed (think Reinhold Niebuhr) mainline church body. Trinity’s rubric is “Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian.” So far as I can tell Trinity shapes a kind of ellipse around these two “centers,” neither of which makes sense without the other.

This you would never know from the slanders of its enemies or the incomprehension and naiveté of some reporters who lack background in the civil rights and African-American movements of several decades ago, a background out of which Trinity’s stirrings first rose and on which it transformatively trades. So Trinity is “Africentric,” and deals internationally and ecumenically with the heritage of “black is beautiful.”

Despite what one sometimes hears, Wright and his parishioners, an 8,000-member mingling of everyone from the disadvantaged to the middle class, and not a few shakers and movers in Chicago, are “keepin’ the faith.” To those in range of Chicago TV I’d recommend a watching of Trinity’s Sunday services, and challenge you to find anything “cultic” or “sectarian” about them.

More important, for Trinity, being “unashamedly black” does not mean being “anti-white.” My wife and I on occasion attend, and, like all other non-blacks, are enthusiastically welcomed.

Second, Dean Snyder, the current senior minister of the Foundry United Methodist Churchthe church the Clintons attended while living in the White House:

Dean Snyder“The Reverend Jeremiah Wright is an outstanding church leader whom I have heard speak a number of times,” Snyder wrote. “He has served for decades as a profound voice for justice and inclusion in our society. To evaluate his dynamic ministry on the basis of two or three sound bites does a grave injustice to Dr. Wright, the members of his
congregation, and the African-American church which has been the spiritual refuge of a people that has suffered from discrimination, disadvantage, and violence.

Dr. Wright, a member of an integrated denomination, has been an agent of racial reconciliation while proclaiming perceptions and truths uncomfortable for some white people to hear. Those of us who are white Americans would do well to listen carefully to Dr. Wright rather than to use a few of his quotes to polarize.”

A few entertainer/commenter types (not to mention Candidate Clinton) have distorted the record of this church and pastor in an effort to smear Mr. Obama. Their criticism doesn’t stand up under more careful – and less partisan – examination.

Thanks for reading!


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Written by Monte

March 26, 2008 at 7:19 pm