Quite some time ago, I asked, how is (the Reverend Jeremiah) Wright wrong? Barack Obama’s former pastor had “married Obama and his wife Michelle, baptized their two daughters and is credited by Obama for the title of his book, ‘The Audacity of Hope.'” And on September 16, 2001, the Sunday following the 9/11 attacks, he gave the following sermon (transcript via ABC News):
I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday, did anybody else see him or hear him? He was on Fox News, this is a white man, and he was upsetting the Fox News commentators to no end. He pointed out, did you see him John, a white man, and he pointed out, an ambassador, that what Malcolm X said when he got silenced by Elijah Mohammed was in fact true, America’s chickens . . . are coming home to roost. We took this country by terror, away from the Sioux, the Apache, the Arowak, the Comanche, the Arapahoe, the Navajo. Terrorism. We took Africans from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism. We bombed Granada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel. We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenagers and toddlers, pregnant mothers, and hardworking fathers. We bombed Qaddafi’s home and killed his child. Blessed are they who bash your children’s head against a rock. We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to payback for the attack on our embassy, killed hundreds of hardworking people, mothers and fathers who left home to go that day not knowing that they would never get back home. 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. Kids playing in the playground, mothers picking up children from school, civilians, not soldiers, people just trying to make it day by day.
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.
The British government failed, the Russian government failed, the Japanese government failed, the German government failed, and the United States of America government, when it came to treating her citizens of Indian descent fairly, she failed. She put them on reservations. When it came to treating her citizens of Japanese decent fairly, she failed. She put them in internment prison camps. When it came to treating her citizens of African descent fairly, America failed. The government put them in chains. She put them on slave quarters, put them on auction blocks, put them in cotton fields, put them in inferior schools, put them in sub-standard housing, put them in scientific experiments, put them in the lowest paying jobs, put them outside the equal protection of the law, kept them out of their racist bastions of higher education, and locked them into positions of hopelessness and helplessness. 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
Not God bless America, God damn America. That’s in the Bible, for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating her citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme. The United States government has failed the vast majority of her citizens of African descent. Think about this, think about this.
For every one Oprah, a billionaire, you’ve got 5 million blacks who out of work. For every one Colin Powell, a millionaire, you’ve got 10 million blacks who cannot read. For every one Condoleeza Rice, you’ve got 1 million in prison. For every one Tiger Woods, who needs to get beat, at the Masters, with his cap, blazin’ hips playing on a course that discriminates against women. God has his way of bringing you up short when you get to big for your cap, blazin britches. For every one Tiger Woods, we got 10,000 black kids who will never see a golf course. The United States government has failed the vast majority of her citizens of African descent.
I still want to know how Wright was wrong. Obama simply declared of Wright’s comments that:
they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country — a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America, a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.
As such, Rev. Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems — two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.
It was a moving speech, made all the more poignant when Obama said of Wright, “I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother — a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.”
But Obama did disown Wright and he did so without ever explaining just how it was that Wright was wrong. That lack of integrity, that willingness to throw his own people under the bus for the sake of his own political ambition, would be echoed when “since day one of the inauguration, many of us have been shocked to see Obama going into reverse on his campaign pledges faster than Lewis Hamilton in an F1 car.”
But we have been asked to understand that “the world’s big problems are inherently complex and difficult, that solutions are inescapably imperfect,” as if this could rationalize sheer avarice. We are to believe that “politicians are neither bad nor stupid,” as if this could somehow account for Obama’s actions since coming into office.
I have another explanation. I see a political hierarchy as serving those who are most ambitious for personal advancement. I can see the economic, political, and military power elites that C. Wright Mills identified clear back in 1958 as having such common economic and social interests as to coordinate their distinct heirarchies toward similar ends, as now so profoundly interconnected that there can scarcely be any distinction between them. I see a system that rewards the pursuit of self-interest at the expense of the greater good.
I suppose in Barack Obama’s vision, I have “a profoundly distorted view of this country.” But I challenge anyone to explain how a system such as we have can produce any other result.