Wednesday, April 30, 2008

This is written by James Perkinson, author of White Theology: Outing Supremacy in Modernity. JPerkinson is Associate Professor of Ethics at Ecumenical Theological Seminary.

I’m a white man, today, quite downcast with the outcome of the Obama-Wright media spectacle. I have spent much of the recent weeks—since the sound-bite of Wright’s sermon was looped ad nauseum—profoundly angered at white media belligerence in creating a caricature of black anger by which to try to besmirch Obama’s campaign. Not surprisingly—it worked.

The attempt to undercut Obama’s packaging of himself as the candidate of unity, post-racial, black-and-white all rolled into one, committed to a different politics beyond the facile markers of race, was so transparent as to be laughable if it were not so reprehensible. That the sound-bite was simply cast as hate-speech, entirely removed from context, and pushed as the rallying point for white well-to-do chatter-gangs to whip up a frenzied demand that any black man daring to project himself as Oval Office material had damn well better strip off any recourse to black anger over continuing black oppression, and coddle whimpering white sensibility, was so much evidence of how far we have not come in this country. That Wright could find a venue after a month of incessant vilification to finally speak back, with a quintessential mix of precision and passion, a resume of historical fact and a rhythm of hilarious riposte, was a breath of highly public fresh air not experienced by this author since Dr. King’s palaver of 1967-68.

I was astonished that so much accuracy could be joined with so much artistry in mainstream media for a brief moment of release from the typical white rant that so insipidly casts anything other than utterly supine acquiescence to rabid American exceptionalism as unpatriotic.

But the veil of mainstream (largely, though not exclusively white) demagoguery quickly closed out the glimpse of truth that had cut to the bone of American fear and viciousness. This is not the place to recount the facts of our history as Wright did; it is not the place to reiterate the warning of reaping what is sown. I only wish to weigh in with the opinion that, strangely, black anger represents one of the only hopeful energies left in the country, that we will have transcended race only at the point where white self-delusion stops dissembling before legitimate excoriation for what our policies actually have done and continue to do to people of color here and abroad, that healing from that history of policy and plundering requires an emotional confrontation with the human meaning of the violence done, that a culture frightened of indignation as presumptive evidence of hate rather than a possibility of love is itself already pathologically narcissistic. And probably doomed to self-destruct in its ever-more histrionic self-aggrandizement and congratulation! Do we really think we can have enslaved for three centuries to the continuing benefit of pale-skinned elites with no apology ever offered and not reap? Do we really believe we can bomb hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens into early graves in an illegal invasion based on a lie and not rot psychically or spiritually?

Watching the halt and defeated repudiation of Wright delivered by Obama at midday was, for me, a bonfire of inanity. In his haggard face, I saw a whole country defeated by its incapacity to know itself. In the mainstreaming of Wright’s comeback to his critics, it had come to the brink of a new level of self-confrontation . . . but turned savagely away. The choice Obama was forced to make may or may not save him the nomination. It clearly cost the country another—and rapidly dwindling—shred of integrity.

Comments: Post a Comment
links to this post

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?