Barack Obama’s Tuesday sermon was a well-crafted, well-delivered, postmodern review of race that had little to do with the poor judgment revealed in Obama’s relationship with the hateful Rev. Wright, much less the damage that he does both to African Americans and to the country in general.
Obama chose not to review what Wright, now deemed the “occasionally fierce critic.” said in detail, condemn it unequivocally, apologize, and then resign from such a Sunday venue of intolerance — the now accustomed American remedy to racism in the public realm that we saw in the Imus and other recent controversies.
Instead, to Obama, the postmodernist, context is everything. We all have eccentric and flamboyant pastors like Wright with whom we disagree. And words, in his case, don’t quite mean what we think; unspoken intent and angst, not voiced hatred, are what matters more.
Rather than account for his relationship with a hate-monger, Obama will enlighten you, as your teacher, why you are either confused or too ill-intended to ask him to disassociate himself from Wright.
The Obama apologia was a “conversation” about moral equivalence. So the Wright hatred must be contextualized and understood in several ways that only the unusually gifted Obama can instruct us about:
1) The good that Rev. Wright and Trinity Church did far outweighs his controversial comments, which were taken out of context as “snippets” and aired in the “endless loop” on conservative outlets.
2) We are all at times racists and the uniquely qualified Obama is our valuable mirror of that ugliness: Wright may say things like “God damn America” or “Dirty Word” Israel or “Clarence Colon,” but then it must be balanced by other truths like Obama’s own grandmother who also expresses fear of black males (his grandmother’s private angst is thus of the same magnitude as Wright’s outbursts broadcast to tens of thousands).
3) We don’t understand Wright’s history and personal narrative. But as someone who grew up in the hate-filled and racist 1960s, it was understandable that he was bound to mature into his present angry anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-white mentality. (As if all blacks did?)
4) Indeed, Wright does nothing that much different from radio-talk show hosts and those of the Reagan Coalition who thrive on racial resentments. But whereas Wright has cause as a victim, his counterparts are opportunists who play on white fears.
5) And if we wish to continue to express worries about Obama’s past relationships with Wright — never delineated, never explained in detail — in trite and mean-spirited ways such as replaying the Wright tapes, then we have lost a rare opportunity to follow Obama into a post-racial America.
6) We, both black and white alike, are victims, victims of an insensitive system, a shapeless, anonymous “it” that brings out the worst in all of us — but it will at last end with an Obama candidacy.
The message? Some of us are never quite responsible for what we say. And Obama has no responsibility to explain the inexplicable of how he closely tied himself to someone of such repugnant and racist views. We will never hear “It’s time for Rev. Wright and me to part our separate ways, and here’s why.”
Instead, the entire Wright controversy evolved due to America’s failure to understand the Wright’s past and the present status of race. No doubt, the next time some public figure utters a racist comment — and it will happen — we will then expect to hear about context that explains and excuses such an apparent hurtful outburst.
Obama is right about one thing: We are losing yet another opportunity to talk honestly about race, to hold all Americans to the same standards of public ethics and morality, and to emphasize that no one gets a pass peddling vulgar racism, or enabling it by failing to disassociate himself from its source — not Rev. Wright, not even the eloquent, but now vapid, Barack Obama.