I just finished Chris Hayes excellent take on Jeremiah Wright. Amidst many, many good points in the piece, there was one in particular that caught my eye:
And if, of all things, it is his pastor's heated denunciation of American injustice that undoes the candidacy of an African American with a legitimate chance at the White House, any conscientious observer could be forgiven for thinking: God damn America indeed.
Basically. But I don't think people understand what this really means. For years we've watched as black leaders and white liberals have presented the fight against racism as a battle of morals and justice, not as one of self-preservation. What people fail to understand is that the final victims of racism are always white.
Virtually every pundit who's spent the last week commenting on Rev. Wright has taken the position that Wright's views are likely not Barack Obama's. And yet many of them still believe that it is--and evidently should be--a tremendous hurdle for him to the presidency. This, to me, is the equivalent of standing in the middle of the street while a tractor trailer is barreling down on you, and getting pissed because the people telling you to get out the way happen to be yelling.
This country is in more trouble than it even knows. The Iraq War is bad enough. The rise of competitive powers like China and India will complicate things. Meanwhile our gluttonous dependency on foreign oil has seemingly only deepened. This isn't simply a problem of getting to work or polluting the enviornment--our food supply is virtually hostage to a steady supply of petroleum. And speaking of our food supply, we are facing a generation, so obese and sickened by a McDonald's lifestyle, that they actually may live shorter lives than their parents. I won't bring up the general state of the economy, or the state of education.
White people aren't being spared any of these problems. If Barack Obama looses because he is an inferior candidate, so be it. But if looses because we live in a world where Ann Coulter can call a presidential candidate a fag, and still hit the networks whenever a book comes, but Jeremiah Wright is branded the Anti-Christ, than white people will have denied themselves a potential avenue out of this mess, on the basis of soundbites and YouTube clips.
This country has never understood why Mississippi is the poorest state in the country. It's because racism is a suicide bomb--if you are the sort of fool to believes in the inhumanity of black people, it's quite likely you believe in a lot of other hooey also. Racism is self-destructive in that it correlates directly with ignorance and stupidity. Anti-racism is self preservation. Closing the chasm between black and white, healing America's original sin isn't a favor to black people--it's in the country's interest. LBJ didn't do us any favors in the 1960s, he saved America's collective ass by keeping it from looking like South Africa.
If Obama is derailed by Wright, I greatly fear for this country's future. Not in some hazy two centuries from now future, but in the next two decades, future. It will be a triumph of cynicism and mean we ultimately really are what big media says we are--passive consumers, unthinking receptacles, zombies mindlessly waiting on the end. I keep thinking about one of the last point Barack made in his speech, and it really struck me, though I don't think everyone got the meaning:
We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.
We can do that.
But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.