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Archive for Thursday, March 27, 2008

Huckabee puts pastor in perspective

March 27, 2008

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Thank you, Mike Huckabee.

It was getting to be a bit much, the marathon denunciations of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright by the professional chatterers of Fox News, MSNBC and the like. Their screams of high dudgeon had grown shrill; their show of moral affront was wearing thin. And then Huckabee, invited by MSNBC last week to condemn Wright's bitter words, invoked instead the era of racial segregation that shaped Barack Obama's former pastor. "And you know what?" he said. "Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment, and you have to just say, 'I probably would, too. In fact, I may have had more of a chip on my shoulder, had it been me.'"

It bears repeating: a black Mike Huckabee would be more angry than Jeremiah Wright, not less. It was an admission of startling, unexpected insight and, dare I say, Christian generosity. A conservative white man invited white men and women to project themselves into dark skin, to imagine how bitter they might be, had they come of age in an era where law, religion, media and custom said they were less than truly human beings.

Huckabee's words helped me crystallize something I had been struggling to define as I watched the controversy mushroom and metastasize. I could no more defend what Rev. Wright said than I could defend what Don Imus, Michael Richards, Mel Gibson or Tim Hardaway said. And yet as the controversy swelled, overtaking Obama's pastor, Obama's speech, Obama's grandmama, something was nagging me and I didn't know what it was. Now I do. There is to all this a sense of the overdone. Methinks they doth protest too much.

And here, I'll repeat for emphasis: I intend no defense of what Rev. Wright said. After all, he said obnoxious things: the AIDS virus was created by the government; Louis Farrakhan is a great man; God damn America. Anyone who objects to that is justified. Anyone who asks why Obama remained in Wright's church for 20 years raises a fair question.

But on the other hand: when Ronald Reagan - not an associate, but Reagan himself - stood on soil soaked with the blood of three murdered civil rights workers and declared his support of "state's rights," was he required to make a major speech to explain? When George W. Bush spoke at racist Bob Jones University, when John McCain supported the Confederate battle flag, was there a full-fledged media frenzy? Was there marathon, wall-to-wall coverage of the type we have lately seen? Of course not.

Some of us are using this controversy to peddle a false equivalence, decrying White's perceived bigotry and pretending moral wounds on par with those inflicted by Imus, Richards, Gibson and Hardaway. And failing - or refusing - to understand that those wounds derive their hurtful power not simply from what was said, but from the fact that those same things have been said with impunity for years turning to centuries to justify denying that black people, Jewish people and gay people were people at all.

A straight, white, Christian American male does not have access to the kind of pain that causes. For which he should be thankful. So, when Wright claims a federal conspiracy to spread AIDS among blacks, you might say, well, that's crazy. And it is. About as crazy as a federal conspiracy to use black men as unwitting guinea pigs for 40 years to test what happens when syphilis goes untreated. Which, of course, happened.

This is the context that has been missing from the high-minded denunciations and statements of mortal offense. This is what has gone unspoken. Does it excuse what Jeremiah Wright said? No. But it sure as heck explains.

Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Pitts now chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT every Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com.

Comments

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 6 years, 8 months ago

I may not agree with Huckabee on many things, but he nailed it here. People need to try and put themselves in other's shoes before they judge them. I know if I had been treated like blacks were, no matter how much things had changed I would be angry. I'm still angry about the classist attitudes of the town I grew up in. I was considered poor white trash, because my dad was a construction worker, but you could be a poor store clerk and have more status. Of course I could escape this bigotry by moving to another town. Blacks don't and didn't have that option. Yes, they could escape to the North where things were some what better, but there was still racism. They were still forced to live in ghettos. Would I be angry? You better believe it.

Bob Hechlor 6 years, 8 months ago

Very thoughtful discussion. Thanks for the time, effort and thoughtfulness. Of course, I also think it can be said that FOX is trying to put Obama away, as he is seen as a threat to their conservative agenda. FOX has never been very concerned about facts, objectivity and normal journalistic concerns. They have been there to promote the neocons; Cheney, Bush and now McCain. McCain also went to Bob Jones University. While the press has pointed to his soliciting of support with Hagee, they have failed to mention that he did the same with Bob Jones. They have also failed to consider that McCain was broke. He had no money for a campaign and then suddenly, he is back on top for the Republicans. Where did the money come from? Since he now appears to be ready to adapt to the neocon agenda, did the money come from them? Will he be like Bush and Cheney, which means that the press dare not press him on anything?

Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

The issues are not Hillary,McCain, grandma,pastors or sex. For some reason since the days of Reagan-Bush republicans have concerned themselves with grandma's Hillary,pastors,ex pastors and others sex lives.

Why voters place that above a party with a history of Iran-Contra,Savings and Loan Scandal,Sub Prime Scandal,parties supporting a lying president/illegal occupation of another country,spying on americans at will,president lying about social security http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2005/0505orr.html and the killing or injury of at least 1,000,000 Iraq people is wayyy beyond me.

The issues it seems are: Bring all the troops home. The Iraq people know how to rebuild a country and run an oil business. Their oil is not our oil. 44,000 dead or injured/disabled USA miltary Creating new industry that cannot be outsourced Cleaner Energy Sources National Health Insurance Dumping No Child Left Behind Restoring Rights of Americans that republicans took away Reining in the power of the President Restoring the EPA Acts that the republican wiped out Restoring the USDA to a credible agency that places consumers over special interest money * Voter Rights NOT special interest rights: Campaigns go too long,spend way too much money and do not necessarily provide the best available. It is up to us to stop the nonsense at the voting booths on the 2008 ballot. Not voting sends the wrong message and changes nothing. Lets's demand a new system and vote in Fair Vote America : http://www.fairvote.org/irv/

Demand a change on the 2008 ballot.

The big money candidates are more beholden than ever to corporate special interests due to the very long nature of campaigns. How do they have time to do the job they were elected to do? We need public financing of campaigns. Citizens cannot afford special interest money campaigns for it is the citizens that get left out. http://www.publicampaign.org/ Who would be against Public Funding? The special interest money providers and their bought and paid for politicians!

Vote like a smart, conservative, fiscally responsible and socially responsible person. VOTE OBAMA!

Flap Doodle 6 years, 8 months ago

Repeat # 8,658 of the same post by merrill.

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