This is part IV of a series. Annie and I are very good friends... Recently we had a great conversation about race and our perspective on the whole Reverend Wright thing. Barack Obama encouraged a national conversation on race. I've been blessed with the opportunity to have a few of these across the divide recently. This last part is pretty long. I'm not sure if anyone's reading these. So, I just decided to put the rest up here, in case you are following along.
Annie has given me permission to share our conversation with you. I've broken it up into four parts each title "Emails Across the Divide". Annie is a young white woman in her early 50s. She's not your "typical" white woman in that she lives in a pretty diverse family and has spent a lot of time in the inner city. Annie and I have known each other for a few years now. She's the best friend I have that I've never met (with the exception of my brother Brian from Ireland).
Brian: I am grateful for the opportunity to have this dialog with you. I only wish more people could have the experience we are having.
I want to address your concerns. But apparently, the things that bothered you were from a sermon or sermons I don't have access to. I listened (in its entirety) to the one I did have access to. I can talk about my impressions of that sermon. I can't really talk about the others, specifically.
1.) 9/11- MANY preachers think America is a cesspool, of guilty and corruption, not just Reverend Wright. Read the prophets in the OT talking about how Israel deserved to be taken into captivity and how that was a message from G-d. This is nothing new, Annie. I don't agree with it. I don't think G-d works that way. But, it's not unpatriotic to say so. No one ever accused the Prophets of being against Israel. To the contrary, they wanted Israel to repent and turn from her "wicked" ways. Any preacher who is NOT pointing out the faults of America is not doing his job, IMO.
2.) I'm surprised that a man as educated as Reverend Wright would say something so stupid as AIDS was invented to kill Black people. Surely he knows it entered America through well-off White men. I can't back this statement up at all, Annie. Maybe he's hung out with Farrakhan too much.
3.) Don't know. Other than America really is run by rich White people. I'd really like to see that comment in context.
4.) Depends on how you look at it. I think a lot of organized crime is headed up by White people. Don't have the statistics on that. And, prisons are overflowing with Black men, largely on drug charges. And, crack cocaine does carry a much stiffer penalty than powder cocaine. For whatever reason, and we can argue about the reasons till the cows come home, prisons are disproportionately populated by Black men.
Keep in mind as you judge Jeremiah Wright what you're basing that judgment on. Since neither you nor I have a great deal of personal experience with his words, perhaps we should consider the judgment of those who have heard them in context. Are there people leaving Trinity UCC saying it's racist? How do the White members feel they are being treated? Are there any issues with violence stemming from Trinity? Why would the UCC continually talk about what a great congregation it is if they are separatist or racist. Keep in mind the UCC is a pretty White denomination, Annie.
Debra: and i'm watching from the sidelines trying to understand also. and i watched the whole sermon and like brian, see that they did a cut/force paste to get that inflammatory piece. sort of like christians cut and paste to get the eternal torment/revelation is a road map to the end times garbage. sigh. LOL
Brian: Debra, I'm glad you got to see the whole video. I'm going to see if it's possible to get the other whole videos. I imagine Trinity is inundated right now. There are other videos available on the 'web. But, I don't know which sermons the clips actually came from. But, one that that is VERY apparent from watching the video is how much it was lifted out of context. The sermon was not about Hillary, or Barack or White people, it was about Christmas and G-d sending Jesus in a manger and G-d reaching out to the poor.
Annie: thanks for trying to help me understand b2. i don't think i'll ever view rev wright quite the same way you do - we seem to see different sides of his face from our varying vantage points (on my side, he has a huge zit on his nose LOL). i truly hope that one day he speaks in st louis or someplace nearby. i'd like to hear him in person to gain a better understanding hopefully.
btw, the sermon i was referring to was the clip by abc news... if you're interested in seeing it, it was the first link that jim posted yesterday. but i do note that pat robertson said something similarly stupid about america bringing 9/11 on herself and was roundly criticized for it. i realize that the clips were culled out of his sermon by the media, picking the particularly incendiary remarks. yet, they are his own words from his own mouth - that's what i've based my opinion on, his own words. it may not be the full sermon, but they weren't edited and pieced together to distort what he said. i forgive his words but cannot find justification for them. stirring up emotion and anger in people makes it more difficult for them to reason. it produces REaction rather than well chosen, self-controlled action. if rev wright truly wants to facilitate change, it would be better to target specific wrong practices and suggest constructive solutions, rather than to blast away at an entire race of people without distinction, prejudging and condemning based on skin color alone. and that is why i say he has become what he has hated. offered for consideration...
Brian: Please understand this... I don't know Reverend Wright. I know only what I've heard about him and a few clips. I was talking to my pastor this morning and he said the same thing I had said. He would hate to have his words taken and clipped together in such a fashion. Preaching is an art form and he told me about a technique preachers use where they build up the "problem" to a crescendo, often exaggerating it to make their point. Then, they "resolve" the problem with the gospel or grace. He also told me he had visited Trinity, felt quite welcome (and Gregg is about as White as you can get) and he likes Jeremiah Wright.
You may continue to judge Reverend Wright based on the clip. I'm sure I heard the same clip. I went to YouTube and listened to all I could find. There were even some new ones today. I still won't judge Reverend Wright's 30 year career based on a few sentences here and there. That's just me. Right now, if I weigh the admiration of the United Church of Christ (an organization I do know and respect) and the admiration of his congregation, the entire sermon I viewed and the accolades coming from the White people I've heard from who have seen him in person against these clips; the amount of evidence in favor of Reverend Wright exceeds the evidence against him. You may choose to see it differently.
I must take exception to you continuing to say that he has offered no constructive solutions. I don't know whether he has or has not. You really don't know what he might have said even in the remainder of those specific sermons. I know for a fact that the sermon I watched, on balance was a fine sermon. I think Debra agrees with me. I know she watched the whole thing.
I'm willing to put into time to watch anything anyone wants to show me, in full context and judge Reverend Wright based on that. I think his ideas concerning AIDS are a little loony. But, it's not like our government hasn't ever experimented on people with deadly diseases and lied about it, Annie. They have. It's documented. The government has even apologized for it. http://www.infoplease.com/spot/bhmtuskegee1.html
Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you, Annie. If White people are going to condemn Black preachers for pointing out our government's wrongs, they better be ready to face the evidence that has led to the attitudes that many Blacks have. I personally would rather not go there. But, Reverend Wright didn't just make this stuff up with absolutely no basis. Our government does do wrong. Our government does lie. Our government has shown a preference for White life over Black and other colored people both here and abroad. Our government has experimented on its own people. Our country is run by rich White people. Blacks are jailed disproportionately and drug laws are harsher for crack than for powdered cocaine. Reverend Wright preaches about the things that impact his community. Neither you or I know whether he's offered "solutions" to these issues. But, frankly, I wish more preachers would address them. I was hoping my preacher would talk about this this morning. But, instead, he opted to preach about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Frankly, I was disappointed.
Annie, Black people need someone to speak up for them about injustices both past and present. Man, the more I think about this, the more I want to put on a daishiki and join Trinity.
Yeah, race is amazingly complex and sensitive issue in this country. Stupid, isn't it? It can even set the best of friends at odds when you really get into it.
Sorry that the conversation makes you uncomfortable. If it's any consolation, I hate it, too. I wish we didn't have to talk about these things. But, IMO, clearly we do. We keep stuffing things and pretending they don't exist then they explode like this thing with Reverend Wright. A lot of people are "shocked" he would say such things and just don't understand the motivation. While I don't agree with what he said or the way he said some things, I do understand the man's motivations.
Annie: if your perception is that i'm judging rev wright's 30 yr career, you're mistaken. my concerns are confined specifically to the statements he made that i witnessed in the clip. his words were divisive and judgmental of an entire people group based only on the color of our skin. while i appreciate your pastor's sentiment, it's not accurate to say that rev wright's words were clipped together. they were not in the context of his entire sermon, true. yet they were his own words and not a cut and paste job designed to distort them. btw, no offense to your pastor, but i resent preachers who attempt to manipulate rather than simply teach, exaggerating just to make a point. also, please note that i didn't state that rev wright had never offered any constructive solutions. like you, i have no way of knowing that. i did suggest that i thought that would be a better course than to demonize whites. it seems to me that you bring in several elements that either we agree on (yes, our gov't has done wrong things) or are not at issue for me (the remarks about hillary).
i hope i've been able to clarify my true thoughts and feelings so that there's no misunderstanding. i fail to understand why rev wright demonizing whites is okay. period. would another individual demonizing jews, blacks, muslims or any group based solely on race, ethnicity, or religion be given the same latitude? would we say, "O, that's just his style..."? i don't take issue with rev wright making judgments regarding specific actions of specific persons - something he did not do, but rather made gross generalizations based SOLELY ON SKIN COLOR. i am NOT my skin. it is NOT my identity. am i the only one who sees the hypocrisy in this? i'm not asking rev wright to be PC. i would ask, however, that he be fair-minded and use his pulpit responsibly, to promote harmony rather than stir up strife. like he would give a crap what i think anyway... LOL. but i do wish rev wright would choose to exhibit the same spirit as MLK, a leader truly to be admired. even long after his death his words live on as instruments of peace and reconciliation - the true audacity of hope.
btw, i have a couple of caftans. i'll wear one and you wear your daishiki :) and i do so miss "street church ministries" in hollywood, florida. if trinity were anything like that, i think i'd want to be there too.
i do have one question regarding your last statement (and i'm NOT trying to be a smart aleck!!! :) i'm totally on board that blacks (along with many other marginalized or oppressed groups) need someone (preferably us all) to speak up about injustices of the present. but, how does rehearsing the injustices of the PAST repeatedly help anyone? isn't that completely opposite of the buddhist thought you have shared with me that i've been so drawn to? isn't this "clinging" in it's most destructive form? we must learn from the past, but isn't there a danger in living there? it's important historically, just as is the holocaust. yet, how is there ever to be reconciliation when some like rev wright (from my perspective) continue to cling to bitterness over a past that no one can do anything to change? i think we can do more good black and white TOGETHER. our church fellowship is only about 40 people, but we are pretty well integrated - not a "white church" with the token black family. i'm getting involved at aaron's school in a pilot program for math tutoring (99% of those students are black). our family is integrated. aaron drove all night just to be in jena and stand in solidarity with the "jena 6". and after jena, i went looking for a local org to promote racial harmony and found one. right now they're not doing much more than sponsoring a few events - a march in august. i'll be there. none of these things are going to move mountains, but if each of us would do our little part in our little corner of the world... well, i can dream...
Brian: I think we're going to have to just agree to disagree. I think it's unfair for you to judge even those clips lifted out of context. I do not criticize Reverend Wright's style of preaching because it is most effective and is not, IMO, manipulative. The way Gregg described it suggests that it might be manipulative. But, I think it’s just a speaking style. I think it's an effective and fair form of communication that has been analyzed and systematized. I really doubt Reverend Wright outlines his sermons with that structure in mind. But, hey, I don't know.
I'll have to watch the clip again that has you all stirred up. But, even if you're right, that he did demonize ALL White people. Everybody misspeaks at times. I don't know that that is a pattern. One of the many ironies of this situation is Trinity UCC is part of a White denomination. They could not be Black separatists. If Reverend Wright were the racist people are painting him to be, wouldn't they be part of a Black denomination? Like the AME? Why would the UCC continually call him a bridge builder if the man did nothing but condemn White people. I'm sorry, Annie. I really believe you've been taken in. As more and more people come to Reverend Wright's defense (as I believe they will), I'm pretty sure you'll change your mind.
Yes, it's destructive to hold on to anger and to resentment. Yes, it's destructive to cling to the past. And I've said repeatedly, I don't share Reverend Wright's views (as expressed in these clips) entirely. But, I'm still not going to condemn his career based on a few words. If you want to take exception to those THINGS he said. Fine. I wish I had the time and resource to put together my own videos of pastors. I attended a church for 10 years that believed in ET and that homosexuals were sinners. Rhonda used to ask me how I could go there. If I had the time, I could put together a video that made it sound like they did nothing but preach Eternal Hell and homophobia. You'd be shocked and ask "How could Brian attend that church for 10 years and not know what was being said there?" The reality is that was a very, very small part of what they taught. It was not what they were about.
Annie, the injustices against Blacks are not all in the past. And, to sweep the past under the rug and pretend it's not there is just as counterproductive as clinging to it. We have to face what happened. Especially as Black people, the past is very important in understanding why we are where we are today. For most of my life I've criticized Black people who wear African clothing and who celebrate Kwanzaa and who seem to want to talk so much about the past. But, the older I get, the more I understand it. Our language, culture, history, genealogy, etc. were all stolen from us. What happened to Black people was more than a Diaspora, as in being driven out the land. At least when people are driven out of their land, they have the opportunity to cling together and try to preserve their culture. We were separated, family members, tribes, everything. We were sold like cattle. OK. You've got me started now. Sorry. I'll stop.
Oh, do you know of Francis Schaeffer? Check out this article written by his son:
Brian: I woke up in a foul mood this morning over all this race talk. Nobody's fault. But, just putting that out there. So, I hope I haven't and don't offend anybody.
I doubt that you would feel comfortable in the Reverend's church. For a couple of reasons. You would not relate to his style of preaching. I grew up Pentecostal. I grew up hearing preachers yell and scream and sweat and stomp their feet. Frankly, it made me feel uncomfortable, too. I've learned to appreciate the style, to a certain degree. But, it's not my favorite. Secondly, my experience has been that most White people feel uncomfortable when surrounded by Black people. Particularly if the Black people aren't "acting White". From what I've seen at Trinity, Black people feel free to be themselves. Most of us Black people have learned to operate in two cultures (the Reverend makes reference to being bi-cultural in his Christmas sermon). Most White people have not. Many, if not most of us, act differently when we're around our own kind than we do when we're around White people. Our language is different, our dress can be different. We have different cultural references.
As for the bitterness thing, I could not agree with you more that bitterness must be cut off. But, before we can do that we must face facts. It's important (in Buddhism) to face our feelings to accept our feelings before we just stuff them. Yes, we have to forgive and heal. And, as I pointed out on Friday, it's not all over. Racism still exists in this country. The statistics overwhelmingly show it. Personally, I try to ignore for the most part and I try to move on. But, frankly, it's insulting to have White people tell Black people how they should handle the systematic mistreatment of us that has gone on and continues to go on, particularly concerning dialog in our own churches.
I'm very sorry if I've offended you. I know you (and others here) are a little sensitive. This has touched a nerve for me. As you know, I am far from a Black militant or a separatist. I live in what I affectionately call White Chester- my community is less than 4% Black. I attend a church where mine is the only Black family. All my friends are White. Sometimes I get tired of trying to be a Black ambassador to the White world and want to go to a place like Trinity. It reminds of the the theme song from Cheers "You want to go where everybody knows your name"
Where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
You wanna go where people know,
people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows
Annie: and through your explanations, i'm beginning to understand his motivations just a bit i think. plus, i was meditating about this while i was running on the treadmill. there's something about engaging in right and left brain activity together that helps bring me clarity (as to my own thoughts and emotions anyway). i'd like to incorporate some of what tolle addresses in this issue. like i said, i'm beginning to "get" rev wright just a bit. but, here's the drawback for us all i think. rev wright speaks from the egoic self, identifying as a black man. that doesn't push my buttons at all. but then, he attacks whites. while intellectually i know that i am NOT my skin color, yet there must be a reaction of the egoic self IDENTIFYING as a white person in order for me to feel the hurt of his rejection. as long as we (all of us) continue to IDENTIFY with black, white, fundie, universalist, american, mexican, whatever, we will continue to have divisions. we can EMBRACE our culture, our wonderful colorful diversities. but, it's in the IDENTIFYING ourselves with these externals that we miss the truth of our unity, the I AM within. but, i'm pretty sure rev wright would see this view as "new age"... as would pat robertson or john hagee... LOL
Brian: Yes, Annie. You're absolutely right on with this post.
But, not only does Rev Wright identify as a Black man, he identifies White corporate America and the White controlled government as causing a lot of his ills. On one level (speaking like our old Master here) he is absolutely right. For the most part, the government is White controlled and so is corporate America. And, those institutions have done harm to Black people, in general. During those times when I identify as a Black man, I can understand perfectly what he's saying. But, again, in defense of the good Reverend, it's kind of hard not to identify as a Black man in a society that constantly reminds you that's what you are. It's really hard for a White person to understand because rarely are you specifically identified as "White" by others. You just are "normal". I have tried my whole life to transcend race. But, it's very difficult and sometimes impossible.
Several months ago a woman complained to me that it was racist for me to have a website that served African Americans' hair care needs. She just could not grasp that every other website, grocery store, drug store and salon in the world was "White" by default. They just didn't need to put up a label pronouncing their products were for White people, it's just understood.
Annie: you make a very good point that, in his fervor, perhaps rev wright simply misspoke. i would give absolutely anything just to hear him say that - that he was only referring to SOME "rich white men" who, in truth. HAVE historically oppressed blacks and some continue to. but, i'd like to know for certain that he doesn't paint all white people with the same broad brush. and perhaps he doesn't. it would be good to have more knowledge of his views than simply what was presented in the media. yet, if rev wright is not held to account for his words at all, isn't that a double standard? it might seem odd until you think about it, but holding people to a high standard is actually respect, saying, "i know you can rise above these particular words or actions". selah. :)
and i very much understand what you say about culture as today our family celebrates st patrick's day. so, i'm off to take my daughter and friend to the "real" parade down in "dogtown" with the ancient order of hibernians. the "real" irish look with contempt upon the city sponsored parade held downtown on saturday LOL. i'm not going myself - the weather's too irish for me today - 50's, windy and rainy. so, i'll come back home and cook corned beef and cabbage. but, i'm dropping her and some friends off as there's never any place to park. hope i don't get stuck in a big traffic jam down there... thanks for the link and i WILL read it later today. i LOVE francis shaeffer, but i'm unfamiliar with anything written by his son. –annie
Brian: Enjoy your Saint Patrick's Day. I forgot it was "your" day. I might even invite some friends out for a beer myself.
I don't know the Reverend's heart. But, again, I'll point out the church he was the head of for over 30 years is part of the UCC, a White dominated denomination. If he had the hatred for White people he's being accused of having, I don't know why he'd be in the UCC. Trinity is big enough to have gone on their own or joined a Black denomination.
Annie: i think being offended is a choice. so, at least speaking for myself, i'm not offended at all.
i can't speak for debra, not knowing her experience. but, for myself, i've also grown up in pentecostal churches and while, like you, i don't like to hear preachers yell and carry on, it doesn't deter me from trying to listen to the message behind the theatrics. and, in the black church we were in in florida, i was never once uncomfortable as a white person "surrounded by black people" - and i guarantee you - they didn't "act white". they were just who they were and i adored them :). there were many things for me to learn - the timing in the singing, some terms were unfamiliar to me, so many of their customs within the church service i'd never heard of, seen before, and holy cow, but their services are 3 HOURS LONG - i learned to take snacks in my purse LOL. but, i felt like i was with family. but, i find that i've only been uncomfortable in ONE church in my life. it was a little country pentecostal church (all white) and they were getting ready to cast out demons when i headed for the back door LOL.
i do understand that feeling of wanting to go where we're comfortable, "where everybody knows your name". yet, there's also a glorious wonder in the unfamiliar if we explore our God-designed diversity. can we make that just as safe as our comfort zone? i hope so. i think we must - or we will simply stagnate and progress no further. it seems to me that over the last 40 years, we've pretty much stagnated. MLK made a good start, but we've dropped the ball to a large extent. –annie
Brian: I'm out there on the frontier of uncomfortable every day. I can only speak for myself when you make that call to get out of our comfortable zone. Frankly, I'm so far out there I know longer feel completely comfortable in either environment. I'm not Black enough for Black people. And, I'm sometimes tired of being around White people and not being able to really be me. I might learn to grow comfortable at Trinity. But, I certainly wouldn't agree with everything there.
You, are an exception to the rule of White fear and discomfort with Black people. I know that and I respect that. You have made the effort to overcome the culture barrier. Most have not. Many have not had the opportunity. I guess the reason your judgment of Reverend Wright has got me so tied up in knots is I know that if you are reacting this way, many, many others must be too. I can deal with the "rednecks" (hope that doesn't offend anyone) jumping on Reverend Wright. But, I would hope cooler heads would at least give him the benefit of the doubt.
Annie: that makes sense brian. to tell you the truth, on a personal level, rev wright's words hurt my feelings. i felt unfairly condemned based only on the color of my skin. (see, i told you i'm searching my OWN heart :)). as i begin to step away from my feelings, examine my thoughts, it's easier to see clearly. but, even as i have to step outside of my egoic self, i think unless folks like rev wright learn to do the same, the division will be perpetuated with little hope of racial reconciliation. as long as we tie our IDENTITY to black or white there will remain an attitude of "us and them", unfortunately usually "us vs them" :(
faith and begorra! i'm so happy. my daughter just called and it's raining, so she's driving herself to the parade and i don't have to get out. yay! i'll just stay home in my snug little house (the downstairs of which is quite reminiscent of an irish pub LOL) and cook. and btw - my irish daughter hates corned beef, but my black son-in-law loves it... and he hates watermelon LOL. one reason i hate stereotypes, for i KNOW them to be untrue - especially in our family :) -annie
Brian: I appreciate the opportunity to explore this with you. Let me just say it might turn out that Reverent Wright is a hateful, racist guy. But, I really doubt it.
Remember how you felt when you heard the Reverend's words. A lot of people hear words like that about their race all the time. There is a natural, human gut-level reaction to them. It does take some skill to transcend that. (skill that you have, BTW).
Annie: i know what you mean... i had a very emotional reaction when i felt that you were taking rev wright's side AGAINST ME!!! my egoic self said, "THIS should NOT be happening!!!" LOL it's good for us to face those things that tie us up in knots (or as my gran used to say, "puts a knot in your tail" LOL). i really hope that you'll get the tolle book, "a new earth". i wish i were further into it, because i honestly believe it would have helped me to not take rev wright's statements as an attack on such a PERSONAL level. and i cannot know rev wright's heart, so i truly am making every effort to only judge his WORDS. so, if i give in that he might be, on any other day, a great guy, filled with love for all.... can i still maintain that on that particular day his words were inflammatory, divisive and not particularly helpful? come, let us reason (negotiate?) together... :) brian, if you and i can't wade through the muck and yet emerge arm-in-arm, i don't know how much hope there is for the world "out there".... one thing i really like about obama... YES WE CAN! :) and i think it would be good for us to remember that obama is black AND white. he probably feels stuck in the middle a lot too - but what has been perhaps uncomfortable at times for him may be the very thing that God uses to bring racial harmony. whether or not he becomes president, he could be he next MLK if he chooses i think. –annie
Brian: As I said, I'm not here to defend Jeremiah Wright's every word. And, in case I didn't say it before, I think some of his STATEMENTS were over the top. And, I would agree some may not have place in ANY church setting. What I object to is the demonization of the man (not saying you were doing that) and to the judging of a 30 year career on a few statements (I think you were doing that).
As Obama and Al Sharpton both pointed out, Reverend Wright is from a different time. I am not going to condemn the man who has done so many great things for his community based on a couple of clips. I'm perfectly willing to admit that some of the things he said may be unacceptable in any setting and in any context. I didn't listen to the clips with that frame of mind. And, that's not why they were strung together. The intent was to be a character assassination of man, and by association, of an candidate. That is what I have been rejecting.
I was just commenting to my wife about how all this must be completely frustrating to Obama who is a multi-cultural, multi-racial man. First he's attacked for not being Black enough (by Black people), then he's attacked for being Muslim, then he's attacked for being too Black and for his choice of Christian church. The man must be doing something right!
Annie: yeah, i already heard a news bit last night that some blacks are pissed off at him for repudiating rev wright's statements... sigh... the very thing that made me more comfortable that he was a man of reason and not emotion has upset others who see him as a sell-out. i still disagree with him on many of his political positions, but, as a man, i've been most impressed with his character and the constructive manner in which he has dealt with all of this. i hope in the long run, the thing that was designed to hurt him will instead help him. but i'd rather see him answering for some of his liberal (imho) policies rather than having to waste so much time sidetracked with this issue. for me, he answered to my satisfaction, now let's move on. but, the media continues to belabor the issue ad nauseum.... like i said, he may not be the next president, but either way, he could still be the next MLK - carpe diem barack! -annie
Brian: He did throw Jeremiah Wright under the bus. But, it was for the greater good. I completely understand why he has to distance himself as quickly and completely as possible. Compromises have to be made in politics. But, since Barack can't speak out for for Reverend Wright, I think it's important that others do, as had the United Church of Christ. I love their integrity. They have a long, long history of racial reconciliation and in lifting up Blacks and women.