The recent flap
over the astonishing remarks of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s
20-year spiritual guide and mentor, has overturned a stone that many
constantly trip over but the squirming underside of which we seldom look at.
Or want to. That is the race issue. As Chris Matthews said, it is such a
charged issue that anything a white devil says is going to be taken as an
offense, an outrage, a racist remark. And that is why there is no
substantive dialogue on race issues. White folks feel we have to just sit
back and wait till somebody within the African-American community, like Bill
Cosby, ventures to break the silence and speak what we privately think about
African-American problems, their causes and solutions. And I’m sure opinions
such as Cosby voices have long since tagged him as an Uncle Tom. One thing’s
for sure, no one’s going to be calling Jeremiah Wright an Uncle Tom, though
Obama did call him an eccentric old uncle who makes occasional crazy
statements you have to wince at and move on.
But that is
disingenuous. And it is part of a larger pattern, a long-standing strategy,
among African-American spokesmen who feel they must maintain a united front
against any and all criticism of African-Americans. Mike Tyson, noted
rapist, ear-cannibal, and all-around brute, gets out of jail with the
Reverend Jesse Jackson at his side, as if Tyson were Dr. King. All Dr. King
and this Neanderthal have in common is that they were African-American
celebrities, and that ain’t much. Trash-talking, woman-exploiting rappers
who rhapsodize over murdering policemen are regaled with “Black Achievement
Awards” from the NAACP (shouldn’t that be “NAAPoC”?). Jeremiah Wright
embraces racist demagogue Louis Farrakhan (who believes the late and
Honorable Elijah Muhammad communicates with him from an orbiting space ship)
simply because he is notorious and African American. Those who cooperate in
Farrakhan’s apparently good efforts are only letting themselves be used,
making this racist lunatic appear acceptable and respectable. And I’m afraid
it’s the same with those who apologize for Wright.
viciously anti-American and paranoid remarks have been aired and re-aired,
Wright has been awarded prizes of his own from African-American ministerial
groups. The United Church of Christ, to which Wright (like another great
social activist, the Reverend Jim Jones) belongs, has dismissed all
criticism of Wright as bigotry against the African American church. You see,
that is the united front strategy again: if you dare to criticize anything
African-Americans (as long as they’re not successful and Republican, that
is) do, you might as well run a linen laundry for the Ku Klux Klan. “Agree
with us, or be branded a racist.” No thanks.
As far as I am
concerned, Senator Obama simply cannot explain his way out of the paper bag
(or is it fly paper?) into which his long association with Jeremiah Wright
places him. Some commentator cogently observed how, if it were a white
candidate, and we discovered he had sat under the preaching of some
Dominionist (Reconstructionist) preacher advocating the Old Testament as
American law, killing homosexuals, etc., no amount of back-pedaling would be
sufficient to clear him. None could be taken seriously. Nor can it, I am
truly sorry to say, in Obama’s case.
My blood pressure
rises when I see talking African-American heads on TV defending Wright as
typical of African-American preaching. I hope they are lying! I can’t
imagine most African-Americans are ignorant America-hating paranoids who
believe the U.S. government invented AIDS to kill all African-Americans!
They love to say that Wright’s rants were “taken out of context.” Come on:
the only way that dodge would carry any weight is if Wright had prefaced
each and every one with the words: “Here’s the craziest nonsense you’ve ever
heard…” But somehow I doubt he did. If he didn’t, I just don’t need to know
any more about “context.” I’m afraid you’ll only be digging yourself and
Reverend Wright in deeper.
The problem I see
is this: as Nietzsche called Christianity a “slave morality,” the
African-American community is victim to an “ex-slave morality.” They believe
they have to cherish the memory of horrific race-wide persecution and let it
define them as perpetual victims. They will never get anywhere that way.
They must learn the lesson that the best revenge is to succeed. But so
twisted has their paranoia (abetted by nihilistic “leaders” like Wright,
Jackson, and Sharpton) grown that they believe success can be achieved only
at the cost of becoming like whitey and that that would be racial treason.
The truth is: one
can become successful by imitating the successful. The added
African-American assumption is that whites have so stacked the deck that one
may advance only by “acting white.” Being successful and being white are the
same thing in their eyes. For them, Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice are not
gifted African-Americans whose success ought to be admired and emulated;
they are examples of selling out to become “house n-----s.” African-American
children ridicule their classmates who study hard and get good grades as
“acting white.” How terrible a self-condemnation. These poor people see
themselves as locked into a white American Gulag, but they are not. Not any
more. They are instead like the inmates of the asylum in One Flew over
the Cuckoo’s Nest. They are incarcerated by their own choice. Their
worldview is a self-sealing premise of excuses that makes any attempt at
success seem not only futile but even treasonous to a community which is
defined by failure, like certain homosexuals who say you’re not really Gay
if you don’t have AIDS.
This community of
the ex-slave morality/mentality is powered by ressentiment, a
cowardly refusal to act marked by the morbid feeding of revenge fantasies
and the misery which loves company. To get anywhere, African-Americans who
have not yet succeeded and climbed into the Middle Class must stop taking
despair as their creed and start to believe they can succeed. Without that
hope, there is no target to aim for—or to hit.
It is not as if I
believe racism in America is over and done with. It is still sadly alive and
well, but it has taken refuge in some very strange and surprising places.
The notion of Affirmative Action is obviously racist as well as patronizing.
There is no attempt to equalize the academic preparation and professional
competence of minority students or job candidates. The facile policy is
instead simply to act as if all had the same opportunities of preparation
and education. One so pretends throughout both the processes of hiring and
of evaluation, because any criticism would brand one a racist. A good
liberal would embrace the stone-walling party-line: no criticism of
African-Americans need be, nor even may be, taken seriously, and only a
racist would. White liberals embrace the stonewall position out of a sense
of survivor guilt. Not having been the victim of prejudice, they feel
ashamed of themselves and cave in to the ressentiment of the
disadvantaged. To suggest self-help strategies (“learning to fish”) would be
read as implying that unsuccessful African-Americans have only themselves to
blame. (It is not as if no African-American leaders preach self-sufficiency;
the problem is that they do so in a context of implicit or explicit
separatism: FUBU (“For Us By Us”). Ditto Farrakhan. Ditto Jeremiah Wright.
Such a mindset
accounts for the paralysis of interracial communication Chris Matthews
laments: African-American leaders have learned well that the survivor guilt
and self-hatred of white liberals makes them easy to manipulate: “You’re not
one of us; you can’t know what it’s like.” How convenient! You need not try
to see yourselves as others see you, because you tell yourselves others
cannot really see you at all. You live in a different cosmos in which
Jeremiah Wright’s tirades look good and true. I say that is a world of
fun-house mirrors. And we can only account for it by diagnosing this
community as neurotic. They are like a psychoanalytic patient addicted to
wallowing in a neurosis, when the only way to be cured is to name the trauma
of the past, face it, and move on, no longer its prisoner and slave.
Emancipate your culture! Throw off your psychic chains! Your slave-master is
your own victim mentality.
So says Zarathustra.