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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I call BS.

You know, I've been trying to avoid this whole Jeremiah Wright brouhaha. To be honest with you, I'm conflicted and more than a little sympathetic, so I decided to say bupkis. But then Rich links to this, and it's time to sortie the fleet.

Jeremiah Wright is not typical of anything but his small strain of black liberation theology.

To even suggest that he is emblematic of the "black church" in toto is poisonous stereotyping.

First, let me have have that brief, honest conversation about race here. Whitey, get off your high horse. Are black folks susceptible to conspiracy theorizing? Sure. More so than others? I don't know about that.

Americans in general are a somewhat paranoid lot, perhaps understandable given that many fled here to escape various clutching tyrannies. Also, I seem to remember lots of white folks spinning conspiracy yarns with Bill Clinton at the center in the 1990s. Some of which were embarrassing beyond words. In fact, if you added up all the time necessary for Bubba to be involved in each of them, he wouldn't have had a spare second to turn an intern into a humidor.

Moreover, the black experience in America has been one of being subjected to grand conspiracies, with the effects up close and personal, bloody, demeaning and brutal. Often by people who escaped from tyrants themselves. History loves her some irony.

Which is why Mike Huckabee is 100% right--Caucasoids need to get more chill pill prescriptions and cut a lot more slack. Fine--a slight paraphrase on my part. Still, the premise is inarguable--try walking at least a few steps in the other guy's shoes before going into nuclear dudgeon. Just because America has made great strides regarding race does not mean the Great Color-Blind Future is upon us. It wasn't that long ago we didn't let human beings with the "wrong" pigment into our restaurants or schools. It wasn't all that long ago, as history marks it, that we said it was just fine to sell them. That will leave scars. Oh, and let's also not pretend that old racist habits are so easily broken, eh, fellow honkies?

Original sin and miles to go. Many, many miles to go.

But.

All of that is different from claiming this:

But the uproar over the rhetoric of Wright is largely a result of America's unfamiliarity with the history and language of the black church.

Or this:

The black church's language is the language and worldview of a people who have been at the margins of social power - a symbolic language, not a literal language. Words seldom have a one-to-one correspondence with events. Black religious language is inherently evocative, hyperbolic and impassioned - aimed more toward devotion than debate. It is intended to convey divine ecstasy and anger to parishioners, not dialogue among pundits.

Translation: it's a black thing, you wouldn't understand.

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

Essentially, he's using a blanket stereotype to defend Wright's hateful rhetoric. I'll give him chutzpah points, sure. But, as is usually the case, the stereotype is crap.

Off the top of my head, I can think of three prominent, successful black metro Detroit church leaders who wouldn't routinely deploy racialist rhetoric or have spread conspiracy theories from the pulpit or expressed glee over 9/11 (both conspicuously absent from Prof. Clark's apologia. Moving across the spectrum from left to right they are: Fellowship Chapel's Wendell Anthony, Perfecting Church's Marvin Winans and Word of Faith's Keith Butler. Nope. Can't picture any of them doing that. Let's go national--how about T.D. Jakes? Picture him preaching about the government unleashing AIDS? The U.S. of KKK-A? Me neither.

Sure, let's have that authentic conversation and reconciling dialogue. It's overdue. Let's leave all of our comforting assumptions and stereotypes at the door, too.

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