3.21.2008

Martink Luther King: Another Angry Black Preacher

Great article from E.J. Dionne on race. He isn't attacking Obama or justifying for him, his merely explaining the same disconnect between what Rev. Wright said and people's not understanding why Obama would stay in his Church.

From the NY Times:

One of the least remarked upon passages in Obama's speech is also one of the most important -- and the part most relevant to the Wright controversy. There is, Obama said, a powerful anger in the black community rooted in "memories of humiliation and doubt" that "may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends" but "does find voice in the barbershop or the beauty shop or around the kitchen table. . . . And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews."

Yes, black people say things about our country and its injustices to each other that they don't say to those of us who are white. Whites also say things about blacks privately that they don't say in front of their black friends and associates.

One black leader who was capable of getting very angry indeed is the one now being invoked against Wright. His name was Martin Luther King Jr.

[snip]

Listen to what King said about the Vietnam War at his own Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Feb. 4, 1968: "God didn't call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war. . . . And we are criminals in that war. We've committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I'm going to continue to say it. And we won't stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation. But God has a way of even putting nations in their place." King then predicted this response from the Almighty: "And if you don't stop your reckless course, I'll rise up and break the backbone of your power."

[snip]

I cite King not to justify Wright's damnation of America or his lunatic and pernicious theories but to suggest that Obama's pastor and his church are not as far outside the African American mainstream as many would suggest. I would also ask my conservative friends who praise King so lavishly to search their consciences and wonder if they would have stood up for him in 1968.

[snip]

I'm a liberal, and I loathe the anti-American things Wright said precisely because I believe that the genius of our country is its capacity for self-correction. Progressivism and, yes, hope itself depend on a belief that personal conversion and social change are possible, that flawed human beings are capable of transcending their pasts and their failings.

Obama understands the anger of whites as well as the anger of blacks, but he's placed a bet on the other side of King's legacy that converted rage into the search for a beloved community. This does not prove that Obama deserves to be president. It does mean that he deserves to be judged on his own terms and not by the ravings of an angry preacher.

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