Obama the Racist
I generally don’t like to make political blog posts that reveal in anyway my own political leanings, mostly because my students read this and I don’t consider myself an “advocacy” based teacher, even if I do have strongly held views (different topic, but I do prefer not to broadcast my views). Still, this subject annoys me so I want to say a few things about it.
Today I was listening to Sean Hannity in the car on the way home (he’s on during the time I head home, it’s a 50min commute, so I get an earful). He was ranting about Obama.
Now, this post has nothing to do with me being pro-Obama, or my thinking anyone else should be. But Hannity’s Obama ranting just struck me as all wrong, and his way of discussing this particular issue struck me as a sign of what’s wrong with discourse in America today. The subject was Obama’s membership in a “Black-centered” church (Trinity) in Chicago.
Trinity is, as Hannity rightly points out, clearly black focused. It focuses on what it calls “black values” and on directing the attentions of the congregation towards the needs of the black community. Click on the link to read about it.
Anyway, Hannity’s point: Trinity is racist, and not-Christian (for mostly the same reasons). First, it’s racist, he says, because it is black-focused. In Hannity’s words, we should all be following King’s vision to judge people based on their character, not on the color of their own skin. Since Trinity is black-focused, it is reversing King’s method and thus as a result they are racists. Second, it’s not Christian because it doesn’t focus on mankind in general but instead just on blacks. So it rejects the Christian injunction to love your neighbors, where those are understood to be anyone, not just your black (or white) ones. Hannity concluded his rant by blowing a gasket while suggesting that if the word “black” was replaced with “white” (in the Trinity document on black values) everyone (the media especially) would be all over the story of how a candidate for the Presidency belonged to a segregationist, separatist, racist Church, and how the candidate himself (Obama, here) seemed to be racist by association.
Alright. So what do I make of this? Where do I get started? I think it’s all nonsense.
1. Is Obama’s church racist?
I don’t see it. First, the congregation is not judging anyone’s character and their actions are not based on judgments of this sort against the white community. They are not claiming that black people are better or superior to whites. Instead, it seems that their black-centeredness is a response to what they see as damage to the black community as a result of a long period of historically institutionalized racism. They aren’t advocating focus on the black community, as far as I can tell, for any reason other than that — to help to repair the community from damage it has suffered. I don’t see anything in their values that says to ignore white people in need. It says to focus on blacks in the community, because they need support and need to be helped as a group. Is it racist to identity a racial group as harmed and single them out for assistance? I don’t see why it is.
As for Hannity’s claim that if “black” was replaced with “white” everyone, including the media, would be going insane complaining about racism. Well, he’s right. But not because there’s a double standard, as he suspects. For a much simpler reason. Let’s say that I’m right that Trinity is “black-focused” because it is focusing on what it perceives to be damage to the black community that needs repairing. Clearly, as I suggested, this does not imply in any way a belief in the superiority of blacks over whites.
Now think of what it might mean to suggest that a church should be white-centered. Would this be because of some historical damage that has been done to the white community? What damage? This is the problem — there isn’t any damage. As a result, we’re left with likely real racist reasons for so directing your energies towards the white community. Perhaps because you feel that whites are superior? The differences between the two cases are just too obvious.
Are they not Christian? Although I would assume that Christians will do their best to help people wherever they are when they are need of help, it doesn’t seem odd to me to suggest that a Christian community hit by a tornado, say, will go through a period where they intentionally direct their attentions on rebuilding a community that undergone extensive damage. Does that make them insensitive, in the Christian sense, to others in need? Not necessarily, and I doubt that Hannity (or anyone else) would fault such a community for focusing on its own attempts at community rebuilding when the times call for it.
In my opinion, the whole debate, as Hannity presents it, is pathetic and sad. Hopefully we can do better as a society when we talk about issues of importance than to reduce them to silly cartoonish characterizations such as these.
(I was going to fit Confucius in here using an Analect from book four — the one that discusses the need for the junzi to have exemplary neighbors in his or her community but I figured the post was too long already!).