What are we to make of FOX News hate-monger, Sean Hannity? Years after he gave Neo-Nazi Hal Turner a secret guest call-in number to WABC — in order to assure that his calls could always get on his radio show — Hannity recently “broke” a story about the inflammatory rhetoric occasionally used by Barack Obama’s former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. (Quote from Hannity: “I broke this story.”)
And, now, a desperate Hillary Clinton is piling on. Not only has she said that Jeremiah Wright “would not have been my pastor,” she also mistakenly compared Rev. Wright’s statements with those of Don Imus — which is something nobody familiar the moral asymmetries in racism would ever do.
But, first, to Mr. Hannity’s ties to Mr. Turner. It was Turner, you’ll recall, who said on the air that, except for the graciousness of white people, “black people would still be swinging on trees in Africa.” In fact, Mr. Turner, were it not for the black people originating in Africa, the earth would have no white people. Moreover, bipedalism preceded white skin by millions of years. “Swinging on trees,” indeed!
We wouldn’t be addressing Turner’s racist rants, however, had Hannity not exhibited traits of a recidivist racist by taking seemingly inflammatory comments by Rev. Wright out of context in order to smear Senator Obama. In fact (as I’ll demonstrate below), only by pulling Rev. Wright’s comments out of context, could Mr. Hannity issue his insidious warning: If Barack Obama “agreed with Wright�that would mean a racist and an anti-Semite would be president of the United States.”
Hannity’s recidivist racism goes back at least as far as March 1, 2007, when he interviewed Rev. Wright and took great pains to paint Wright’s Trinity Unity Church of Christ as a black separatist church. Here’s Hannity’s line of argument: “Commitment to the black community, commitment to the black family, adherence to the black work ethic. It goes on, pledge, you know, acquired skills available to the black community, strengthening and supporting black institutions, pledging allegiance to all black leadership who have embraced the black value system, personal commitment to the embracement of the black value system.”
“Now Reverend,” Hannity continued, “if every time we said black, if there was a church and those words were white, wouldn’t we call that church racist?”
In fact, the correct answer is: “Yes, we would.” And then, of course, we’d explain why it would be racist for whites, but not racist for blacks. Unfortunately, Rev. Wright’s answer lacked clarity: “We don’t have to say the word ‘white.’ We just have to live in white America, the United States of white America.”
Fortunately, a clue about why the answer would be, “Yes, we would,” can be found in professor Lawrence Blum’s book, “I’m Not a Racist, But�” The Moral Quandary of Race. On page 63, professor Blum writes about his encounters with white students who, like Hannity, ask “why it is regarded as legitimate for students of color to have their own organizations and activities, but not them.”
In every instance, Blum reminds them: “Within a white-dominated institution, white students do not need special support for their identity. They are much less likely to experience objectionable stereotyping and racial discrimination.” [p. 63]
Such impeccable logic, Mr. Hannity, also holds for white churches in white-dominated America.
However, why so many whites feel the need to raise such a question is, itself, an interesting question. And two students of racial attitudes appear to have the answer: “In contrast to much of the literature focusing on whites, African Americans’ racial attitudes and policy preferences seem to be driven more by their in-group bias than out-group animus.” [Vincent L. Hutchings and Nicholas A. Valentino The Centrality of Race in American Politics, p. 395] “Black’s history of slavery and discrimination has encouraged them to evaluate policies [and, presumably, give sermons about them] based on their perceived impact on the racial group.” [Ibid]
Thus, Mr. Hannity, it appears that you and many other whites have misconstrued the “in-group bias” of Rev. Wright’s church to be “out-group animus.” Could it be that “out-group animus” is the only racial attitude you understand?
As most of us know, African-Americans suffered the abomination of slavery for nearly 250 years. And, in order to justify that abomination, slave-owning whites fabricated and spread the BIG LIE about the innate inferiority of blacks. The BIG LIE even gained the support of respectable scientists, such as the polygenist, Louis Agassiz. (“Indeed, the Nazis were distinctly influenced by American racial thought.” [Blum, p. 4]) But, more significantly, “No respectable scientist challenged the idea of race and its corollary, white supremacy, until the early decades of the twentieth century.” [Blum, p. 126]
Thus, blacks were widely viewed to be senseless brutes and often abused as such, especially in the South. Consequently, nothing prohibited America’s slaves from being ruthlessly exploited to generate enormous excess wealth for undeserving white Americans.
But even worse than such antebellum suffering and exploitation was the totalitarian system of racism that gripped the South for nearly another century. Called Jim Crow, it was a system of segregation, continued economic exploitation, KKK ascendance, lynch mob terrorism and racial cleansings “that emptied entire counties” of black residents.
For example, during 1912 in Forsyth County, Georgia, “more than a thousand people – 97 percent of the county’s black population — were driven out over a period of about two months. They owned 1,900 acres of farmland, nearly all of which they were forced to sell or abandon. The county’s five black churches were burned.” [Elliot Jaspin, Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America, p. 4]. Such racial cleansings occurred repeatedly from the period of Reconstruction up to the 1920s.
Thus, as you can see Mr. Hannity, even this brief introduction to “Racism 101” — which has yet to address the Cracker-inspired Affirmative Action for whites and “symbolic racism” that would prevail in America during the second half of the twentieth century — would provide solid justification for Rev. Wright’s words: “God Damn America.”
Moreover, were Americans to watch the actual sermon containing Rev. Wright’s seemingly unpatriotic and inflammatory words, they would find that he was contrasting the unwavering love and justice of God against the immorality of governments – governments from the days of the Roman Empire to the present-day United States of America. What Christian would dispute that?
Thus, Rev. Wright talked about the injustices suffered by African-American slaves prior to Abraham Lincoln. Then, he added: “But I stop by to tell you tonight that governments change.”
Rev. Wright then contrasted the good U.S governments of Harry Truman and Bill Clinton with the poor government of George W. Bush, but only to deliver his main point: “Where governments change, God doesn’t change.”
At that point, Rev. Wright asked his congregation to turn to Malachi 3:6, which reads: “For I am the Lord, and I change not.” He then proceeded to interpret that passage as follows: “God was against slavery on yesterday, and God, who does not change, is still against slavery today. God was a God of love yesterday, and God who does not change is still a God of love today. God was a God of justice on yesterday, and God who does not change, is still a God of justice today.”
Noting, “governments fail,” Rev. Wright then proclaimed the failures of the Roman, British, Russian, Japanese and German empires — before returning his attention to America’s failures:
“And the United States of America government, when it came to treating her citizens of Indian [Native American] descent, she failed. She put them on reservations.”
“When it came to putting her citizens of Japanese descent fairly, she failed. She put them in internment prison camps.”
“When it came to putting the citizens of African descent fairly, America failed. She put them in chains. The government put them on slave quarters. Put them on auction blocks. Put them in cotton fields. Put them in inferior schools. Put them in substandard housing. Put them in scientific experiments. Put them in the lower paying jobs. Put them outside the equal protection of the law. Kept them out of their racist bastions of higher education, and locked them into positions of hopelessness and helplessness.”
“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three strike law and then wants us to sing God Bless America. Naw, naw, naw. Not God Bless America. God Damn America! That’s in the Bible. For killing innocent people. God Damn America for treating us citizens as less than human. God Damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and she is Supreme.”
“The United States government has failed the vast majority of her citizens of African descent.”
So, Mr. Hannity, does Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s sermon sound more reasonable to you, now that you’ve read Part One of my “Racism 101,” and now that you’ve read his words in context?
I must confess that I doubt God gives a damn about the fate of any country. But most Christians, including the Christians in Rev. Wright’s church and all of America’s Christian Zionists, believe God does. In fact, many Christians believe that God will damn America if it fails to defend Israel. Thus, applying these widespread Christian beliefs, I fail to see what’s so objectionable about Rev. Wright’s sermon?
That being the case, I suggest, Mr. Hannity, that you dispense with your hate mongering against Rev. Wright and, by extension, Senator Obama.
And you, Senator Clinton, should know better than to equate Rev. Wright’s comments with those of Don Imus. I suggest you read Lawrence Blum’s book, “I’m Not a Racist, But�”, especially his thoughts about the “moral asymmetries in racism.”
Although Blum discusses four specific moral asymmetries, you would be well advised to memorize the following: “Some forms of racism are central and paradigmatic, others are secondary. The former have defined for us what racism is. They are tied to the rationale�for the intense moral opprobrium carried by the term ‘racism.’ That rationale involved oppression, hatred, and discrimination against people of color, and most especially blacks and Native Americans, by whites, not the reverse. Everything else being equal, greater moral opprobrium rightly attaches to racism by whites against people of color than the reverse. This is the most important moral asymmetry in racism.” [pp. 43-44]
Finally, Senator Obama, you need to dispense with your politically motivated distancing from Rev, Wright’s forthright condemnation of American racism. Instead, recall the wise words of Mark Twain: “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” Or, better yet, consider that, just days prior to his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called his mother to tell her that his next sermon would be titled: “Why America May Go to Hell.”
Finally, before the three of you persist in your respective hate-mongering, racial triangulation and political retreat, consider the immortal words that Thomas Jefferson wrote about the morally debilitating impact of slavery: “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever . . ..”
Wasn’t Thomas Jefferson suggesting that a just God would damn America?