Excusing Wright, Part II: 'Latent Racism' Is Ruining An 'Incredible' Man
When Washington Post writer Sally Quinn came on the Charlie Rose show Wednesday night to discuss the Reverend Wright controversy, the accusations against whites flew wildly. Obama’s distancing from Wright was "so incredibly sad," and happened because "we are still a racist country," where "so many white Americans...have absolutely no idea what goes on inside black churches on a Sunday morning...and I think it brought out a lot of latent racism." She concluded the interview by insisting that whites "go to their white churches, and you wonder how they can call themselves Christians and still look at other people as though they are inferior."
Sally Quinn came on with Rev. Floyd Flake, a former Congressman from New York, who also discussed this with Rose the first time Wright became controversial. Quinn tried to say that Obama’s greater condemnation of Wright would help Obama, but it was tragic.
In an interesting way, I think it may have helped Obama, because I think that by [Wright] coming out the way he did, he allowed Obama to come out much more forcefully the way he did today. And he had to. He had absolutely no choice.
But Charlie, there is something so incredibly sad about what happened today, because after listening to all of those people in the church last night talk about Reverend Wright, who has the most distinguished career, 36 years of doing incredible work, lionized by some of the great white theologians in this country, to see his career completely destroyed by three 20-second sound bites, all of the work he has done, his entire legacy gone down the drain, has been absolutely devastating to me -- to him, sorry.
And he`s gotten enormous numbers of death threats. His family`s been threatened. It`s been a horrible experience. So I think that played in to part of why he came out. He couldn`t stand it another minute to say, this is what`s going to be left of me, this is what`s going to be remembered.
Then the racism talk kicked in:
So for Obama to have to be forced to distance himself in this way has got to be extremely painful for both of them. But I think because we are still a racist country, that there are so many white Americans who have absolutely no idea what goes on inside of black churches on Sunday morning. I think it was Obama who said, certainly Reverend Wright said, that the most segregated hour in this country every week is on Sunday morning, because that`s when blacks go to their churches and whites go to their churches. And I think that so many white people who had never been inside a black church were absolutely shocked by the tone and language that they heard, and it was so unfamiliar to them, it was like a different culture. And I think it brought out a lot of latent racism.
At the segment’s end, Quinn really let loose on white church-goers:
And a message of black liberation theology is basically Confucius` message of do unto others as you would have others do unto you. We are our brother`s keepers. Obama has said that many times. But you look at a lot of the white Christians, and we`re 90 percent religious in this country. Most people in this country are Christians, and you look at the Christians and they go to their white churches. And you wonder how they can call themselves Christians and still look at other people as though they are inferior.
The problem with Quinn’s theory is that most American churches are not "white churches," but churches that are not 98 percent black. They may have a majority of whites, but have a very diverse distribution of races.
Quinn even stooped to trying to explain away (even almost endorse) the AIDS conspiracy theory as a plausible (if not common) piece of black church rhetoric:
But, you know, as we`ve pointed out, there are 8,000 members of his church who go there every single Sunday. And these people are from all walks of life in Chicago. This is not apparently the kind of thing that he says every day. I mean, some of the things he said this time were off the wall.
And, you know, you can explain them, as he explained, for instance, the idea that the government in fact would infect blacks with AIDS, by saying, well, remember Tuskegee, when the government actually did infect blacks with syphilis. He does come from a different era, a different age. And so the way he presents himself is very different.
No! The government never "infected" blacks with syphilis. Even The Huffington Post (through former Washington Post writer David Mills) have corrected that canard. Quinn actually reported that Wright was hailed as a hero, a prophet, comparable to Martin Luther King or even Jesus after his National Press Club speech, something she found very touching:
I spent the entire day at Shiloh Baptist Church. I left the press club, went over there, where Reverend Wright and his family were. And it was an entire day of preaching and praying, affirmation for Reverend Wright that went on until after 10:00 last night.
One preacher after the other, one pastor of the other, essentially eulogizing him. But, I mean, affirming him, telling -- comparing him to Martin Luther King, talking about how he was one of the great prophets like he was a prophet in the Bible. Some even comparing him to Jesus in terms of being the kind of prophet that (inaudible), because this is prophetic kind of preaching, that prophets are always unpopular, particularly with the ruling classes.
Almost every person brought up slavery. This is where we come from. When we came over on the boat, the slave boats, we were below and we were praying to a different God from the God that the people on the decks were praying to.
It was about the oppressed. It was about trying to pull one`s self up, to change one`s life, to make oneself better. There was one very touching moment where one of the women preachers -- and by the way, they were unbelievable, these women liberation theologists. She said, "We are afraid of ourselves." This was in a prayer to God. "We`re afraid of ourselves because we don`t think we are as good as you think we are, God." And then she went on to say, "Deep inside some of us admire white people so much more and even despite the black people."
Quinn even hailed Wright's replacement Otis Moss as a "fabulous new pastor" who "has a whole different view of preaching. His view is much closer to that of Barack Obama's in terms of black liberation theology." That ought to be worth exploring.