Racism at the Inauguration?

I greatly appreciated Pastor Rick Warren’s invocation | Video:

… Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race, or religion, or blood, but to our commitment to freedom, and justice for all.

When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us. When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us.

And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes — even when we differ. …

On the other hand, is it making too much to note that Rev. Joseph Lowery’s Benediction (Video), in its general indictment (even perhaps in jest) of the white man, closed somewhat on a sour note — as well as contrasting with Obama’s message of racial unity?

With your hands of power and your heart of love, help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nations shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid, when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around. … when yellow will be mellow. … when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.

* * *

UPDATE

Well Michael, I see I struck a nerve. So permit me to elaborate on my initial impressions of Lowery’s benediction.

I think it was the juxtaposition of that rhyme and the “when white will embrace what is right” — with the fact that the newly-renovated White House is proclaiming a “national day of renewal and reconciliation” and we just finished celebrating a prophetic voice who dreamed of a time when his children “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

At this time it seemed, well, inappropriate to put the spectre of race (“brown”, “yellow”, “red” or “white”) front-and-center, during the inauguration of a President who — in his own words — possesses “a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.”

Or to echo our new President’s own criticism:

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know — what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In light of the moment, Lowrey’s recitation of such a rhyme seemed precisely that: static, as if no progress had been made.

I am also reminded that this is the same Joseph Lowrey who, two years ago, exploited the funeral and “celebration” of Coretta Scott King, turning it into a partisan scolding of President Bush.

On the other hand, perhaps I was mistaken, and this was Lowery’s way of simply celebrating the fact of Obama’s presidency? — In which case I stand corrected.

71 Responses to Racism at the Inauguration?

  • I heard this on the radio and it felt like someone kicked me in the stomach. Yet another reminder that a lot of folks don’t want racism or the perception of it to end. It is too much of a useful tool to be wielded against white people.

  • when yellow will be mellow.

    Wha…?!?

    Dude, I’m not remotely Asian and I find that pretty offensive. Whether they’re being compared to one of the vilest soft drinks in the world, or blamed for doing shocking things like doing well in school, working hard and staying married — it’s pretty appalling either way.

    Perhaps just as well I was busy all day and simply read Obama’s address and skipped all the TV and radio coverage.

  • Nothing like a bunch of bitter white men sitting around looking for a derogatory angle on the day…

  • Did everyone forget that Obama is biracial? Good for us, we’re colorblind enough to elect a man of color. I grant him that many people see “black” when they see a biracial person, and I will have to prepare my adoped sons for this reality. But, also remember that Obama grew up in two cultures, and let’s reflect on which side of his family did “what was right”. Hint: it was not his black Muslim father who abandoned him as an infant, left the continent, and took up new wives…

    To his credit, I have not heard Obama himself dwelling on these racial issues. He seems perfectly comfortable with both cultures and willing to “move on” (ahem) with his life. But he has associated with people that seem to still be really hung up on it. Was this really the best they could get for the big historical inuaguration day?

  • Why is the left so angry still? They got their man elected… Nothing but nastiness from most lefties on this blog… Everyone else is being quite respectful towards the new president despite our differences, something the left never offered to George Bush FROM DAY ONE. Why?

    Matt

  • The prayer ends with: “Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.”

    It should be pretty simple.

    BTW, Lowery was shot with fire hoses , bitten and beaten in his time.

    Too bad for some he has these memories of his own and others inhumane treatment in America’s history, due to his color and hi shunger for justice’s sake…

    I know, all should have been colorblind, including Afican Americans, since the end of the Civil War. Nothing to get hung up over…really…

  • Matt,

    Could it be that he has not the elected president in 2000?

  • What the hell is “racist” about Lowery’s benediction? You have not made the case, Blosser.

  • Michael, thank you for the formality, but feel free to call me Christopher. Noting your outrage as expressed at Vox Nova, I’ve attempted to clarify my initial impressions.

    I freely concede that I may be wrong in my evaluation of Lowrey’s comments.

  • Of course Lowery’s benediction was racist. Those who argue otherwise are simply in denial of what he said. Imagine if a white pastor had chanted similar doggerel in a prayer where blacks were asked to do what is right.

    He is also a hard core leftist of long standing.

    http://www.theird.org/NETCOMMUNITY/Page.aspx?pid=884&srcid=884
    Here is a quote from him about abortion:

    “We need to be discerning about the major issues. Abortion — that’s a minor issue. I’m all for life, but I’m also for freedom of choice. We can’t be the judge of what a woman does with her body. We have too many distractions.”

  • BTW, Lowery was shot with fire hoses , bitten and beaten in his time.

    Too bad for some he has these memories of his own and others inhumane treatment in America’s history, due to his color and hi shunger for justice’s sake…

    True, and he should be respected for that as one who fought the good fight. But the fact that someone has suffered great injustice does not necessarily mean that he is free of unpleasant traits. Indeed, it’s one of the tragedies of sin that those who are sinned against often twisted by the cruelty which is inflicted upon them.

    I’m pretty sure, Mark, that you wouldn’t make the claim that because Jews suffered in the holocaust, they couldn’t possibly be racist in their actions towards any other group. By the same token, the fact that Rev. Lowery suffered during the civil rights movement does not mean that his rhyming skin color litney wasn’t racist.

    Frankly, I don’t even care about the “when the white man will embrace what is right” slap — that kind of thing is pretty much contentless ritual for those who make their livings of race this day and it doesn’t offend me. But the use of:

    when brown can stick around. … when yellow will be mellow. … when the red man can get ahead, man;

    All of which lines drew laughs from the audience, strikes me as a needless invocation of racial stereotypes for no good purpose.

    Do I think it’s a big deal? No. But so long as we’re talking about it, I think it’s a pretty poor thing to trot out at a historic event, and an example of how many of those who talk the most about race don’t really have any interest in moving on from it.

  • “Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.”

  • Rev. Lowery has history of occasionally veering off the road into a ditch. Maybe from all those years of being hosed and bitten by German Shepherds. Or maybe he’s just grumpy. Speaking of which- didn’t Joe and Jill look positively smashing? Now Joe can be sent on ‘fact-finding missions’ while Jill can read to grade school kids. Which is as much as we’ll get from those two for at least the next four years.

  • Look up the literaty device called “signifying”, used by African Americans in their history.

    This will explain much about Lowery’s remarks. also, notice his tone.

    I think Gates wrote an essay on the topic.

  • Darwin,
    This kind of stereotyping’s been around for an awfully long time. Check out this little bit of possibly relevant historical trivia mi marido had stashed in the back of his mind.

  • Actually, Lowery’s rhyme was based on an old blues song by Big Bill Bloozy: “Black, Brown, and White.” See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZLw5ahxm-Q
    Of course, the song was missing the part about yellow people being “mellow.”

  • Thank you Cminor! I thought I had heard what he said before and now I know why. My parents had that album and I listened to it a few times decades ago.

  • I made this comment, but it fell into a black hole: Lowery’s rhyme (absent the “mellow yellow” and “red get ahead” parts) came from an older source: A 1951 blues song called “Black, Brown and White” by Big Bill Broonzy. Google it and you’ll find it on Youtube.

  • I guess I have four thoughts:

    1) This is not a big deal.

    2) The remarks were racially divisive.

    3) The remarks were more excusable (and maybe entirely excusable) based on the age and life experiences of the speaker. He was in his mid-40’s before schools were really desegregated in the South.

    4) There is nothing wrong with noticing they were racially divisive in a blog post; but, once noted, there are better things to talk about going forward.

  • I guess we can excuse Rev. Lowrey for clouded judgment… however, don’t think for a moment that every word of every speech wasn’t vetted by President Obama and/or his staff.

    This has been his “modus operandi” from the beginning, he is all things to all people.

  • So the excuses made for this character is (1) he’s old, (2) he was mistreated decades ago, (3) the crap at the end of his prayer was from an old song, etc.

    Here are the answers

    (1) If he is too old to give a simple blessing at the end of a ceremony without being offensive then choose someone else.
    (2) If he is too bitter about the past to be cheerful about the present then get someone else.
    (3) Who cares what the origin of the doggerel was?

    Bottom line those who chose this guy knew about his issues and certainly saw advance copies of his material. His behavior at the funeral for Mrs. King should have been enough to convince people he was not an appropriate choice.

  • John Henry,

    I agree with all your points except # 3.

    As an “alleged” Christian, Rev. Lowery apparently hasn’t found peace of the loving embrace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Hence why is he still bitter?

    I don’t recall St. Thomas More ‘complaining’ about anti-Catholic prejudices when he was about to be executed. Rev. Lowery was saying the BENEDICTION for the first president of ‘color’ in the United States of America.

    So I give no excuse for Rev. Lowery’s bitterness one iota. Christopher has an excellent point to show the lack of Christian forgiveness in Rev. Lowery’s ‘benediction’. Rev. Lowery is just as bad as Jeremiah Wright, the difference is he isn’t as profane as Mr. Wright.

    Bigotry knows no color, it works both ways.

  • By the way, this is a little presumptive of me to say, but Mark and Michael, why is that I’m African American and not making a big deal about this and the two of you are? I’m not saying there is nothing of concern here, but that this blog is being attacked as “racist” and “nationalistic” and the like is really difficult considering I write on this blog…nor does is it really indicative as to why you visit here so often if it’s really that terrible.

    Additionally, if people cease to exercise the virtue of charity when they speak to you, perhaps it would not hurt — though it is admittedly very difficult — to exercise the virtue anyway and ask to return the debate to the issue at hand instead of ad hominem attacks. This just as much goes to anyone that has made such statements toward the both of you. I don’t believe in double standards. But let’s not make them and don’t live up to them. It really bothers me the way that lately there has not been much Christian charity while we’re all claiming God and righteousness to be on our side. Just a thought.

  • S.B.,
    Thanx for the link. I had a feeling that that bit of doggerel had roots older than Frye’s Nixon impersonations but wasn’t sure there was an extant record. BTW, I’ve found to my embarassment that comments with links don’t always post right away here, but do eventually post.

  • OK, maybe the comparison to Wright was a bit much. I’ll take that one back.

    Personally, I don’t feel offended by the benediction since I wasn’t that interested to begin with. If anything what may concern me is the lack of a vetting process that Obama’s handlers have for allowing something like that comment to pass by.

  • Eric — Michael I. fancies that he speaks for all African Americans, nay, all people of color in the world. How he knows so much about them, coming from almost all-white West Virginia and going to school in Canada, is something of a mystery, although not as mysterious as the notion that all “brown” people (as Michael calls them) think alike in the first place. Thus, if anyone says anything that Michael disagrees with and it has anything to do with a non-white person, Michael jumps up and yells about racism.

    He did this on a Vox Nova comment thread in a much more egregious way: He had said that Third World capitalist factories should be replaced by worker-built communal factories. I made the obvious rejoinder that if worker-built factories were all that realistic, we should be seeing more of such factories already, and that the fact that such factories are rare is a sign that Third World people tend to lack the capital and training to just set up a new factory (just as I’d have no idea how to do so, let alone the funds). Michael said that this was a “racist” comment, for reasons that only he could imagine (he certainly couldn’t explain himself or offer any attempt at an argument).

  • Michael Iafrate

    Michael Iafrate — I apologize for the subject line if that’s what caused your frustrations. If you’ll note, there was a subject mark appended, as I intended to phrase it as a question:

    is it making too much to note that Rev. Joseph Lowery’s Benediction (Video), in its general indictment (even perhaps in jest) of the white man, closed somewhat on a sour note — as well as contrasting with Obama’s message of racial unity?

    Perhaps a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to that question would have sufficed. Nonetheless, I attempted to post the clarification of my thoughts to your own post at Vox Nova, but was unsuccessful.

    Perhaps I’m banned? If not, kindly approve as I think my clarification will assist in the discussion.

    Too all others

    Thank you for your contributions, especially as to the origins of the rhyme that Lowery recited.

    I stand by my observation that Obama’s criticism of Reverend Wright could equally be applied to Reverend Lowrey: the recitation of such a rhyme seemed static, as if no progress had been made.

    Consequently, the interjection of a racially-divisive verse into a benediction stood, for me, in sharp contrast to the notable efforts of both Pastor Rick Warren and President Obama himself to transcend the issue.

    But to concur with John Henry — “There is nothing wrong with noticing they were racially divisive in a blog post; but, once noted, there are better things to talk about going forward.”

    Suffice to say I don’t plan on pressing the issue in future posts.

  • Tito,

    If anything what may concern me is the lack of a vetting process that Obama’s handlers have for allowing something like that comment to pass by.

    No question that Obama’s handlers vetted and approved this text. This is a nod to one of his constituencies that may have felt left out of his speech, part of his approach of being all things to all people.

    SB,

    incivility is the typical behavior over at that blog. As we speak they’re copying posts from here and discussing them without the respect of a link.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Eric – I would be interested in hearing your thoughts regarding Christopher Blosser’s suggestion that Lowery’s benediction (taking into consideration his and John Henry’s attempt at damage control) *may have been* “racist.”

    Michael I. fancies that he speaks for all African Americans, nay, all people of color in the world. How he knows so much about them, coming from almost all-white West Virginia and going to school in Canada, is something of a mystery…

    1) I don’t speak for African Americans. But I certainly will voice my opinion and stand up for black preachers from the charge of “racism” in cases like these.

    2) West Virginia is pretty white. My experience there has given me a lot to reflect on when it comes to racism. I often know racism when I see it. West Virginia certainly isn’t all white. Unsure about your reference to Canada. I live in one of the most diverse cities on the planet.

    hus, if anyone says anything that Michael disagrees with and it has anything to do with a non-white person, Michael jumps up and yells about racism.

    He did this on a Vox Nova comment thread in a much more egregious way: He had said that Third World capitalist factories should be replaced by worker-built communal factories. I made the obvious rejoinder that if worker-built factories were all that realistic, we should be seeing more of such factories already, and that the fact that such factories are rare is a sign that Third World people tend to lack the capital and training to just set up a new factory (just as I’d have no idea how to do so, let alone the funds). Michael said that this was a “racist” comment, for reasons that only he could imagine (he certainly couldn’t explain himself or offer any attempt at an argument).

    S.B. clearly has his own dream-land revisionist reconstructions of our past “conversations.” I refuse to spend the time “explaining myself” in light of what he claims that I said.

  • Michael,

    I’m perfectly willing to concede that

    1) the remarks themselves were racially divisive and ill-timed (in the context of the inauguration itself as well as the celebration of Martin Luther King).

    2) enlightened as to the historical origins of the lyrics and given the fact that Rev. Lowery himself hails from the era of segregation, he may not have a racist intent in making the statement.

    That said, being a working man, I haven’t found time to speak to 800 Canadians about the inauguration and benediction, and am a bit clueless as to the precise meaning of the “yellow/mellow” line.

    Perhaps you can clarify that for me?

  • Post-racial – yeah right.

    I thought the yellow part was the worst. Does he want all Asians to be singing Donavan’s “They call me mellow yellow.”

    Pres Obama laughing during it was pretty sad also.

  • Hey Jeff, why don’t you put up your jester hat for the WordPress thumbnails?!

    Just being selfish so the A.C. “Recent Comments” column looks more colorful.

  • You couldn’t even pretend to explain yourself at the time either . . . . so it goes with you: irascible and inflammatory language without any capacity or ability to come up with an explanation.

  • I refuse to spend the time “explaining myself” in….

    broken record from this guy.

  • I’m perfectly willing to concede that

    1) the remarks themselves were racially divisive and ill-timed (in the context of the inauguration itself as well as the celebration of Martin Luther King).

    The remarks were not divisive, but drew attention to already existing division. They were not “ill-timed.” What better context than the inauguration and the wake of MLK Day than to remind ourselves of how far we have to go? Why is that threatening to you? Why does it threaten you to acknowledge that racism still plagues the united states? Why is it EVER “inappropriate” to talk about it? That is the language of racism and colonization: to tell persons to talk only at “appropriate” times.

    2) enlightened as to the historical origins of the lyrics and given the fact that Rev. Lowery himself hails from the era of segregation, he may not have a racist intent in making the statement.

    News flash! American Catholic blogger believes Rev. Lowery might now have had “racist intent” in his benediction! What a relief.

    That said, being a working man, I haven’t found time to speak to 800 Canadians about the inauguration and benediction,

    Perhaps you missed it when I said I was at work and that was how I was able to talk to so many Canadians about the inauguration.

    …and am a bit clueless as to the precise meaning of the “yellow/mellow” line. Perhaps you can clarify that for me?

    I explained it over at VN. Doesn’t take many brain cells to figure it out.

    You couldn’t even pretend to explain yourself at the time either . . . . so it goes with you: irascible and inflammatory language without any capacity or ability to come up with an explanation

    Well, sorry, but it’s tough to keep up with you. I have trouble explaining “myself” when your version of our conversation keeps changing to suit your present needs.

  • Anyone who’s not convinced that Michael I. is lying about our past exchange can check here and here. Sound like “racist” comments to anyone?

  • I have trouble explaining “myself” when your version of our conversation keeps changing to suit your present needs.

    Liar.

  • Michael & Stuart,

    I don’t think we need to start dredging through past fights on the thread. I know from personal experience that past insults continue to rankle, but carrying paper only makes these things worse.

  • “but carrying paper only makes these things worse.”

    Amen!

  • [ED: Actually, I was serious that the paper carrying had to stop. Getting one last dig in, even if in the form of saying you don’t like carrying paper, doesn’t work.]

  • The remarks were not divisive, but drew attention to already existing division. They were not “ill-timed.” What better context than the inauguration and the wake of MLK Day than to remind ourselves of how far we have to go? Why is that threatening to you? Why does it threaten you to acknowledge that racism still plagues the united states?

    I can understand how you thought of the prayer as simply “reminding ourselves of how far we have to go”, perhaps enhanced by the fact that you seem to especially appreciate a “prophetic voice” approach which involves denouncing people rudely in order to shock them into reforming themselves.

    However, I think it’s important that you understand that for many (especially for many in their 20s and 30s) this kind of harping about the “the black man” and “the brown man” and “the yellow man” and “the red man” is not a discussion of the status quo as they know it, but a harping back to a past they don’t even remember.

    One may certainly understand that Lowery had no racist intent, while at the same time recognizing that in this day and age making jokes about “the yellow man” and “the red man” is totally unacceptable in polite society, and for most younger people who mostly know people who are half-this and half-that, the whole racial bucketing method implicit in that rhyme itself seems racist.

  • … and for most younger people who mostly know people who are half-this and half-that …

    You mean like our President?

  • Christopher B.,

    I don’t think the title of your posting is misguided or wrong. That “?” says it all, questioning if there was or not.

    My two cents worth.

  • One may certainly understand that Lowery had no racist intent, while at the same time recognizing that in this day and age making jokes about “the yellow man” and “the red man” is totally unacceptable in polite society, and for most younger people who mostly know people who are half-this and half-that, the whole racial bucketing method implicit in that rhyme itself seems racist.

    Well, you seem to have a different reason for opposing his prayer. Christopher was personally offended that [gasp!] he “insult” white people.

    However, I think it’s important that you understand that for many (especially for many in their 20s and 30s) this kind of harping about the “the black man” and “the brown man” and “the yellow man” and “the red man” is not a discussion of the status quo as they know it, but a harping back to a past they don’t even remember.

    If they think it’s a matter of the past, then they are blind.

  • Michael,

    No, I think DarwinCatholic and I are pretty much agreed. Of course the “and when white will embrace what is right” kind of grabbed me, implying as it does that “the white man” is still putting down the red man, the yellow man, the brown man, etc., and I have a low tolerance for racist stereotypes and such blanket generalizations.

    But ultimately — yes, it’s a rather dated piece of verse, and one of my points was that we should emulate Martin Luther King in relinquishing ourselves of such blinders.

  • If they think it’s a matter of the past, then they are blind.

    Racism as a whole is not a matter of the past, but I think that if you think people are constantly going around calling Asians “yellow” and American Indians “red”, then I think you either are wrong or move in far more nasty circles than I do.

    While there are still racial problems in our country, using racial stereotypes and slurs has become nearly totally unacceptable in all parts of society that I’ve run into — including even the West Virginia call center I worked in a number of years ago. And those stereotypes that remain are generally ones which (mostly regrettably to my mind) have become acceptable to the extent that some people with media voices are proud of them.

    In that sense: Yes, talking about “the red man” and “the red man” does sound like a throwback to a age most of us have quite happily left behind.

  • In that sense: Yes, talking about “the red man” and “the red man” does sound like a throwback to a age most of us have quite happily left behind.

    Blosser blogged about the offense he took to the “general indictment…of the white man,” not about his concern about the use of terms like “yellow” and “red man.”

    Neither of you seem to get the obvious point that words mean different things depending on who is using them.

  • Michael,

    See above.

    Now, about those 800 Canadians …

  • I’ve spent some time thinking on this issue and talking with a few other people, and I’ve come to this conclusion. Lowery’s intent may have been good, and may have been free of any sort of racism, but his choice of words were poor. Why? In a way, it makes me think of stories about family feuds, in which they spend a whole generation bickering bitterly, until finally they get together, have a “Come to Jesus” talk, and then sit all together around the dinner table for the first time in years, just to have Grandma Anna remind everyone what John did to Billy ten years ago, and have the whole feud flare up again.

    Call me naive if you want, but I want us to work towards and have a colorblind society, a society where skin color warrants as much comment as hair color or eye color. I want a society where we never find it okay for one person to say or do something, but not okay for another simply due to skin color. And this flows both ways. Now, can we be blind to all differences? No, we can’t. Of course we can’t. Because differences do matter. But differences matter when they’re at the level culture and philosophy and theology, not at a superficial level of pigments.

    ..when white will embrace what is right… I was born in 1981. At that point in time, we’d emerged from the civil rights movements victorious, with essentially only mop-up details to worry about. As a child, I was informed in school of the terrible things done to blacks–slavery, segregation, racism, and so on–and was commanded not to be racist. And yet, as we continue on, and we listen to people who continually decry the evils of the white man, we who were born after the war had been won are left angry and confused. We have done no evil ourselves. We’re fair minded and more than willing to get along with people of any skin color. True, there are some that are born into extremely racist families that cling to notions of white superiority, but when we’re judged by groups like that, where does that put us? If the existence of bigots is an indictment of any entire group of people, is that not in itself racist?

    Moreover, what are we supposed to do? The history of slavery and racism exists. There’s no denying that. But are the melanin deficient supposed to atone for that sin forever? Was slavery and racism a new original sin to be handed down, generation after generation, to anyone born with white skin? At times it seems to be, and needing a new infinite atonement that no number of mortal men could ever make themselves.

    And here, at the inauguration, when most of us would like to say “Whew. Now race shouldn’t matter any more!”, we have this. It’s a quirky benediction playing off of an outdated set of lyrics, and seemingly harmless in itself. But it is in odd juxtaposition with the hope that we can finally set the difference of skin-color aside. It isn’t a diatribe of hate, like we’ve come to expect from some preachers; instead, it was a single discordant note in the symphony, something slightly out of place, but distinct enough to draw attention. For some of us, it has become imperative to examine why we found it discordant, and to that end, we have this open forum for discussion.

  • …just to have Grandma Anna remind everyone what John did to Billy ten years ago, and have the whole feud flare up again.

    Lowery was not digging up the past. He was referring to the continued existence of racism (in a personal and in a structural/societal sense).

    And here, at the inauguration, when most of us would like to say “Whew. Now race shouldn’t matter any more!”, we have this.

    I think you should ask yourself why you want to say “Whew” after Obama’s inauguration. Sure, in a sense we’d like to think race “shouldn’t matter” anymore, but we know it still does. That’s what Lowery was getting at. Anyone who thinks that the election of a black president simply changes everything or verifies changes that supposedly have occurred is dreaming.

    For some of us, it has become imperative to examine why we found it discordant, and to that end, we have this open forum for discussion.

    I think the ones who found it “discordant” are white americans who were simply offended at the thought that they still have a lot of work to do, personally and in society.

    Why do you think most people did not take offense to it? Those who were offended seem to be in the minority. When I tell people here in Canada (people of “various” “races”) about the claim that Lowery’s prayer was “racist” or “divisive” or even “inappropriate” or “discordant” the simply can’t believe it. They often laugh.

  • I think you should ask yourself why you want to say “Whew” after Obama’s inauguration.

    Mainly because I, like others, view the presidency as the last pinnacle of achievement, the last bar to be broken in the whole color scheme. There may be others. I’m sure you’ll argue there are. The work is not done, true, but as I said, it is mainly clean-up detail. A few small groups of hatred will always persist, but by in large, by the next generation, most of the remaining population that holds that black people are inferior will have died out.

    I think the ones who found it “discordant” are white americans who were simply offended at the thought that they still have a lot of work to do, personally and in society.

    I think those white Americans feel that there’s something wrong in saying that they’re the only ones who have work to do. Personally, I’ll admit that I have to work each and every day to find love for all those around me (especially those who don’t signal when they change lanes). But I still have to ask: as a whole, what more is to be done? What work needs to be started that isn’t already in progress? If you want to cite poor, black ghettos as an example, then I’ll point out that it isn’t that we don’t want to fix that problem, or that we want black people to live in that condition. Rather, we disagree on how best to fix the problem. Furthermore, even doing everything right won’t life all the poor out of poverty (something someone–I think he was kinda important–said about the poor always being with us).

    Why do you think most people did not take offense to it?

    I suppose your perception on “most” and “minority” and “who is offended” really depends upon the setting you’re in. Amazingly enough, “most” people I’m around feel that there was some divisive quality to it. Surprisingly enough, when I change setting to on campus interest groups, that “most” changes to people who feel there was nothing wrong with the statement. When I go searching around the net, I find mixed reactions wherever I go, all across the spectrum. And I suspect that many notice a discord and decide it isn’t worth thinking about twice, because criticizing a black man is politically incorrect, and the furor making such a criticism brings isn’t worth the effort.

  • Mainly because I, like others, view the presidency as the last pinnacle of achievement, the last bar to be broken in the whole color scheme. There may be others. I’m sure you’ll argue there are.

    Some of us view the presidency as so abstracted from real life that its connection with real life on the ground is complex and ambiguous at best. I do not consider the presidency as the “pinnacle of achievement” in any sense. Many people are much too concerned about their real lives than to spend too much time living vicariously through the president’s achievements.

    The work is not done, true, but as I said, it is mainly clean-up detail. A few small groups of hatred will always persist, but by in large, by the next generation, most of the remaining population that holds that black people are inferior will have died out.

    You are thinking of racism merely in terms of personal attitudes, not in terms of structural social inequalities which continue to exist no matter who the president is.

    You are also thinking only in terms of African-American experience and then making claims about how racism barely exists anymore. You have yet to consider the experience of Arab Americans or Latino/as, for example. The racism involving Arab Americans, for example, is alive and well. The often parroted claim that “now anyone can become president” is laughable once one tries to imagine the possibility of an Iranian American running for president. In short, we ain’t there yet. And we ain’t there yet because “white” still hasn’t learned to “do what’s right.”

    Furthermore, even doing everything right won’t life all the poor out of poverty (something someone–I think he was kinda important–said about the poor always being with us).

    1) Can we please agree not to use this scripture passage to continually justify the existence of poverty?

    2) Well, here you’re going from talking about poverty along racial lines to talking about poverty in the abstract. Surely Jesus did not mean that poverty which is connected to race will “always be with us.”

  • When I tell people here in Canada (people of “various” “races”) about the claim that Lowery’s prayer was “racist” or “divisive” or even “inappropriate” or “discordant” the simply can’t believe it. They often laugh.

    And here Michael I. has managed to invent a new logical fallacy. This is a rare achievement. Its name is: argumentum ad Canadiam. It refers to an argument of the following form: “I asked a few random Canadians in my social circle, and they agreed with me; therefore, I’m right.”

  • S.B. – I am merely sharing what others think of americans like you. Since you are so concerned with extending beyond one’s social circle, perhaps you could consider the views of those outside of your own for once.

  • You’re not sharing what “others think” — you’re purportedly sharing what a carefully selected group of people think. Which proves nothing.

  • So, if I am to understand correctly. Any disproportionate rate of success/failure/affluence/poverty/intelligence/literacy/health/crime/athleticism/single-parenthood/illegitimacy/substance abuse…. etc. etc. among different races must be attributed to racism on the part of whites, either now or in the past, and that such racism imputes guilt on the part of all whites in the country where it exists, or the whole world perhaps? Are Canadian born whites where slavery never existed, guilty of the racism of the southern slaveholders? Are the descendants of Union veterans of the Civil War guilty of the slavery that they fought to destroy? What if they paid the ultimate price? What if they just fought bravely or were wounded? Does it matter if they harbored interior racism or not?

    I reject this notion entirely, along with the notion that one’s present and future is in some way dictated by maltreatment of one’s ancestors. If this were the case then the Irish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Catholics… etc would all have a basis for claiming disadvantaged status because all of our predecessor suffered discrimination at the hands of the WASP’s who dominated the US from it’s inception. Scots and Irish would also have claims against the British descendants of those evil English who oppressed and dispossessed our ancestors.

    Frankly, what I see is the subtle racism of low expectations. Our ancestors pulled themselves up despite ongoing discrimination, and I believe that African-Americans can pull themselves up out of historic discrimination without constant coddling from the government. This coddling has been well demonstrated to actually maintain the cycle of dependancy much longer than it naturally would have.

    The single-most important measure of success and predictor of success in most any endeavor is families. The black family of the 20’s was sadly much more intact than it is now. This is shown in virtually any study that has ever been performed. Intact families lead to vastly higher rates of success for parents and children in every field of endeavor.

    We need to talk about families, families, families and that applies to every race and creed.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Matt,

    I don’t see any contradiction between emphasizing the importance of the family, and acknowledging that historical mistreatment of African-Americans in our country has had any number of terrible effects, many of which persist to the present day. Both are causes, and I think the latter has had a significant impact on the former.

  • John Henry,

    I don’t see any contradiction between emphasizing the importance of the family, and acknowledging that historical mistreatment of African-Americans in our country has had any number of terrible effects

    I agree, and I think it’s absolutely critical that we study and our children be educated on the roots of racism and slavery, the civil war, the abuse of immigrants of all races, the internment of the Japanese-Americans, the use of the nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the holocaust of World War II, and the holocaust of abortion.

    many of which persist to the present day. Both are causes, and I think the latter has had a significant impact on the former.

    Blaming these historical events for anyone’s current circumstances (other than the still living victims of them) is the problem. I think that the government coddling which occurred after the civil rights era has caused far more harm to the black family than Jim Crow ever did. So, yes, there is a contradiction.

    I’d like to point out that far more African’s have immigrated voluntarily to the US than were EVER brought here as slaves… that’s an important fact.

  • An interesting study is the Harlem Renaissance, a period of black social, cultural and economic ascendancy in 1920’s New York. What turned this Harlem into the disaster zone that it had become by the 70’s? It’s decline started with 1935 and 1943 riots…

  • It’s decline started with the Graet Depression…

  • I’d like to point out that far more African’s have immigrated voluntarily to the US than were EVER brought here as slaves… that’s an important fact.

    Why is it an “important” fact? What ends are you supporting with that fact?

  • Blaming these historical events for anyone’s current circumstances (other than the still living victims of them) is the problem.

    I think I disagree. Many African-American children born in a slum in DC or Baltimore are still suffering from the effects of slavery, segregation, etc.. Furthermore, being born in this environment places significant constraints on an individual’s ability to make good choices. Now, I think that professional grievance profiteers like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton do a great disservice to the truth in many cases (and to the African-American community) by doing shake-down routines on businesses based on past grievances. But the only reason those tactics are effective is because of the devastating effects that slavery, segregation, and racism have had on much (but not all) of the African-American community.

    I think that the government coddling which occurred after the civil rights era has caused far more harm to the black family than Jim Crow ever did. So, yes, there is a contradiction.

    I think ‘coddling’ is a very offensive way to describe government assistance that provides food and shelter to our poorest citizens, many of whom are African-American. Granted, some of these programs were set up in ways that incentivized single parenthood, and this was problematic. But such programs are not ‘coddling,’ nor are they limited to African-Americans.

    I’d like to point out that far more African’s have immigrated voluntarily to the US than were EVER brought here as slaves… that’s an important fact.

    I don’t really see why. It’s not like African-American immigrants were exempted from segregation or miscegenation laws or racism or even terribly designed welfare programs. The prolonged systematic attempts to ensure African-Americans were excluded from economic, social, and political opportunity had negative effects regardless of whether the individuals in question were descendants of slaves.

  • John Henry,

    I think I disagree. Many African-American children born in a slum in DC or Baltimore are still suffering from the effects of slavery, segregation, etc.. Furthermore, being born in this environment places significant constraints on an individual’s ability to make good choices. Now, I think that professional grievance profiteers like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton do a great disservice to the truth in many cases (and to the African-American community) by doing shake-down routines on businesses based on past grievances. But the only reason those tactics are effective is because of the devastating effects that slavery, segregation, and racism have had on much (but not all) of the African-American community.

    Sorry, no victimhood status is justified for the descendants of victims, otherwise all of us Scots would be in the same situation… we are not, and the only way the African-American community will EVER escape their situation is by doing what many of them are… getting over it and moving ahead.

    I find the underlined statement, while well meaning, to be offensive. If you used that to describe me because of a situation my parents went through, I would consider it an insult.

    I think ‘coddling’ is a very offensive way to describe government assistance that provides food and shelter to our poorest citizens, many of whom are African-American. Granted, some of these programs were set up in ways that incentivized single parenthood, and this was problematic. But such programs are not ‘coddling,’ nor are they limited to African-Americans.

    Sorry you find it offensive, I don’t see how you’ve suggested that it’s untrue. Can you recommend a better alternative to describe it?

    By the way, I don’t think it’s coddling for an individual or charitable organization to extend a hand and help a man to fish, or to feed him, or clothe him. That’s Christian charity… when the government does it, it’s an entitlement… coddling.

    Matt: I’d like to point out that far more African’s have immigrated voluntarily to the US than were EVER brought here as slaves… that’s an important fact.

    John Henry:
    I don’t really see why. It’s not like African-American immigrants were exempted from segregation or miscegenation laws or racism or even terribly designed welfare programs. The prolonged systematic attempts to ensure African-Americans were excluded from economic, social, and political opportunity had negative effects regardless of whether the individuals in question were descendants of slaves.

    You don’t see why Africans would come here in DROVES? Or you don’t see why that’s important? The standard of living for the poorest of our poor (excluding the homeless, largely suffering from mental illness) is like comfortable middle class in most Africans countries, and without the fear of being hacked to death with a machete. Regardless of health insurance they receive world class medical care, and their children receive pretty decent education, not world class, but far superior to Africa.

    Why is this important? Because it demonstrates that Africans recognize that this is the BEST place on earth for those of black descent to live, and they are thankful for the opportunity to pursue the happiness guaranteed by the US Constitution. As soon as the entitlement mentality is abandoned, that constituency will begin to enjoy the fruits of their labors as ALL of the disadvantaged classes before them have (Irish, Italians, Catholics, Immigrants in general, etc).

    If ancestral oppression is such a large factor in success, why is it that the children of illegal immigrants do better than the African-American community? As I said before, the problem of the African-American community is with a broken family structure. That family structure was in better shape 80 years ago, before the welfare state ruined it.

    Mark,

    while the Great Depression depressed economic success throughout the United States, the real turning point for the Harlem Renaissance was the riots of 1935 and 1943, which turned away the more affluent from patronizing the borough, and triggering the departure of those with the means to do so. As a result, Harlem did not enjoy the recovery of the late 40’s and on into the 50’s. In the 60’s and 70’s more racial turmoil and the welfare state left Harlem a disaster area. Things have been turning around though, I wonder if this is related to the welfare reforms pushed through by Republicans in the 1990’s?

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Matt,

    Where do you get your history?

  • Mark,

    where do you get yours?

  • Mark,

    here’s a source for you:
    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/forum/february98/harlem5.html

    Don’t you think that the looting and burning of 600 business in your neighborhood would start it down the road to destitution?

    Matt

  • Matt,

    I was not trying to be derogatory. It is just that I never saw the narrative put together in the manner as yours is.

  • Mark,

    apologies then.

    Matt

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