… 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.
* * *
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.”
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.