2024-06-24 9:37 PM

Nicholas F. Benton: Rev. Wright As Scapegoat

The continuing flap over Barack Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, serves as a sobering reminder of the true state of affairs, when it comes to race and class differences, in our land. All of the platitudes and self-righteous disclaimers notwithstanding, America remains deeply divided, and whenever indisputable evidence of that bubbles to the surface, things get ugly.

Privileged white males like Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs and their ilk dominate the nation’s airwaves daily, fomenting racially-tinged outrage against targeted Hispanic and other “alien” populations with impunity. Sadly, Limbaugh was elevated by ABC-TV to status as a commentator on Monday Night Football, until he made a racist remark that even his most sympathetic patrons in the media industry could not condone.

Yet when someone dishes back on behalf of the minority populations who are under relentless siege from the likes of Limbaugh, and it makes the national airwaves not for its content but for political advantage, they are vilified and disowned.

Our accepted state of affairs is that those who “disagree” with Limbaugh, Dobbs, Ann Coulter and their ilk must remain civil and polite even in the face of scathing demagoguery and hate-mongering. If they get a little heated in the face of this, they’re accused of being the haters.

This calculus has defined the presidential campaign and what is on or off limits for the candidates. Most of the major media, owned and operated by arch-conservative white male businessmen, enforce these rules, and that’s what now has Obama over a barrel.

Common wisdom says that one should blame the Rev. Wright’s mouth for Obama’s new problem. That ignores the fact that Wright’s followers share his views, as do those in other black churches where the preaching is even more extreme. These are the millions of America’s underclass, who embrace such anger and frustration as reflected in the Rev. Wright’s words. Moreover, his views are shared by hundreds of millions, even more, around the globe.

The media, right-wing white male pundits and their admirers would have you believe such “extremism” is marginal to our society. It is not marginal, it is kept in the dark.

Look at the demographic makeup of the outrageous percentage of the U.S. population that is incarcerated. Look at the demographic makeup of wage, salary, education and employment statistics. Look at the residents of the Ninth Ward in New Orleans after Katrina, and the fact that whole sections of that City remain unreconstructed to this day.

It is a shame that the major political candidates have taken a “cut and run” approach to the revelations of Rev. Wright’s statements, and worse, some are beginning to use them to inflict damage on their opponents.

What would be so wrong with saying, “Hey, I don’t like it, but this is real and we have to come to grips with it!”

What would be so wrong with going to the roots of the kind of anger and frustration in the Rev. Wright’s sermons, and committing to begin the healing process there?

Back in the 1960s, a president who was never considered a “bleeding heart liberal,” Lyndon B. Johnson, launched a program known as the “War on Poverty.”

It was a sincere and modestly-effective attempt to go to the root of the racial and cultural divide in the nation and begin to heal.

But in the 1970s, the social ferment that helped fuel interest in such humanitarian efforts dissolved into an unparalleled resurgence of self-indulgence and personal excess. By the 1980s this was institutionalized by the Reagan presidency. Americans were praised and rewarded for their selfishness and greed, and the “War on Poverty” became the butt of cruel jokes and derision.

Meanwhile, “best management practices” have systematically driven down real wages and outsourced millions of jobs. Now, as the economic noose is tightened around us all, the nation’s elites are turning up the volume on their noise machines against those who protest, including by fueling growing white frustration against minorities.


On Key

Stories that may interest you