Does Reverend Wright represent “the black community”?

Richard John Neuhaus: The Strange Ways of Black Folk


In the speech, Obama once again invoked the boilerplate leftisms of class warfare and the grievances of what he depicts as a nation, black and white, of seething resentments. Without using the phrase, he calls for a new war on poverty and massively increased spending on urban public schools, even though such spending has been multiplied in recent decades to no discernible effect. The teachers’ unions make sure that the alternative of school choice never gets mentioned.

In this speech, he did not mention abortion, the single most polarizing question in our public life, but his promise is to move us beyond our divisions by taking a position so extreme that he refuses to support even the “born alive” legislation that would protect the lives of infants who survive the abortion procedure. Not for nothing is he rated the most liberal member of the Senate. His call for national reconciliation, however rhetorically appealing, is more believably a call for capitulation by those who disagree.

Perhaps the single most telling statement in the Philadelphia speech is this: “I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community.” The most reasonable interpretation of that statement, maybe the only reasonable interpretation, is that the Reverend Wright represents “the black community.” This ignores the great majority of blacks in America, who are in the working and middle classes and participate fully in the opportunities and responsibilities of the American experience.

The senator lends his prestige to the claim promoted by sundry race hustlers that Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Clarence Thomas, and Bill Cosby, along with millions of other black Americans, are not black enough to be part of “the black community.” One can understand why a Harvard law-school graduate born in Hawaii with a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas would, for political and perhaps personal reasons, seek the street credential of having “roots” in a militantly black sector of the intensely race-conscious city of Chicago. But complicity in the explicit slander of America and the implicit slander of most blacks in America is a very high price to pay for a ticket of admission to “the black community.”

In his speech, Obama reminded us that eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week in America. He might have done something about that by joining one of the racially integrated churches in his New Hyde Park neighborhood. But of course that would not have given him the “black street creds” that he needed for political, and perhaps personal, reasons. In saying he could not disown the black community represented by the Reverend Wright and his church, Obama, however inadvertently, invited his supporters to join in giving new respectability to old stereotypes. The message was and is: This is how those black folk are. Get used to it.

Comment: A worthwhile read. About the author: Richard John Neuhaus

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