White pastors preach vile hatred of America
Was It Really What Jeremiah Wright Said, Or Was It Because He's Black?
By Bill Moyers, Bill Moyers Journal.
Posted May 3, 2008.
Article Source Alternet.org
White preachers are given leeway in politics that Jeremiah Wright wasn't.
I once asked a reporter back from Vietnam: "Who's telling the truth over there?"
"Everyone," he said. "Everyone sees what's happening through the lens of their own experience."
That's how people see Jeremiah Wright.
In my conversation with him and in his dramatic public appearances since, he revealed himself to be far more complex than the sound bites that propelled him onto the public stage.
More than 2,000 people have written me about him, and their opinions vary widely. Some sting: "Jeremiah Wright is nothing more than a race-hustling, American-hating radical," one of my viewers wrote. Another called him a "nut case."
Many more were sympathetic to him. Many asked for some rational explanation for Wright's transition from reasonable conversation to the shocking anger they saw at the National Press Club.
A psychologist might pull back some of the layers and see this complicated man more clearly, but I'm not a psychologist.
Many black preachers I've known -- scholarly, smart, and gentle in person -- uncorked fire and brimstone in the pulpit. Of course, I've known many white preachers like that, too.
But where I grew up in the South, before the civil rights movement, the pulpit was a safe place for black men to express anger for which they would have been punished anywhere else. A safe place for the fierce thunder of dignity denied, justice delayed.
I think I would have been angry if my ancestors had been transported thousands of miles in the hellish hole of a slave ship, then sold at auction, humiliated, whipped, and lynched.
Or if my great-great-great grandfather had been but three-fifths of a person in a Constitution that proclaimed: "We, the people."
Or if my own parents had been subjected to the racial vitriol of Jim Crow, Strom Thurmond, Bull Conner, and Jesse Helms.
Even so, the anger of black preachers I've known and heard and reported on was, for them, very personal and cathartic. That's not how Jeremiah Wright came across in those sound bites or in his defiant performances since my interview.
What white America is hearing in his most inflammatory words is an attack on the America they cherish and that many of their sons have died for in battle -- forgetting that black Americans have fought and bled beside them, and that Wright himself has a record of honored service in the Navy.
Hardly anyone took the "chickens come home to roost" remark to convey the message that intervention in the political battles of other nations is sure to bring retaliation in some form, which is not to justify the particular savagery of 9/11 but to understand that actions have consequences.
My friend Bernard Weisberger, the historian, says, yes, people are understandably seething with indignation over Wright's absurd charge that the United States deliberately brought an HIV epidemic into being.
But it is a fact, he says, that within living memory the U.S. public health service conducted a study that deliberately deceived black men with syphilis into believing that they were being treated while actually letting them die for the sake of a scientific test.
Does this excuse Wright's anger? His exaggerations or distortions? You'll have to decide for yourself, but at least it helps me to understand the why of them.
In this multimedia age the pulpit isn't only available on Sunday mornings. There's round the clock media -- the beast whose hunger is never satisfied, especially for the fast food with emotional content.
So the preacher starts with rational discussion and after much prodding throws more and more gasoline on the fire that will eventually consume everything it touches. He had help -- p