Can Obama Lead us out of the Racial Wilderness?

In the wake of Obama’s speech concerning progress in racial conciliation, one pundit, noted that Obama was talking to Americans about the issue as though we were adults.This brought to mind an incident from the past when I was living in an extravagantly racist world. Ask me about it some time. 1967

In my world the only way whites like me got to know blacks was as workers in the same place. In the late Sixties this guy I worked with, Eddie, told me about the Christmas party the white boss put on and Eddie was invited too. Yes, he could be the bartender. I think most blacks have experienced this type of blatant racism, so I can see why they were pissed off. The only trouble was that Eddie sometimes acted childishly. Perhaps it was effects of racism.

For example one time I came in and saw him and his co-worker pretending to sodomize another black employee, an older, introverted Uncle Tom type with a broomstick. These guys were thirty five years old and still acting like high school kids. How do kids act? They are narcissistic and have demands combined with a lack of a sense of reciprocal responsibility. The more you become an adult, the more you move away from this. When two equal adults relate there is ideally equal reciprocity. Betweens equals, non- reciprocity soon leads to tensions. In the case of an infant, there is little expectation for reciprocity. The price the infant pays is that of inequality and submission, because giving non-reciprocal benefits makes the adult more powerful. The infant only gets what he is given and the only way he can get more is to cry more loudly.

What if an adult acts in same way as a child? The same rules apply. If you help someone temporarily there is the joy of altruism in the giver and the relief of suffering in the recipient. But the self respecting person will avoid becoming a sponge. I don’t think I need to go into more detail here, nor do I think it is the whole story. Racism is surely debilitating both to the victim and the perpetrator, as is slavery. The question is does this have any bearing on racism. Is a one way or two way street?

The Old Program

There is a massive ideological program in our society that justifies permanent dependency on the part of some persons. Adults are too old to cry but they can think up slogans or adopt them from some ideology of entitlement. Old former Marxists know what I am talking about. Stalin is dead but the propaganda slogans manufactured in that era live on. Here is a quote from Doris Leesing, Nobel Prize winner in literature for 2007. The subject is not race consciousness but its derivative radical feminism.

Doris Lessing on dogma

Referring one of her books "The Golden Notebook" The book's exploration of a woman's inner life, feelings of hostility and resentment, and unhappy experiences with men came off as inflammatory and "man-hating." Critics initially savaged the book. Feminists, however, embraced it, much to Ms. Lessing's annoyance. "I hated the 1960s feminists," she says. "They were dogmatists, you see. In comes ideology, and out goes common sense. This is my experience of life."

Ms. Lessing points to a current dogma: political correctness. "It's a continuation of the old Communist Party. It is! The same words, the same attitudes. ‘The Communist Party has made a decision and this is the line.'" At first, she says, political correctness had a good beginning; she remembers saying that the language that we use is sexist, racist and so on. But then, "that became a dogma. Because we love a dogma, you know, we really do. We can never just let things develop easily from an idea, it seems to me there's always a group of fanatics who grasp it and make it a dogma."

This is why political discourse has become so negative. Radical leaders maintain power by stoking divisiveness. Ideology justifies the attitude of adults who still act like children. Permanently low expectations inevitably keep the balance of power and status on the side of the dominant culture. This in turn provokes even more anger and a staunch denial of the fact that many grievances are being addressed and that reciprocal activity, not more ranting is apt to be productive.

Does Obama Have a New Program?

How does this apply to Obama’s speech? Is he is calling for an end to this situation, at least for race? Is old fashioned identity politics obsolete? All the working class blacks I know act as though they are ready to move on. Blacks I know and meet don’t fit the stereotypes perpetuated by the media and academia. Real job holding black people seem to want reciprocity, respect and to be treated as adults. Or maybe I am being naive.

I will not quote any of the childish ranting of Obama’s minister saying how he hates America and his Uncle Sam who makes sure that American blacks are the richest black people on earth except to note that he has never threatened to run away from home. Besides, according to many apologists, many black preachers make comments like this in the privacy of their own church as a way to entertain the congregation by poking Whitey in the eye or like my friend Eddie, figuratively using a broomstick on him. Instead I will bring to the attention of the reader the philosophy one of Reverend Wright’s own mentors, James Cone a professor at Union Theological Seminary.

Racial Catch 22 and Black Liberation Theology

Most information from this section was obtained by me reading: Theological Studies December 1, 2000 by MASSINGALE, BRYAN N.
AT A CATHOLIC SPONSORED justice conference, Professor James Cone gave what he called "a theological challenge to the American Catholic Church." What is "Racism"? Where are Catholics wrong?

Fighting racism the wrong way.

The Louisiana Catholic bishops in 1997 wrote: "The teaching of the Roman Catholic Church on racism is clear. Racism is morally wrong.” "Racism is the theory or practice which assumes that one race or ethnic stock is superior to another." "Racism perpetuates a basic untruth that purports an innate superiority of one group over another because of skin color."

No, no, this is all wrong.

OK how about this: “What is racism? Racism is a personal sin and social disorder rooted in the belief that one race is superior to another. It involves not only prejudice but also the use of religious, social, political, economic or historical power to keep one race privileged.... Racism is personal, institutional, cultural, and internal."

And how do the Bishops propose to correct the sin of racism?

They employ a strategy of moral suasion in their ethical argumentation. That is, they assume their audience's goodwill and moral acceptance of the basic faith tenets that they delineate. Therefore, the bishops presume that if the incompatibility of racist behaviors is pointed out to them, this will lead to personal conversion that will result in social transformation.
The faithful are to avoid using racial slurs and telling racial jokes. They are also to challenge such behaviors among their family members, friends and co-workers. Parents are asked to instill in their children the values of racial tolerance and an appreciation for ethnic diversity. Individuals are asked to cultivate interracial and cross-cultural friendships.
Unacceptable! Unacceptable!-- according to Black Liberation Theology.

Fighting racism the “right way.”

All this well meaning stuff is hopelessly out of date. To advocates such as Cone and the multiculturalism the remedy is as frightening as it is vague. The problem is presented in the most puffed up and horrendously exaggerated verbiage. It isn’t just that blacks tend to get a raw deal sometimes both individually and collectively like everyone else.
Cone says "We live in a nation committed to the perpetuation of white supremacy," that is, a nation committed to maintaining relationships of White cultural, political, and social dominance.

“The response of black theologians to white racism (in the past) was based too much upon moral suasion and too little upon the tools of social analysis.-- Although the un-Christian behavior of whites caused us to question their Christian identity, we still assumed that if the contradiction between racism and Christianity was clearly pointed out to them, they would change and act in a Christian manner. We were naive, because our analysis of the problem was too superficial and did not take into consideration the links between racism, capitalism, and imperialism, on the one hand, and theology and the church on the other. --- If we had used the tools of the social sciences and had given due recognition to the Christian doctrine of sin, then it is unlikely that we would have placed such inordinate dependence on the methodology of moral suasion.”
Even when it is manifest institutionally is cannot be reduced to demonstrable manifestations of personal prejudice or the racially pejorative beliefs of individuals that are expressed in interpersonal actions and omissions. Instead racism is a systemic and structural characteristic of the culture which seems float invisibly in the air. Even if a white person tries his best to not do or think racist things it is hopeless. Whitey is still a racist because of cultural determinism and must live in a state of perpetual guilt until the offending culture is reformed or replaced. Whites are automatically the beneficiary of unjust power and privilege whether they know it or not and thus are guilty whether they know it or not.

Correlates of Black Liberation ideology:

1.)Only whites can commit racist acts.
2.)Only blacks are qualified to tell you whether a racist act has not been committed or when racism is cured.
3.)Since white people lack the ability to judge racial matters, the government must be given the power to do what ever it takes to being justice to black people. According to Cone "How, indeed, is a mind to become conscious of its own bias when that bias springs from a communal flight from understanding and is supported by the whole texture of a civilization? Given the racial ethos of American society, there may be only so much that (White) people can "see." An alternate strategy of fostering liberating awareness and "consciousness raising," through moments of interruption needs to be seriously explored and developed.”

Cone’s program has long been in effect.

One irony is that much legislation directed at curing racism was passed almost 40 years ago was explicitly justified as a cure for institutional racism which was blamed for the massive rioting in towns throughout the nation in 1968. These writing by Cone were from at least 15 years after the Voting Rights Act the EEOC, huge affirmative action programs, the War on Poverty and other government programs were established that were explicitly designed to counter America’s racist society. One might ask if they have been effective. If, as I explained in the first part of my post, these programs foster permanent dependency they will never create equality. Politicians need to issue some sort of report card on these activities and accesses their negative effects.

At least Obama declared that there had been some progress and also acknowledged that white people were hurt by these programs which have rolled on relentlessly under every administration since Johnson’s presidency ended in 1969.

My reading of hard leftist and even moderate Democrat literature indicates they believe that American society is still basically racist and requires much more social engineering. I look for Obama to behave as any activist Democrat and try to saddle us with more of these programs, which I repeat, have been enforced and even strengthened even during Republican administrations including the Nixon and Reagan administration. Since many Americans still disagree with the underlying thesis of America’s inherent racism, they will have to decide just what Obama’s national dialogue on race will really mean. Please pardon a little skepticism.

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