Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Disowning Jeremiah Wright

The media has gone crazy over Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his association with Barack Obama.

As I watched Nightline's report on Barack's latest disownment of Wright, I'm discouraged and saddened.

On a daily basis, I converse with friends about Barack's chances at the nomination and we express our hopes, concerns, and even skepticism.

Barack represents an opportunity for our country to demonstrate it's ability to deal with race and ethnicity. Of course, that's not the only reason to vote for him, but to many of us, we see his ideas as different. He addresses issues that many people seem to think are unimportant. Yet, to those of us who deal with race on a daily basis, his words are a breath of fresh air. It's nice to know someone is finally talking in a constructive way...not just about race, but about the way our country can be an agent of change. In my opinion, it seems like dealing with race as a core issue would help any number of other issues fall into place.

Some of my friends have said things that imply we are making concessions for Obama...and for Wright...because they are black. I have heard people say Wright's comments are equal to the KKK and Obama should disown him if he knows what's good for him. I completely disagree.

The more I think about this, I think I've figured out yet another reason why I am so disappointed by his move to disown Rev. Wright.

If Obama disowns his long-time friend and pastor, what does that mean for me?? In order to protect my reputation of living in an urban community, do I need to disown my own family and friends??? I may not be running for president, but in my mind, my reputation and my integrity is just as important to me...and the people around me would have just as much right to ask me to do that in order to prove my loyalty and to back up the message I profess.

Thank goodness I have friends here in Dallas who do not judge me by the people I grew up with or the people I know here in Dallas who make racist comments--some overt and intentional...others covert and out of ignorance. Thank goodness the people who know me don't judge me by the color of my skin or the baggage that might seem inevitable for someone with my cultural background.

My approach to my white friends who make overt or covert comments is just like my approach to my friends in Turner Courts, my friends with the city, or my friends at work. If I want to see things change, I must develop and maintain the relationship. People have to know me and I have to know them. We have to be able to have conversations. Relationships are reciprocal. Relationships imply you learn from each other. In genuine relationships, people are comfortable being themselves. Genuine relationships have allowed me to have amazing, challenging conversations with Black, White, and Hispanic friends. I have learned from all of them and I would like to think they have learned something from me as well.

Though I don't always agree with people...and I have often made blunt comments, I don't want to disown people. Nor do I want them to disown me.

I am still very much a Barack Obama supporter. I don't think he should be let off the hook just because he "has to be a politician" in this situation. I think he is better than that. But more so than being disappointed in Obama, I am disappointed in us...the White, Black, and Brown people...who have convinced Barack and ourselves that we have to distance ourselves from the black culture and distance ourselves from having the conversation in order to be accepted.

To amend a quote from Hillary, "Shame on us!"
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