"This [criticism] is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright. This is an attack on the black church." Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Address to National Press Club, April 28.
When Reverend Wright accused those who criticize him of attacking the black church as a whole, he echoed Obama's much-heralded speech on Wright and race in the U.S. Obama implies he agrees that Wright is representative of African Americans: "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community." Are we to believe that hatred for the U.S., anti-Semitism, admiration for Israel's enemies such as Louis Farrakan and Hamas, and equation of our military with terrorists reflect African American values in 2008?
What should I, a child of two Holocaust survivors, and a mother of a son in the U.S. Navy do with this generalization?
If I accept that Wright's preaching of hate for the United States and its military and his hostility towards Jews and Israel reflect the philosophy of black churches and African Americans as a whole, I have two choices:
1. Fear. For self-preservation, I must not only denounce such threatening beliefs, but cast a suspicious eye on anyone who because of color may hold them. Should anti-Semitism be pervasive in the White House, Israel and American Jews are in great danger. My family and I have already lost too much because the world did not believe the words of another hate-monger. I shudder to think what changes Reverend Wright will promote if he executes his promise to "come after" Obama in the White House. I fear also for my son, who is serving his nation in honor and who may be labeled as a "terrorist" if Liberation Theology is really the sentiment of so many Americans.
2. Self-loathing. If I accept the Wright/Obama premise that all African Americans share the views espoused in the Trinity Church, then as a white person, even one who was not born in the U.S., I must blame myself for all the injustice in the United States. Furthermore, I should feel ashamed to be a mother of a sailor. Of course, I should loathe my brothers and sisters in Israel for defending themselves and for even daring to exist in the land to which we have been tied since the biblical days. In his pastoral newsletter, Reverend Wright espoused the views of Hamas. If I hold that Wright/Obama speak the truth, it would follow that I would deny the meaning of the tattooed numbers on my relatives' arms. Self-loathing would leave me guilt-ridden, powerless and vulnerable.
I refuse to be afraid, and I refuse to loathe myself or my people. Rather I charge that Obama and Wright and any others who claim hatred of the U.S. and anti-Semitism reflect the African American community to be wrong. I must trust my own eyes and ears and own experiences with African American colleagues, students and relatives. I believe that most African Americans honor not only Martin Luther King's birthday, but also his legacy. Clarence B. Jones, Martin Luther King's lawyer and close friend writes,
"I can say with absolute certainty that Martin abhorred anti-Semitism in all its forms, including anti-Zionism. ‘There isn't anyone in this country more likely to understand our struggle than Jews,' Martin told me. ‘Whatever progress we've made so far as a people, their support has been essential.'"
I refuse to believe that the majority of African Americans cling to hate and rage just as I refuse to believe Wright's outrageous claims about the mental and physical differences between the races. (I had to listen to the speech twice to confirm that Wright stated that African Americans are less genetically predisposed to logical analytical thinking than are white people.) Obama should have disowned such hatred, anti-Semitism, divisiveness, and racism the first time he heard it. Yes, he should have disowned Wright and his vile ideas and not made the disingenuous smear against the entire black community. Also I refuse to believe that Obama's outrage yesterday against Wright is anything more than a reaction to Wright's attack on the candidate's politically motivated distancing of himself from his "spiritual guide."
I refuse fear, I refuse self-loathing, and I refuse to follow those who would have me make such a choice!