Like the Man Said, Read the Whole Thing

I have just found the time, which I did not have earlier in the week, to read the transcripts of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s NAACP and National Press Club speeches.

I found nothing in either speech that offended me. Objectively, Rev. Wright said nothing in either speech that was offensive, or that could be or would have been construed as “racist” or as “hate speech” by any reasonable person.

Of course, the National Press Club speech was followed by questions from the press, which had been given to a moderator in advance, and the questions therefore had nothing to do with what Rev. Wright had spoken about. The questions were all the same stupid questions Wright has been getting for weeks, about the Malcolm X quote, about the “God damn America” quote, etc., etc. Nobody from the media present at the event even bothered to mention the substance of the speech, as far as I could tell, and the speech was exquisite. It was an eloquent and moving exegesis of the historic role of the black church in the United States, and of the direct line between the theology of liberation preached in many black churches and biblical teachings — especially Isaiah 61:

The prophetic tradition of the black church has its roots in Isaiah, the 61st chapter, where God says the prophet is to preach the gospel to the poor and to set at liberty those who are held captive. Liberating the captives also liberates who are holding them captive.

It frees the captives and it frees the captors. It frees the oppressed and it frees the oppressors.

The prophetic theology of the black church, during the days of chattel slavery, was a theology of liberation. It was preached to set free those who were held in bondage spiritually, psychologically, and sometimes physically. And it was practiced to set the slaveholders free from the notion that they could define other human beings or confine a soul set free by the power of the gospel.

The prophetic theology of the black church during the days of segregation, Jim Crow, lynching, and the separate-but-equal fantasy was a theology of liberation.

It was preached to set African-Americans free from the notion of second-class citizenship, which was the law of the land. And it was practiced to set free misguided and miseducated Americans from the notion that they were actually superior to other Americans based on the color of their skin.

The prophetic theology of the black church in our day is preached to set African-Americans and all other Americans free from the misconceived notion that different means deficient.

Being different does not mean one is deficient. It simply means one is different, like snowflakes, like the diversity that God loves. Black music is different from European and European music. It is not deficient; it is just different.

Black worship is different from European and European-American worship. It is not deficient; it is just different.

Black preaching is different from European and European-American preaching. It is not deficient; it is just different. It is not bombastic; it is not controversial; it’s different.

If you can find anything offensive or hateful in that, please let me know, because I can’t.

And that part in the NAACP speech that far right bloggers had the vapors over — Rev. Wright’s supposed “racialist” statements about “black brains” and “white brains”? Totally misrepresented.

Here is Michelle Malkin’s description of what Rev. Wright said:

Today’s engine-starter is The American Digest’s post on Jeremiah Wright’s racial brain theories.

Do you remember nutball racialist professor Leonard (Blacks are “sun people,” whites are “ice people.”) Jeffries?

Jeremiah Wright is the Leonard Jeffries of 2008.

She quotes Gerard Van der Leun at American Digest, a notoriously nutball publication on the far fringes of the far right:

“Different is not deficient.” It would seem there is a profound difference between the black brain and other brains after all. At least according to Reverend Wright. According to this shining exemplar of Barack Obama and the deep scholarship of black liberation theology, black people are right-brained and white people are left-brained. Asian people don’t make the discussion since that would be, well, unfortunate.

If you’re like me you’ve probably been wandering about the world babbling something about racial equality in America that affirms, “There are no differences except differences of degree between different degrees of difference and no difference.” You could also say, “All men are created equal.” How left-brained of you.

Now comes Reverend James Wright to set us all straight. He notes in passing that the right-brain of black people is somehow descended from the griots of Africa. The griots were people who could remember long, very long, poems; proto-rappers if you will. White people had something like that too, but then they invented … writing. Or was it the Asians? I forget since, alas, my griot genes are slim to none.

The only problem is that Rev. Jeremiah (not James) Wright did not say that black people are right-brained and white people are left-brained. He was talking about learning styles, not genetics (emphasis mine):

Dr. Hale’s research led her to stop comparing African-American children with European-American children and she started comparing the pedagogical methodologies of African-American children to African children and European-American children to European children. And bingo, she discovered that the two different worlds have two different ways of learning. European and European-American children have a left brained cognitive object oriented learning style and the entire educational learning system in the United States of America.

[…]

Left brain is logical and analytical. Object oriented means the student learns from an object. From the solitude of the cradle with objects being hung over his or her head to help them determine colors and shape to the solitude in a carol in a PhD program stuffed off somewhere in a corner in absolute quietness to absorb from the object. From a block to a book, an object. That is one way of learning, but it is only one way of learning.

African and African-American children have a different way of learning.

They are right brained, subject oriented in their learning style. Right brain that means creative and intuitive. Subject oriented means they learn from a subject, not an object. They learn from a person. …

And despite the fact that Malkin has the video of Rev. Wright saying exactly this, and not what Malkin or Van der Leun claim he said, she, and Van der Leun, STILL are either malicious enough to say Wright said something he did not say, or they are illiterate. And as much as I am tempted to say illiterate, I know they are not illiterate. They are malicious, malevolent, vile people who are in such a state of denial about the history of black people in this country that they are willing to distort, pervert, twist, and outright lie to discredit Jeremiah Wright, and thereby destroy (or attempt to destroy) Barack Obama’s candidacy.

3 Responses to “Like the Man Said, Read the Whole Thing”

  1. Pete Bergel says:

    Pete’s racist slurs have been removed. Take your birth defect elsewhere buddy.

    -The Management

  2. Ginny in CO says:

    Kathy,

    Thank you for pointing this out. I had listened to his full sermons on the web and listened to these speeches. As an Atheist who believes in the essence of Jesus’ teachings, just not the divinity, I am absolutely turned off by many Christian ministers. Then there are the ones I genuinely enjoy. Wright was exceptional. Very bright, excellent command of many subjects pertinent to his calling. And a sense of humor. You just don’t get any better.

    After climbing into my empty nest 5 years ago, I started making up for the years I read homework, books to be reported and spent time with my children. I’ve read a lot of non-fiction tomes, chased new information and ideas all over the internet. Lost a lot of innocence. I wasn’t that ignorant in some ways. I just didn’t have a very good perception of the breadth and depth of the causes of our problems. Compared to what I’ve read by very respectable scholars (almost all white men), Wright was relatively tame. 2 years ago I wrote a letter to all the Senators on “Not In MY Name” policy issues. The biggest being the Iraq war.

    There have to be two basic human tendencies at work with this bunch. The first is that most of us only absorb about 7 % of what we hear. Obviously, anyone who writes or talks into a mic on something like this, should reread and relisten carefully enough to grasp 95+%. Not that we expect that kind of effort from folks who just hear the most useful statements for twisting. Then there is the avoidance of information that might tear down your own beliefs. I admit I rarely go to the right wing mud pits. Mostly because after being there (sometimes whether I wanted to be or not) enough, I got the arguments, the tactics, the absence of sincere moral values. Through Memeorandum, where I found this post, I find the better right wing posts and read them.

    Mr. Bergel, just because white men tend to act that way, projecting it on Rev Wright is flimsy. He spoke very well to several very large and influential groups. His experience and achievements give him a position to have his opinions SOLICITED. Seemed to me the audiences were very receptive and appreciative. I would certainly like him to be keeping his clearly well grounded and insightful ideas in the discussions that this country needs to have.

    I especially like Rev Wright’s tendency to reiterate an important point. Gets the retention factor up to 20 or 30%. So if you think the learning concepts he spoke of (different but not deficient) were his, go back and listen for the names of the actual researchers. He mentioned them several times, and they are part of the 5% I didn’t retain (but I know where to find them).

    Thanks again, Kathy.

  3. Kathy says:

    You’re welcome, Ginny, and thank *you* for your thoughtful comments. I got a lot out of them.

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