20 March 2008

Kanye West, Barack Obama & Jeremiah Wright

Yesterday we read, as we always do, James Taranto's Best of the Web. It mostly treated the various responses and takes on Barack Obama's race speech. Byron York reported on the scene in Philadelphia. Lisa Miller addressed the response of black religious leaders. Taranto reminded us that Obama (rightly) led the charge against Don Imus. Mickey Kaus pointed out that many voters like to be able to vote for Obama.

The least interesting point, initially, was the one made by John McWhorter, a pundit we've referenced before. Among other things, McWhorter discussed the tone and supposed entertainment value of Wright's rhetoric.
They hear a stirring articulation of rebellion, listenable according to a sense that fealty to one's race entails at least a gestural nod to sticking a finger in whitey's eye now and then. The tone, the music of the statements is more vivid than the content. Sermons like this are Sunday morning's version of gangsta rap.
That comparison struck us as a bit odd. "Sunday morning's version of gangsta rap?"

We've long enjoyed hip hop music and some people, including some readers of this blog, have chided us for it. We enjoy some of the silly lyrics and the fun beats like those found in a song Friend of Lybberty, Morgan Habedank, recently wrote about.

After having read Taranto's column, we were driving down the canyon, and we started listening to a song by hip hop philosopher, he of George-Bush-hates-black-people fame, Kanye West. We were particularly struck by some of the lyrics from his song "Heard 'Em Say." (caution: explicit language in link)
And I heard 'em say, nothin ever promised tomorrow today.
From the Chi, like Tim its the Hard-a-way,
So this is in the name of love, like Robert says
Before you ask me to get a job today, can I at least get a raise on a minimum wage?
OK, mostly words that kind of rhyme with a little political plug thrown in for good measure. But then there's this:
And I know the government administered AIDS,
So I guess we just pray like the minister say,
There's that pesky little conspiracy theory of Reverend Wright's, that the government somehow gave black people AIDS in order to have an African-American genocide. But it doesn't end there. From his song "Crack Music." (again, caution, explicit language in link)
How we stop the black panthers?
Ronald Reagan cooked up an answer
You hear that?
What Gil Scott was hearin
When our heroes and heroines got hooked on heroin.
Crack raised the murder rate in DC and Maryland
We invested in that it's like we got Merril-Lynched
And we been hangin from the same tree ever since
This time, Ronald Reagan concocted crack-cocaine to "lynch" African Americans. Later on in the same song, Kanye asks,
Who gave Saddam anthrax?
George Bush got the answers
Back in the hood it's a different type of chemical
Kanye West's lyrics are of a piece with the so-called Black Liberation Theology preached by Reverend Wright. Kanye isn't alone in propagating this garbage, he's just the most current and prominent. Nor is Reverend Wright the only pastor who teaches this to a very receptive audience (according to the video we've seen).

Regrettably, this theology can be found in many African-American churches (those churches that teach the aforementioned Black Liberation Theology) and the hip hop culture (Kanye and other hip hop artists like him). It is a theology of conspiracy, hate, racism, and other divisive language. It teaches African-Americans to believe that white Americans want nothing more than to keep them down and will do anything--AIDS, crack, etc.--to keep them in de facto slavery.

Barack Obama is supposed to be the post-racial Presidential candidate who helps America move past the ugliest parts of its history--slavery, Jim Crow--and yet for 20 years he associated with, was married by, received counsel from, had baptize his daughters, had as one of his campaign advisors, one of the major purveyors of this theology of hate.

And this is the thing that gets us: not all, or even most, African-American churches teach this crap. There are plenty which teach the Good Word of God. Why couldn't Obama have attended one of those?

None of this should be interpreted to mean that we think Obama believed or believes Wright's racist, hateful rhetoric. We don't. When he repudiated Wright's statement, we took him at his word. Of course, it was a politically expedient move. But his longstanding attendance at that Chicago church seemed to indicate a sort of tacit approval.

For over 20 years, Barack Obama was willing to look the other way in order to maintain the support of a very influential African-American leader, church, and congregation in Chicago.

At the very least, this reveals that Barack Obama is just like every other politician, willing to do whatever it takes to boost his electoral appeal.

(sorry to burst the bubble)

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Morgan said...

I think Obama has more Carcetti than Bunny Colvin in him. Just my opinion.

The Cobra said...

The fact that Obama, while denouncing Wright's statements, didn't repudiate his friendship with the reverend shows that he isn't just like every other politician. There are things that he cares about more than just winning office, such as friendship and honesty.

I did not hear any discussion of whether or not Mitt Romney condoned the racism of the Mormon church in the 1970's when he could have switched churches as you suggest Obama should have done. (Don't view this as a swipe against Mormonism, I am aware that the church has changed its policies over the years).

mj said...

Where is the article discussing one of the truly great political speeches of our time?

Just a fun history lesson, go back and read up on Abe Lincoln. You know, the president with the big hat? The Republican. I know the London Times had many articles about the race Abe fought for the presidency. Most of the swipes against the man are similar to what Barack is dealing with from Hillary and the Repubs.

mj said...

The speech I was referring to was Barack Hussein Obama. The man you will be reading about in history books for centuries to come. I have great respect for politicians, but he has something special. We always remember the great orators, and this man is one.

Let's all be real honest here, the man dealt with that more head-on than 99% of our leaders ever have. Like him or not, his policies or not, his pastor or not; Sen Obama's speech showed what candidate is most in-touch with America. And if you could not understand his speech, you are out of touch with America.

Anonymous said...

So we should vote for him because he is a great orator?

And yes lets be honest, he may have dealt with 99% more head-on than any of our other "leaders" ever have. But that remaining 1% is occupied by a man you went through more head-on for his country (not his race) than anyone and his name is John McCain.

I understood the speech quite well and found it quite eloquent. I just feel that the Falling Dollar, Foreign Policy, Budget & Economy, Education, Homeland Security, Crime, Government Reform, Health Care, War & Peace, Tax Reform, Free Trade, Social Security, Immigration ,Jobs, Energy & Oil, the Environment, and American Technological Supremacy would probably be more in-touch with America at this time.

RD said...

The speech was fantastic indeed. Obama touched on some very important problems with American culture and politics. What troubles me about the speech (and his book) is that there is a disconnect between what he says and what he does. Obama is great at describing what's wrong with America, but not so great at demonstrating concrete solutions. He describes the importance of getting past race, yet his long association (including donations and staff positions) with such a racist leader is very different from the content of his speech. His description of the need to unite across the parties is timely and accurate, but his voting record and policy platform are more of the same divisive politics. He decries the influence of the special interests, but he lives in the pockets of unions, rendering him unable to participate in some of the most important bipartisan compromises of the past few years (including the Group of Fourteen, which he praises but was afraid to join). From his book: "Say one thing during the campaign and do another thing once in office, and you’re a typical, two-faced politician" (117). I will be very interested to see if he can deliver on his promises to end global warming, unilaterally rewrite NAFTA on Yankee terms, pull out of Iraq without devastating political fallout, and form compromises with Republicans over his very liberal positions. Lately I've been trying to give Obama a change. His speech was fantastic, but why don't his actions match his words better? For a man who has built his campaign on a new kind of politics, he seems to be falling into the same political and rhetorical traps as everyone else.

mj said...

McCain is stronger on the Falling Dollar, Foreign Policy, Budget & Economy, Education?


Anonymous said...

Sorry, but I would not call McCain stronger on ANY issue. I respect the fact that he was a prisoner of war, but that is no reason to vote for him. The fact that he was quoted as saying that we were better off than eight years ago shows just how out of touch he is. Also, some people seem to believe that a president who is black will only act in the best interest of black people. I've yet to see that from a black politician. It's political suicide. Blacks make up at most 12% of the population. Do you really think that 12% of the population can put and keep someone in office alone? Why do some people believe that a black politician will only address issues on behalf of someone who looks like them? It's probably because that's what the more conservative politician have historically done (and continue to do--look at the current administration).

Anonymous said...

I have a two questions for all of the sanctimonious people who want to judge Obama harshly for the comments of Wright.

1) Do you know that Obama was present for any of Wright's controversial speeches? No. Witnesses have said that Obama was not at church and was away on business during the much televised speech. I'm sure that different topics get discussed on different Sundays (so who knows if Obama was ever present for any such speeches). I've personally seen pastors become more bold over the years and say things that you never thought they were even capable of years earlier.

2) Have you ever been with a friend or family member when they made a racist comment? Did you denounce what they said? Did you laugh? Did you agree? Did you even think it was racist (perhaps you think the same way)? I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you kept your mouth shut (as I have no doubt that many of the other candidates who have made a run for president have done).