Commenter Mike V seemed to be replying to the wrong post, so I will reply here. First of all, let’s repeat once again that in providing some context for Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s sermons, Barack Obama was giving reasons, not excuses. And would Mike or anyone else really want a president who was the sort of person who was in the habit of angrily walking out of church whenever they heard something from the pulpit they didn’t like, or thought might hurt them politically? No, I imagine that would be an entirely different Fox News flap.
Whatever unpleasant things Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Jeremiah Wright or any other prominent black preacher may have said or their critics may have heard them say about white people or “America,” it is not a “double standard” to decry racism and also show hostility to those people (or institutions or cultures or whatever) they believe to be racist. That is more like consistency, isn’t it? The same could said for Wright’s most quoted sermon, where he essentially argues, in what I thought was fairly orthodox Christian fashion, that the United States is like any other human institution, and cannot claim to be sinless or blameless before God.
It is also not a “double standard” that whites, especially whites holding important public trusts or enjoying access to huge audiences, are nowadays occasionally held responsible when they make racist remarks or engage in racist behavior. That is just a standard, albeit one that whites managed to shirk until the recent past. Up until the 1960s (or much later in many settings), public racism was a prerogative of the unjust power white men possessed over everyone else in American society. That’s over, or at least it ought to be, and the fact that people like Don Imus once got away with such misbehavior exculpates exactly nothing as far as their present behavior goes. When angry white guys moan about “political correctness” or “reverse racism,” what they are really mourning is the loss of an unjust advantage guys like them once had. Too bad.
Now, a little more context for Rev. Wright’s type of rhetoric, which has the white political and media world’s shorts in such a bundle. It would have been very convenient for whites if African Americans, after two centuries of slavery, legal discrimination, and violent repression, followed by another century of just the last two, had all been able to eternally abstain from negative feelings about all that had come before (and the continuing aftereffects). But that’s not human nature, is it? Nor was it, or is it, reasonable or just to ask that blacks avoid natural human feelings that they were once absolutely forbidden to express in public.
There is a powerful expression of that situation in the lyrics of “The Love You Save (May Be Your Own)” by the great Joe Tex:
I’ve been pushed around
I’ve been lost and found
I’ve been given ’til sundown
to get out of town
I’ve been taken outside
and I’ve been brutalized
and I’ve had to always be the one to smile and apologize
While whites may not like to hear it, harsh rhetoric like Jeremiah Wright’s, in his context, is a completely different thing, than nasty racial humor from a Don Imus, in his. The former was expressing, too intensely, perhaps, the real feelings of many in his audience based on real social and historical situations. The latter was just powerful man making sport of the less powerful because he thought he could, and that it might help make him some money. The former was an African American pastor speaking to his own largely African American church. The latter was a national radio and television personality speaking to heterogeneous millions over the airwaves, and whatever we are supposed to call cable TV and the Internet.