Did Reverend Wright go too far?

I have some thoughts on Reverent Wright.

I realize that he’s not exactly timely.  This whole argument would have been better if I had made it 2 years ago.  But, that never seems to stop the pundits on the right from using him as a target whenever they think they can make a point.  I have a point and intend to use this lighning rod to illustrate it just perfectly.  Despite the fact that rev. Wright is old news, this topic keeps coming up, and there’s something that always bugs me whenever it does.  Something I need to set right.

There can be no doubt, Mr. Wright has said some pretty incindiary things.  Some say he was taken out of context, but I don’t think so.  Not exactly.   Unless you take into acount the big picture.  The larger context.

Let’s start with the most talked about quote:

“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.”

Has he gone too far?  I put to you the answer is and has to be “of course” followed by “but not really”.

Obviously, he’s trying to push buttons.  He’s mobilizing his constituency.  He’s rallying the troops.  But more importantly, he’s slapping middle America.  He’s smacking them and making them sit up and take notice. Things have gone on too long and middle-class white folks (like me) have gotten a bit too comfortable with the way things are right now.

I plead guilty.  Until recently, I’ve been reticent to jump into the fray.  I was in denial about the state of race relations in this country.

So Jeremiah Wright was trying to shake me up.  But did he go too far?

This issue is nothing new.  Gloria Steinem was a prominent leader and target for the women’s liberation movement.  Rush Limbaugh loves to call them “feminazis“.  We’ve all run into some of the silly things done in the name of the women’s movment: angry rebukes for opening a door for a woman; trying to spell their gender without including the word “men” (womyn); burning of brassiers.

Well, did they go too far?

Before going any further, I’d like to take you through a little experiment.  If you can find the materials, do so.  Otherwise, this can work as a thought experiment.  You will need a stiff wire of some sort.  An unbent coat hanger would do, but you can use any kind of wire you can bend with some effort.

I want you bend this wire in a gentle curve – the shape of an arrow-shooting bow.  This is the starting condition.  This bend represents the inequality or favoritism of whatever issue is on your mind.  Racism, sexism, what-have-you.

Now, your assignment is to straighten the wire out so that it’s perfectly straight.  Right the wrong.  Un-bend the wire and restore justice.

Go ahead and do it.

Oh, but don’t go past straight the other way.

Straighten the wire without going too far.  Don’t overcompensate – you can’t ever be unfair the other way.  God forbid!

For those of you that actually tried it, what did you notice?

It didn’t work!

You can’t unbend a wire without first going too far the other way and letting the wire return to that desired straight position.  It’s not about payback, it’s about getting the job done.  You have to go a little bit too far to get to even.

So, did Rev. Wright go too far.  I don’t know – he’s in that fuzzy gray area and has at times gone pretty far over the line.  But he’s pulling on a wire that’s been pretty bent for a long, long time.  I can’t say for sure that he didn’t go too far beyond even that point.  I can’t support all of his statements – particularly some of the more antisemitic ones.  A man who’s dedicated his life’s work to the eradication of racism can’t turn around and blame a different minority.  That’s not right.

But I do know that you can’t judge him or his actions against the perfectly straight, even line.  He has to have at least some leeway here.  His job is to try to drag us all far enough beyond the line that the inevitable snap-back lands us somewhere closer to being true.

Leave a Reply