Rev. Wright: ridiculed for telling the truth
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
By: Eugene Puryear
Racist ruling class decides whether a candidate is 'electable'
The following is a major statement written today by Eugene Puryear, the PSL vice presidential candidate running alongside Gloria La Riva in the "People Over Profits" presidential campaign. Please forward widely to friends, fellow activists, co-workers, and social networking sites.
One of the features of Senator Barack Obama’s campaign that has attracted widespread enthusiasm is the implicit hopeful message that he personifies a new era of reconciliation and unity between Black and white people. But he has decidedly avoided the history and substance of Black national oppression. This dialogue—the real path to unity—would in itself indict the ruling establishment when articulated in full. Obama’s scripted message, on the other hand, in no way offends the racist corporate media and the ruling class that stands behind it.
To be deemed “electable,” Obama must convince this ruling class that he will support their interests, and he must show himself unsusceptible to the anti-imperialist voices of the Black community.
Jeremiah Wright has now become a spokesperson for such voices and he has been the target of relentless vilification and ridicule in the capitalist-owned media. His presentation at the National Press Club in particular represented a stinging indictment of the ruling class for its role in slavery, Jim Crow racism and of imperialism. He identified himself with a theological tradition that represented the viewpoint of those “whose lives were ground under, mangled and destroyed by the ruling classes.”
Wright also spoke out about September 11th, Iraq, Palestine, and the overall agenda of U.S. foreign policy. He defended his prior claim that U.S. imperialism abroad, which has always included ample use of terror, laid the basis for the September 11th attacks. When questioned about his patriotism, Wright noted he had served six years in the armed forces, and asked, “How many years did [Vice President Dick] Cheney serve?”
He continued, “My goddaughter’s unit just arrived in Iraq this week, while those who call me unpatriotic have used their positions of privilege to avoid military service, while sending over 4,000 American boys and girls of every race to die over a lie.”
His comments on these issues would be right at home in an anti-war demonstration or teach-in. As such, it was a speech that under normal circumstances the corporate media would never play. While criticisms of the tactics of the Iraq war have become fashionable in the corporate media, they consider such vibrant anti-imperialism to be practically illegal on their airwaves.
But because of the controversy revolving around Wright, this time they broadcast it in full to millions of viewers. Wright’s presentation was charismatic and persuasive. It could not be in the least characterized as “anti-white.” In fact, Wright would strike many as a voice of moderation. Wright proclaimed that the “Black church’s role in the fight for equality and justice, from the 1700s up until 2008, has always had as its core the nonnegotiable doctrine of reconciliation.” Wright continued, “Reconciliation does not mean that blacks become whites or whites become blacks.” He emphasized that in liberation theology, “We root out any teaching of superiority, inferiority, hatred, or prejudice.” “Only then,” Wright concluded his speech, “will liberation, transformation, and reconciliation become realities and cease being ever elusive ideals.”
Wright’s presentation alone may have altered the consciousness of many viewers, including many white viewers, about the meaning of Black self-determination. His message, far from being “divisive,” described a unity far more profound than that prescribed by the politicians.
The corporate media springs into action
The corporate media—whether liberal or conservative—could not let this stand. Instead of dealing with the substance of Wright’s presentation, they again reduced it to sound bite snippets. This was not just a case of bad journalism. They had to conceal the nature of his presentation because he was indicting them.
Wright has been viciously attacked above all for his refusal to condemn Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam. Wright made clear, "Louis Farrakhan is not my enemy. He did not put me in chains. He did not put me in slavery."
The ruling establishment has focused on this perfectly justifiable position as a way to demonize Wright personally, and obscure his overall political message.
In wall-to-wall media coverage, we hear that the message of Rev. Wright has jeopardized the future of Obama’s campaign because it is unpalatable to white working-class voters. The same corporate media that never countenances the language of “working class”—before there was only one big happy America—have now become experts in class politics. The carefully primped talking heads on Fox News and CNN have suddenly become the spokespeople for the blue-collar white worker.
But the corporate media has left out the most important fact: it is they who decide what is palatable. Wright has not come under attack because his message is unacceptable to white workers. Wright’s crime was that he put out a message unacceptable to the white racist bourgeoisie. There are no white workers scripting the text for Anderson Cooper or Sean Hannity. The multinational working class—Black, Latino, Arab, Asian and white—has nothing to do with it. The working class, regardless of nationality, is a subject class, subjected to the media that molds public opinion. It is this ruling class that formulated Obama’s “electability” crisis.
The pro-establishment pundits pose everything in terms of white and Black. This may on its face seem valid because racism is still the dominant reality in the United States. But in the context of the unremitting attacks on Wright it obscures their class hatred of Wright’s vision—a vision of a multinational social justice movement. And it is not just the pundits talking. The New York Times, the most important anchor of the capitalist class media, could not be more vicious. They instantly applauded Obama for rejecting the “racism and paranoia of his former pastor.” All reality has been turned upside down. Rev. Wright and those who protest slavery, racism and imperialism are labeled as “insane” and “racist” by the system that has accumulated its wealth through slavery, racism and imperialism.
The attacks on Rev. Wright have also been pumped up by Hillary Clinton and her chief campaigner, former president Bill Clinton. Appearing on Bill O'Reilly's show of Fox News, Clinton stumped for right-wing and racist votes. She declared that she was "offended and outraged" by Wright. She was not outraged when the Clinton White House eliminated 7 million children from welfare benefits in 1996, dropped 23,000 bombs on Yugoslavia in 1999 or took the lives of 5,000 Iraqi babies every month as a consequence of the severe economic sanctions that deprived Iraqis of food and medicine. Nothing to be offended about there.
The new furor surrounding Wright has created a dilemma for Obama. Since the press conference, Wright has been called every name in the book. Obama himself joined in, angrily calling Wright “disrespectful” in a speech that amounted to a full break with his former pastor.
This is yet another example of what Wright meant when he explained that Obama “says what he has to say to get elected.” But Obama was not forced to denounce Wright to remain acceptable to white voters. He denounced Wright to remain acceptable to the capitalist class; this is an essential precondition for any candidate who wants to get elected.
Nonetheless, Obama’s forceful denunciation of Jeremiah Wright amounts to a denunciation of a large section of African Americans. His accusation that Wright was “self-centered” by speaking the truth publicly, means that it is selfish for African Americans to make demands of Obama that hurt him with the racist ruling class and racist white voters. According to this logic, we should just be happy he is running. A recent Los Angeles Wave article revealed that Obama has given virtually no interviews or advertising dollars to Black publishers. This is yet another sign that he takes the Black vote entirely for granted.
In his highly publicized March 18 speech, Obama had said he “could no more disown Reverend Wright than [he] could disown the entire black community.” A month later he has effectively disowned Wright, and the Black community is left to wonder where—or if—it stands inside the Obama campaign. While the first denunciation of Wright could be explained away as political posturing, the second will not be so easily forgiven.
Obama’s appeal up until now has been based on the historical symbolism and promise of being the first Black president as well as his inspirational but vague program for “change.” Obama’s rank-and-file supporters are yearning for change. They are fed up with the war, racism and injustice. But his program has been carefully crafted to satisfy the needs and interests of US corporate capitalism. He has insisted that if he is elected he will adopt a foreign policy similar to that of George H.W. Bush. He praises Bush senior for his handling of the 1991 Iraq war. Over 100,000 Iraqis were killed while US casualties were under two hundred in that high tech massacre. Bush senior’s assault on Iraq came 13 months after he ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989.
On the current Iraq war, Obama has committed to leaving some unspecified number of troops in the country. He has refused to commit to getting troops out by the end of his first term. He supports “over-the-horizon” forces, which will position tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers in strategic locations to project U.S. dominance against the peoples of the Middle East. He promises to work to end the “mentality that took us to war.” But it was the Pentagon war machine—not a mentality—that took us to war, and that war machine he intends to leave in place. If that is not enough, Obama recently pledged to support Gen. David Petraeus, chief architect of the Bush strategy in Iraq.
Obama has offered full-throated support for Israel, and pledged to continue to send billions of dollars in money and arms there every year. He supports the war in Afghanistan, and has proposed waging war against both Iran and Pakistan. He makes a great deal of his willingness to meet with enemy leaders, but on Cuba, for instance, he refuses to enter into unconditional negotiations. His condition: that the Cuban revolution be dismantled and overthrown.
Rev. Wright should keep saying what he is saying. He’s speaking for millions of people in this country who oppose the policies of imperialism. His intervention has again exposed the character of the mainstream media, and it gives us a chance to engage with larger numbers of people on the issues of racism and national oppression. On all the key points, Rev. Wright is right, and he deserves the support of all progressive and revolutionary people.
Eugene Puryear is available for interviews. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.