vendredi, mars 21, 2008

Is Wright wrong?

Listening to Public Radio this morning, I heard Juan Williams and Dr. Peter Paris chatting with Marti Moss-Coane. She's the host of 91FM's "Radio Times." A commentator for NPR, Williams also works for Fox-and, like most of their staff, trends conservative. I've always been impressed by him. Paris is a professor emeritus of Christian Social Ethics from Princeton Theological Seminary (my seminary).

The topic was the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's controversial remarks on race in a sermon that has been getting much play online (where would we be without YouTube). Wright, natch, was one of Barack Obama's mentors, and the recently retired head of the church the Obama's attend in Chicago.

There were many points in the debate between Willams and Paris when it seems that they were speaking a totally different language. Wright had been wronged. No, Wright was wrong. Wright was a prophet. Black people, who had overcome so much, didn't need to feel sorry for themselves. The controversy illustrated a generational difference-no, it didn't.

I was impressed that this kind of debate was happening within the African-American community. Then I wondered what the heck it means to talk about community in this way-is there a common denominator here beyond skin color?

One thing does seem clear to me, both from the reading I've done and from the experiences I've had. Many black Americans watch what they say around whites. I wonder what I would say if a black person said he or she thought AIDS was put in the drinking water to kill black people.

If Obama's speech reopened this conversation, it could only be good. Maybe some of us in the "white community" need to be a little less defensive-and open to hearing what we may not want to hear. After that, it may be more possible to move on to a real, honest, positive dialogue.

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