I love to listen to Randi Rhodes on most days. Today was not one of those days.
The issue under review was the appropriate subject matter, and approach, a pastor in a southside Chicago Christian church should entertain on Christmas.
With all due respect to Randi, she has no legitimate dog in this fight. She demonstrated the pernicious effects of white racism this afternoon, adding fuel to a volcanic rage that may well explode in the near future. Many of us Caucasians show our racism in these matters, but at no time did Randi offer up her bonafides in the area of what it is like growing up in a majority-black neighborhood during the 1960's.
Had she lived in a majority black neighborhood as I did, she would have come to understand that the only people doing anything substantive about the 1960's assassinations were the black activists. Malcolm X, Huey Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, Angela Davis, Bobby Seale, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bill Russell, Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali – to name a few – were on the front lines lending their considerable reputations and names, and in some cases their blood, to the cause of Civil Rights, to the cause of holding the white establishment accountable for offenses almost too numerous to reconcile.
I ducked many a major ass-whippin' at the hands of angry black teenagers who were looking for anything Caucasian onto which they could vent their frustration and rage. And there were considerable quantities of both. Many of my white friends became ferocious racists as a result of the repeated acts of violence directed at them, the local infrastructure or anything that reminded black youths of, "whitey."
The daughter of my "Aunt Winney," a white woman who lived across the street from me and was married to a black master sergeant, crawled home a good half mile on her hands and knees after a gang of black girls had stabbed her in the chest. She was, perhaps, thirteen years old. Her younger brother, obviously suffering some form of PTSD as a result of this incident, proved his manhood by jamming his hand under a large glass truck moving up the street.
Our local middle school was host to a variety of riots, rapes and violence that the administrators of the school were clearly unable to contain or control.
During the 1980's and 1990's, some 20 or 30 years after I and my family had moved on, my old neighborhood became notorious for hosting crackhouses and for deranged youths firing automatic weapons at each other from across the street.
This drama all unfolded in a small town just outside a major military training base in California. On the other side of this town was a major tourist destination and an oasis for the moderately rich, all of whom were white in those days. Was it right and proper for all of this violence to be taking place? The white boy in me says, "hell no." But the part of me that will always be a little darker than my fellows says, "you have no clue what it feels like to be looked down on your entire life by whites, their black surrogates and a system designed to either kill you in a stupid war or jail you for being outside your house after dark.
Oppression is a word that comes close, but such a word implies a more universal application – the racism and racist intentions of the local police departments, employers and school administrators, triggered by fear more than any other emotion, was directed squarely at the black community. Every time. Without exception.
So a pastor on the south side of Chicago cuts loose a barrage of angry, frustrated rhetoric at a time most likely to be noticed because of the contrast with an increasingly meaningless "joyful" holiday season – so what? There is plenty going on inside our country, our society and our culture that white people should be getting angry and upset about. And true to form, we rely on our black fellows to feel these feelings for us while milk-toasty whites sit back in their comfortably-numb lifestyles completely unaware what many of the policies the Bush Crime Family have implemented mean in real-life, day to day terms.
In short, white people have consistently relied on black people to fight their battles for them, feel their feelings for them, even in some cases raise their children for them. Out of this backdrop a white female with a twinge of righteous indignation in her voice wants to take exception as to how her unfelt and unexpressed feelings are finding expression in the black community? Forgetting about the lack of gratitude for a moment, why do we not ask ourselves, first, what right do any of us white "suburbanoids" have to question the judgment of a pastor who has lived on the front lines of urban poverty since MLK was assassinated in 1968?
Walk a mile in pastor Wright's shoes, Randi Rhodes. Teach in an inner city school in Durham, NC, or Compton, CA, and get back to us regarding what is, and is not, an appropriate tone to take with respect to what is happening inside the United States 40 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Many words come to mind, but "frustration" does not quite cut it. Neither does "rage."
Right now, in this country, the President reserves the right to detain and torture any citizen or non-citizen he chooses to, for any length of time he sees fit, in complete violation of the principle of habeus corpus, international law and the Geneva Conventions. To give our gentle readers some perspective, this "right" of absolute authority over persons has not been considered legitimate since the Magna Carta was signed into law in England in 1215 AD. Our current President not only has the reputation for having executed more prisoners than any other public official in modern history, he also commands powers over civil liberties that pre-date the period of slavery in the United States and, indeed, some of the darkest ages of Europe.
Pissed off does not begin to express the disgust and disdain I feel towards American government at this time in our history, and I am a Caucasian male fortunate enough to have gainful employment.
If Hillary or John McCain want to pass judgment on a pastor who, like Malcolm X in his day, finds the present state of affairs in America skatalogical and wholly unsound, imagine my shock. Let the Republicans their vile surrogates in the Democratic party spew their vile, racist, oppressive invective from sea to oily sea, but a true progressive authority should not presume to be in a fit position to pass judgment over a man who has dedicated his life to being of service to Chicago's urban poor and sees what few of us in "whiteyville" have ever had the stomach to endure.