This article was orginally published on March 31,2008
I have been taking an English course on black writers in America, and it is interesting to note that what we have covered in that class is correlating with the recent events of this presidential election. Many of the African-American writers that we are covering in the course not only discussed their struggles of advancing in this country but also shared their faith very passionately. Rev. Jeremiah Wright should have chosen his words more carefully in his sermons, which blamed people of European ancestry for some of the many problems that face African-Americans today, like the AIDS Virus, government policy and drugs. There was much criticism over how Rev. Wright’s sermons were conflicting with Senator Obama’s message of bringing people of all backgrounds together.
First of all, the few comments that Rev. Wright made were, yes, extreme, but does that make him entirely racist? Not exactly, because it is not like there’s a fully accessible archive of all Rev. Wright’s sermons (however, I don’t believe the problem of racism in the United States can be blamed entirely on rich people with strong European ancestry). Besides, where’s the outrage when other well-known ministers on the television screen make controversial remarks towards other races and cultural backgrounds just as outlandish and full of fallacies as Rev. Wright’s?
The problem of racism in the United States involves everyone including myself. The supposedly most diverse country in the world either plays a major or minor role in perpetuating stereotypes that lead to racist comments or even subliminal gestures. And the most tragic part of it all is the prominent unawareness in which we are active participants. And the problem is leading us to drown ourselves further into quicksand until there’s no way out. The issue of racism is very deeply rooted into the historical fabric of this country, evidenced by the selections in the black writer class that I’m currently enrolled in.
Writers such as Phillis Wheatley, Fredrick Douglass, Nella Larsen, and many others, who blamed their oppressors for the problems that occurred with they faced everyday, but they also were willing to put some blame toward racism against their own people. An example of this is when Charles W. Chesnutt wrote “The Wife of My Youth,” which showcased how African-American members in blue-blood societies discriminated against their own people based on skin color.
Why do I bring up these writers? The mistake that Rev. Wright made in those sermons was not choosing his words carefully. Yes, what was shown did move people, but for others who watched the broadcast, it rubbed them the wrong way. Some might say we need to be more aware of what is said in predominately African-American churches. Okay, but how about those churches that are predominately white or black extend an invitation to each other’s services? It’s a start somewhere. Besides, as Sen. Obama stated in his rebuttal speech, “Sunday is the most segregated day in the United States.”
Even with that statement, it is painfully sad that in the 21st century U.S. there are still segregated churches, schools, social societies, etc. And we are supposed to be progressing ahead towards tolerance. No one said it was going to be easy, but as a people we have to able to take responsibility for our actions and realize that we all have some degree of prejudice. Whether we as people are willing to admit to this, stop having the discussion and start moving towards action. Then, what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of can come true.
The events and the aftermath that occurred just goes to show us that when W.E.B. DuBois stated in “The Souls of Black Folk” that the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line, this problem is still relevant in the 21st century. When people will stop pointing fingers and start doing something, then we can truly state that the United States of America is the most diverse and tolerant country in the world.