Why it’s different to be a black American

The whole Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy has been a tough one to watch, and it’s taken me a long time to respond because what he has said, at least what I’ve heard of it, didn’t offend me greatly. I disagree with a lot of it – but I’m not about to go protest. It’s a sign of the differences that define us, how we view things. I understand that the America that Wright talks about is the America that hung a noose in Jena; it’s the America that forgot about it’s citizens at the Superdome. It’s easy to label him a crackpot, but I think to do so doesn’t take into account the experience that Black Americans have in this country and our often uncomfortable existence here. I know most White Americans want to put that behind them, but it’s hard to do that for Black Americans.

How can I not immediately repudiate the comments of Wright? Easy, I know where they come from and their root; I don’t agree with Wright’s conclusions, but I do agree with the issues. I’ll give specific examples:

Wright made he comment that AIDS was sent by the government to destroy us. I don’t agree with this. I do believe though that the government’s response to AIDS was tempered by the fact that it seemingly affected only gays, druggies, and blacks. If AIDS affected a different demographic, the response would have been much more quick and forceful. Think about the Reagan administration’s shameful stance on AIDS, the fact that it took Reagan six-years to directly address AIDS. Need recent proof of this? Look at the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. If that had struck Manhattan, I believe the response would have been different.

In Wright’s infamous “Goddamn America” quote, if you listen to the content of what he’s saying, it’s about the fact that United States has never made it easy to be black in this country, and yet expects blacks to be the stereotypical Toby Keith American. We defended this country in the first two World Wars with distinction but without recognition. Today the Iraq war is being fought primarily by the poor and what do they come back to? Walter Reed.

The comment that Wright made about blacks have to be twice as good as their white counterparts is something black Americans have accepted as part of our reality. Racism is a personal experience for most blacks, it’s not something that you’re on the sideline for; not getting a cab or being followed in a store. Even the benign – saying Colin Powell “is so well spoken”, that a well spoken black – doesn’t “sound black”, as if 50 Cent and the NFL defines what a black person should sound like; if you really think about those comments, you realize how offensive they are.

Every black person has to make the choice as to how they view their experience in his country. I believe that we can work together to improve a country that needs improving. I don’t believe America is perfect – but it is the best country in history. The choice blacks make is a familiar one – it’s Martin Luther King or Malcolm X; it’s Jesse Jackson or Louis Farrakhan; it’s Black Panthers or the NAACP, and you make the choice knowing you can’t fully repudiate the other. If you can’t understand, you can’t, but in the end try and judge the man for who he is.

OK – that’s what I think. I decided to not open this post up for comments because it’s insanely personal, and I know it’s potential fodder for the whackjobs like Michelle.

If You don’t agree with me, you don’t agree – that’s what’s great about this country.