Paging Bill Cosby

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Apr 29, 2008 11:48 AM
As this report in the Washington Post makes clear, Jeremiah Wright is seeking to cast criticism of his sermons as (in his own words) an "an attack on the black church launched by people who know nothing about the African American religious tradition."
 
The shame and the danger of his revolting rhetoric is that millions of Americans who aren't familiar with "the African American religious tradition" will take him at his word, and believe that his putrid stew of America-hatred, paranoia and lunatic rantings are typical of what's being preached every Sunday in black churches across the country.

I am no expert, but I have attended my share of weddings and funerals at black churches.  I have never encountered the kind of behavior that Rev. Wright has manifested.  Rather, the preaching (and the preachers) have reflected the best of America -- love of God, love of family, love of neighbor and love of country.  There has been none of the bitterness (now that's "bitterness," Barack!) or race hatred so evident in Wright's discourse . . . quite the opposite.

Wright's assertion that the attacks are directed at black churches generally rather than his statements in particular is clearly designed to have the effect of drawing battle lines based on race.  Given all that, an understandable impulse would be for other African Americans to rally to his side.  And certainly,  it's not easy or fun for any black leader to step forward and clarify that, contrary to his claims, Wright doesn't speak for all black churches in America -- far from it.

But there are black leaders in America -- Bill Cosby among them -- who care enough about African Americans to be willing to tell difficult truths.  There are two that, in my view, can't be shared quickly enough:

First, Rev. Wright isn't the kind of spokesman that African Americans either need or deserve.  Not only is he damaging (almost deliberately, it seems) the chances of the first credible black presidential candidate in America's history, he's slandering the black church by passing off his own twisted theories and convictions as emblematic of the church in general.

Second, Wright's cockeyed rantings about the racial differences between "European" and "African" Americans (reminiscent of the most discredited racist theories of the past) are profoundly dangerous not just to blacks, but to America as a whole.  It's worth noting that in a country less committed to freedom and equality of opportunity, the assertion of such insuperable differences between a black minority and a white majority could easily be used to justify different treatment under the law.  (Just one more reason to love America, Rev. Wright!).

More than that, however, positing the existence of inherent differences  between citizens that, presumably, can't ever be bridged by dint of good will and intellect is profoundly destructive for a constitutional republic -- which is based on the idea that there aren't black thought processes or white thought processes (my apologies to the Asians and other minorities I'm excluding from this example).  There are only American thought processes -- that is, a group of citizens who are capable of reasoning together (and then voting!) about the best course for the country to follow.

Wright is a profoundly destructive man.  Here's hoping that some brave African American leader will step forward to point out all the fallacies of his statements and logic.