Comedian/football play-by-play guy/political analyst Dennis Miller recently remarked that for a white person, discussing race is like walking through a mine field wearing clown shoes.
I don't disagree, but I do wonder why.
If we are ever to realize that elegantly stated dream of judging a man "not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character," don't we have to accept the fact that racism is a two-way street? Don't we have to reach the point where we can bring up legitimate questions about the words and deeds of all people- not just white people - without being accused of racism?
In 1976 Georgia's Favorite Son, Jimmy Carter, was running for president of the United States - much to the amusement of his brother, Billy, and the amazement of his mother, Mrs. Lillian. It was brought to the attention of the nation that the church Jimmy Carter had attended since childhood, Plains Baptist Church, was segregated. It had an all-white congregation. Furthermore, when some Northern black folks, who clearly wanted nothing more than to be welcomed into the church's fellowship, tried to join the church, they were turned away.
Jimmy Carter did the only thing he could have done under the circumstances. He left the church and started a new congregation, Maranatha Baptist Church, taking much of the Plains Baptist congregation with him.
Fast forward three decades or so.
Barack Obama is running for president. Not only is he running for president, but he is the apparent frontrunner, besting the powerful Clinton machine in primary after primary and capturing the hearts and imaginations of a large portion of the populace. He is a black man, but to his credit, he has not run as a black man but as a human being, steadfastly refusing to make his race an issue in the election.
Others have tried to, of course, most notably Bill Clinton in South Carolina and Geraldine Ferraro. Both times those Democratic heavyweights stepped on hidden land mines - those clown shoes, don't you know - and their comments backfired.
But recently the nation's attention has turned to another situation, one that, to me, is not about race - which should not be a consideration when selecting a leader- but judgment and personal belief - which should be paramount.
For 20 years Barack Obama has been a member of Trinity Christian Church in Chicago. For most of those years the leader of that church has been a man named Jeremiah Wright, a man whom Obama has recognized as a close personal friend and "spiritual advisor."
Jeremiah Wright apparently doesn't have a very high opinion of the country Barack wants to lead. From the pulpit he has reportedly stated, among other outrageous comments, that:
The United States government deserved what it got on Sept. 11, in part because we used atomic weapons to end World War II.
The United States government invented HIV in order to eradicate the black race.
The government routinely makes drugs available to black people in order to enslave and imprison them.
Those were the more reasonable comments. He has also apparently referred to the country - from the pulpit, keep in mind - as the U.S. of KKK-A and insisted that his congregation should not sing "God Bless America," but G.D. America, and he said it over and over and over.
He has also given awards on behalf of his church to Louis Farrakhan and even traveled with Farrakhan to Libya for a summit meeting with that great bastion of freedom and liberty, Momar Kadafi.
This has been going on for years and yet Obama has insisted that, until recently, he knew nothing about these outrageous remarks and actions. When the cloud of controversy surrounding his spiritual advisor threatened to overshadow his entire campaign, Obama made a public address on "race," in which he insisted that white people just didn't understand.
There are those who hailed his speech as magnificent and eloquent and world changing. I do not concur. To me he sounded just like another politician - something he has claimed repeatedly that he is not - twisting in the wind. And he refused to disassociate himself with Rev. Wright. So there you go.
I have come away from this controversy with two thoughts.
One, if Barack Obama knew the views of a man as full of racism and hatred for America as Jeremiah Wright and didn't disassociate himself from that man, well, I wouldn't want to be in a foxhole with him. And as a people, we are going to be in a lot of foxholes with the next president of the United States. And two, if he has been that close to Wright without being aware of his views, he isn't astute enough to be president.
That's just my opinion, of course, but mine is the only one I am qualified to give. But isn't it wonderful that we live in a country where I am free to express it?
We do, don't we?