Jeremiah Wright, Steinem & Primacy of Victimhood

Okay, got lots of emails from folks decrying the “racism of Barack Obama’s pastor,” Jeremiah Wright, in this video.

I watched the video twice, and I don’t know if I’m seeing racism. I think I’m seeing anger, some of it reality-based and quite justified, some of it politically expedient for emotional manipulation, and some of it just strange.

“Jesus was a poor black man who lived in a country and in a culture that was controlled by rich white people [Romans rich and Italian, therefore European/white]“

Well, we can’t really know Jesus’ skin tone, can we? I’d expect it to be rather olive, but who knows? I’d also expect the Roman’s skin tone to be “olive” as well, so this is a strange extrapolation. Wright has to stretch to make his point (Italians=European) so I don’t find it particularly convincing. It’s one of those constructs and connections that you really have to want to make, I guess.

“Barack doesn’t fit the mold…folks are hating on Barack Obama [because] he ain’t white, he ain’t rich and he ain’t privileged.”

Well, rich, white and privileged has been “the mold” for many American presidents, but not all of them. John Adams did not come from wealth nor did Richard Nixon or Harry Truman, or Ronald Reagan, or Bill Clinton. But they have all been white, and (at least in terms of education) some of them were “privileged.” (And one can argue that there has, historically, been a measure of “privilege” in being white in America, just as there has, historically, been some “privilege” to being Protestant in Northern Ireland; if there were three jobs, and four men looking for them, the Protestants would be hired before the Catholics.)

Obama may only be half “European”, but he is wealthy he and his wife have had the privilege of being educated at ivy-league universities, which open big doors. Hillary is white, and she’s wealthy too, and she’s attended those same schools of privilege, so this seems a wash.

“Hillary fits the mold…Hillary never had a cab whiz past her and not pick her up because her skin was the wrong color, Hillary never had to worry about being pulled over in her car as a black man driving in the wrong neighborhood…Barack knows what it is like living in a country controlled by rich white people…Hillary ain’t never been called a nigger; Hillary has never had her people defined as non-persons; Hillary ain’t never had to work twice as hard to get accepted by the rich white folk who run everything, or to get a passing grade…”

There is no denying that Wright is describing a shameful truth here, and much of this is sadly a “current” truth in America. Hillary has been called plenty of names, though, and she has seen her sex belittled as inferior to the male sex and women of her era probably felt just as challenged as minorities to be “twice as good” as their bosses and professors. The daily experience of any black American probably is harsher than the experience of a white woman, but I am not really sure why that is supposed to matter, and so this is striking me as less a racist rant than a sort of duel to see who can claim the greatest victimhood.

“I am so glad I have a God who knows what it is to be a poor black man in a country and a culture [controlled by whites etc]. He taught me, Jesus did, how to love my enemies; Jesus taught me how to love the hell out of my enemies and not be reduced to their level of hatred, bigotry and small-mindedness. Hillary ain’t never had her own people say she ain’t white enough…Jesus…never let their hatred dampen his hope…

Well, Hillary has certainly had her enemies say she is not “feminine” enough, but I still don’t know what it has to do with anything. Do I believe that Wright believes Jesus has taught him to love his enemies? Sure. That stuff tends to be pretty complicated and mysterious so I won’t gainsay it.

So, do I think Wright is being racist, here? To be honest, no I really don’t. I think he is highlighting some truly egregious truth in the United States while exploiting some legitimate grievances to encourage a victim’s mindset; he’s playing to the cheap seats with some of this, to be sure, but so did Gloria Steinem when she supported Hillary by writing that if Obama were a woman with his resume, he’d never be where he is.

What is going on here is a profound slight-of-hand, or an illusionist’s expert misdirection. You are being told to think you’re seeing one thing, when you’re actually seeing another. Except for the fact that whoever released these tapes has played it, this sermon would not be an example of a “race card” being thrown. It’s a victim card.

This is about the Primacy of Victimhood over all else. And frankly, I think if white America falls for this and starts freaking out over Wright’s “racism” then they will be submitting to a HUGE and insidious manipulation by the Clinton team, who, as Instapundit suggests, may reasonably be assumed to have brought this forward.

Both Democrat candidates have been playing victim cards in their turn, for months. Yesterday Geraldine Ferraro upped the ante by playing the gender and reverse-racism victim card.

These are not “racist” or “sexist” gambits
being played by Wright or Steinem, but appeals to emotion, and appeals to emotion are too often used to gloss over a lack of substance, or so I have been told by my correspondents on the left, lo these many years, as they accuse the GOP of governing on “fear,” (because terrorism is not a real threat).

And while the victim card appeals to emotions, it tends to noisily set off rage in those who listen and perceive themselves as being identified as the “enemy.” So everyone gets emotional, everyone starts yelling, and no one is listening or making any sense.

The victim card is an odd card to play in a presidential race; victimhood in and of itself seems like a strange theme for either presidential candidate to embrace. “Vote for me; I’m the bigger victim and this qualifies me to…”what, exactly, lead the wailing?

Maybe if the next president can say to AlQaeda, “don’t fly into our buildings or bomb our subways, because I’ve been ill-treated by the man,” our enemies will put away all their flight manuals and bomb-belts and the world will finally “live as one,” yeah…that’s the ticket!

What a way to run an election, or divide a nation. This is using a massive and annihilating cannon to destroy an opponent when something much less destructive could do the trick.

Read Rick Moran’s very interesting thoughts on Hillary’s “scorched earth” campaign and what it can mean for America:

By exacerbating the racial divide in the Democratic party, Hillary Clinton may indeed make Obama unelectable. And there’s no guarantee that the strategy will sway the Super Delegates and make her the nominee especially since she will probably be trailing in the delegate count and popular vote. But none of this seems to matter. As far as the Clinton campaign can see, this is their only avenue to the White House and by hook or by crook, whether they bring the Democratic party down or not, they’re going to take it.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air wonders why these tapes are surfacing now, and by whom?

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Pastor_Jeff

    Good observations, Anchoress.

    I do think there’s racism evident when he claims that people hate Barack because he’s not white, but you’re right that the real issue is victimhood. Both Hillary’s and Barack’s supporters seem to be fighting over “most victimized” status for their candidate. This is where the identity politics of the left have taken us.

  • dellbabe68

    Hmmm. I simplistically figured it was racist on the pastor’s part – at least to some degree, but you’ve made a good argument. Victimhood is indeed the real issue.

  • daleosborn

    I have a problem with the video in which “Pastor” Wright says something to the effect of “God BLESS America? No! God DAMN America”. For that alone, by his membership and financial support at that church, Senator Obama is disqualified for serious consideration for the office of President.

  • TheAnchoress

    Dale, Yes, “God DAMN America” is certainly offensive to me, but we have to remember that it’s just rhetoric, and we can’t be so appalled by rhetoric that we allow ourselves to be manipulated by the one who puts it before us.

    This is a very, very ugly manipulation and a very sly one, being fostered by the Clinton camp, and it can wreck the nation. As much as I might hate the sermon, I’m not going to respond to it as these illusionists would like me to.

  • Piano Girl

    I believe Jesus was Jewish, contrary to the minister’s insistence that He was Black. If a candidate running for the office of POTUS attended a predominately White church, with a minister who was shouting similar rhetoric, only aimed at Blacks, Hispanics, Asians or other groups living in this country, the news media would be all over this candidate (and rightly so) wondering where he/she stood in regards to what his/her minister was preaching. Apparently these tapes are available for sale on the website of the church, so it’s not like someone had to go undercover to tape what the minister was preaching.

  • ignacio

    For a simple man like me, if something walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and quacks like a duck——it’s a duck. You may be correct that Pastor Wright is playing the victim card, but he is clearly playing the race card also. Did you notice, Anchoress, that there was not a single white person in that congregation? (Yes, many congregations, both white and black, self segregate, but Pastor Wright’s church is one where no white person could possibly feel comfortable, unlike many, if not most, other black churches.) This church and this pastor seems an odd choice for someone truly interested in moving beyond race. And that is where Mr. Obama has some serious explaining to do.

  • Bender B. Rodriguez

    Yet again, for the 27 billionth time this election season, the country plays this preposterously pointless game of being outraged and offended at what someone else has said, and demanding that some candidate repudiate (or reject and denounce) what that person has said. Enough already.

    Is this what we can expect for the entirety of the election — primary and general?

    Apparently so. Apparently, all we can do is simply try to tear down the other side, rather than promote our own side. Apparently, there will be very little attempt to present a positive, substantive, and reasoned argument why Clintonism or conservatism or Republicanism is the better option.

    Whatever happened to the idea of one side puts their best team on the field, while the other side puts forward their best team? When did we have to start hoping for their best players to go on the disabled list? When did presidential politics have to resort to the Tonya Harding approach — kneecaping the competition in order to win? When did we lose faith in the idea that the best conservatism would prevail over the best liberalism if and whenever they would go head-to-head in a fair fight?

    Boy, we sure did run out of good and positive things to say about McCain real quick. The reasons to vote “for” McCain have simply vaporized like the morning dew. You can make the argument for about 30 seconds, saying about two or three issue-oriented positive things about him, and then are left with nothing else to say “in favor” of him, so you must necessarily resort to speaking “against” the other side.

    It ain’t gonna work. You can’t beat a positive with a negative. You can’t make converts to your side by criticizing the other side.

    (and by “you,” I mean collectively, not any particular person)

    (and as for the substance of Wright’s remarks — or the damn/bless America comment anyway — what with 45 million dead babies, we ought not be so proud and should show a little more humility)

  • TheAnchoress

    Bender I’m a little confused as to what “good words about McCain” has to do with any of this. I didn’t mention McCain because this story isn’t really about him.

    I agree with you that this game of “caught now apologize” is getting tiresome.

    But I don’t know why I was supposed to mention McCain in any of this. I’m not paying any attention at all to him until the primaries…assuming he is the nominee.

    No, I’m still not convinced! :-)

  • Piano Girl

    I’m rather enjoying watching the two dem candidates beat each other up…the longer the race goes on between the two of them ~ all the way to the convention would work for me ~ it takes the time, money and attention away from the general election in November. It’s almost like the two sides keep playing a game of “gotcha” ~ first Obama’s staff member calls Hillary a monster, then Geraldine Ferraro (representing the Hillary side of the aisle) says Obama wouldn’t be where he was if he was white. Too bad she didn’t keep going to say that Hillary wouldn’t be where she was if it weren’t for her husband. I think they should call it “even” since they each lost one campaign worker in the past week, but that won’t happen. Let them beat each other up and I’ll have some more popcorn. I don’t think there is such a beast as civil discourse because we have become so politically incorrect in this country, and everyone takes offense no matter how innocent a remark might me, IMHO.

  • Bender B. Rodriguez

    I don’t know why I was supposed to mention McCain in any of this

    Like I said, I didn’t mean “you” to refer to you, but to folks in general, on all sides of the aisle, especially the McCainiacs.

    From the Republican punditry, I’ve heard precious little in favor of McCain, but a whole lot of stuff against Obama. All Sean Hannity (whom I can no longer stand to listen to more than two minutes of) ever does is whine and moan about what some Obama associate has said. Rush was all over this today. And places like NRO too have little good things to say about McCain, spending most of their time ripping Obama or Hillary.

    Slightly off-topic, I know, but I’m just looking at the broader picture.

  • victor erimita

    The reason the “Jesus was a black man” thing is significant is that it reveals Wright as someone who buys into the mythic worldview being promulgated as “Afrocentric” in many of our universities’ African Studies departments. The “Africa is the cradle of civilization” bit is part of the same thing. An entire mythic structure has been invented and accepted as “scholarship” in these departments. It holds that, basically everything good and significant has come from Africa (the “sun people,” according to black studies professor Leonard Jeffries) and was then either stolen or destroyed by white people (“ice people.”) This is all part of the so-called “black supremacy” movement, which has as its central thesis that black people are inherently superior to white people, including the “melanin theory” that actually claims that melanin (which black people have more of) has certain scientifically-demonstrable properties that account for black peoples’ superiority. Don’t take my word for it, look it up. The Nation of Islam spews this stuff and it feeds the paranoid delusions of much of the so-called “black community.” The other Wright video circulating today catches him saying “they” (wonder who he means?) send drugs to “our” communities and then build prison to put our men in. This is the same meme that contends that AIDS was devised by the CIA to kill off blacks. It is deranged stuff. And if you still think Obama is the guy to “transcend race” then you need to explain why he soaked this stuff up for the last 20 years and has such praise for Wright.

    That Wright uses this language shows he is speaking in the code of the black supremacy movement, which is at least as, shall we say, subject to critical evaluation as Creationism or any of the more scientifically questionable contentions of the fundamentalist churches elite society loves to ridicule. This is not just “victim mongering.” It is racism and hatemongering. That we have a man who could be our president who has attended Wright’s church and relied on him for spiritual guidance for 20 years, a church in which congregation members are standing up and cheering at the hate speech coming from their pastor is troubling. It’s more than that, it is outrageous. I am not aware of any previous president who has attended for 20 years the church of an comparably wacky hate-spewing nature. It’s like someone being on the board of the 700 Club or a Scientologist. Of course it’s relevant.

  • tom swift

    It’s really a distinction without much difference. Racism is a tool which can be used to tap into America’s well-developed “victimhood” industry. Victimhood is a broader concept, since it can be used by those who see the entire world in racist terms, or sexist terms, and the Marxists can get in there too. But for practical matters I’d say the victimhood card is just the flip side of the racism card. We’ll be seeing a whole lot more of both for the rest of the year, I’m afraid.

  • Piano Girl

    I shouldn’t try to write anything this late at night, much less when I’m so tired. I meant to say that we are too politically “correct” in this country ~ at least I think that’s what I meant. I really think I need some chocolate in my system!

  • Terrye


    This has nothing to do with McCain, give it a rest, you are obsessed.

    I swear if conservatives had put half the time, effort and passion into coming up with a candidate they could tolerate, but who could actually win an election they would not be in this position.

  • Terrye

    I do not doubt that the Clintons are manipulating a great deal of this, but if Obama did not hang out with people like this…there would be nothing to manipulate.

    And Anchoress, I think McCain will be the nominee and I also think the GOP is lucky to have him this season. He may be one of the few Republicans who could actually win in the current political atmosphere. If Rush doesn’t like it, let him take a pay cut, put his money where his mouth is and run himself. This would be even better news to Hillary than Obama’s pastor ranting God Damn America.

  • cfbleachers

    Trying to view this video in a vacuum might indeed lead us to believe that Rev. Wright is merely playing the “victim” card, as opposed to the “race” card and to give him a pass on stirring up racial animosity, instead suggesting that he is infusing racial pride.

    In a vacuum, we might believe that.

    Setting aside any crass political motivations behind shining the spotlight on Rev. Wright, (which may indeed be true, but it makes the inquiry only smarmy as to causation, not conclusion), there is a legitimate question to be asked, I believe…as to why Sen. Obama is so attached to this man, with these beliefs. If I attended a place of worship that lionized someone who called the Jewish faith a “gutter religion”, who constantly railed on people of a different color, whose very foundations are based on divisiveness and rancor…I would leave immediately. I certainly would not attach myself even more deeply to him, cleaving to his breastplate as a warrior in his racial divide or even a nodding toadie in passive acquiescence to his race-based harrumphing.

    Rev. Wright has a history and a body of work to draw from. This one video is but a grain of sand in his hourglass, constantly pouring through the very slim channel of his worldview.

    He SAYS he loves Jesus, but he lives hatred for the Jews who begat HIM.

    He SAYS he loves his “enemies”, but how did all white people become an “enemy”?

    Rev. Wright is an illusionist perhaps, but one who comes onstage with his trinkets dangling from his sleeves rather than hidden inside them. This is less about Sen. Obama’s “victimhood”…(he has traversed private education institutions, prestigous law firms and the most august environs on the planet)…than it is about guilt-tripping white people.

    It is myopic to view this one video and suggest that Rev. Wright is not playing “race” as one of his cards. Rev. Wright has a deck of 52 cards, all of them related to race.

    However, Sen. Obama believes he can’t “run black”.

    So he lets his wife and his Rev. do that for him. They say the things he can’t say…and then he walks the parsing line…not quite agreeing, not quite condemning…more of a bemused detachment, “I’m above all that, …my folks say the darndest things”.

    For his part, Sen Obama simply gives off the appearance that he stays above the fray. Neat trick.

    You see, he must run a safer color that goes with everything.

    He runs beige.

  • TheAnchoress

    Terrye re McCain. My sense of his not being the nominee is just a sense that something is going to happen that will make that impossible. It’s been my sense all along. I could be wrong – my instincts are not that great – but it’s the way I’ve been feeling from day one.

  • Peregrine John

    Victor and Piano Girl are right: Wright is an ass, a conspiracy loon, and a racist, and if his statements in this clip aren’t directly racist then they certainly are indirectly.

    And yeah, Jesus was Jewish. We have his complete genealogy, for crying out loud.

  • victor erimita

    In my post from yesterday I mentioned that the Black Supremacy movement, the code language of which is clearly discernable in Wright’s speeches, holds, among other things, that AIDS was deliberately concocted by whites to kill balcks. In case anyone thought I was exaggerating, check this out.

    The good Rev. Wright apparently said precisely that in a Howard University speech a little over a year ago. This is the equivalent of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. A hateful lie perpetrated to keep alive a system of prejudice and hatred. And, ironically, it is that sort of lie, promulgated byt eh Rev. Wrights of the world, that helps to keep much of “black America” in a psychological state of perpetual rage, impotence and victimhood. It immeasurably weakens them. That Obama has made this sort of thing the centerpiece of his spiritual life for 20 years is extemely troubling. “Post-racial candidate,” my foot.

    [Edited to admit link - admin]

  • Terrye


    I guess we will find out. But the truth is, I think that a lot of his GOP enemies are not nearly as powerful as they think they are. Otherwise he would not be where he is today.

  • TheAnchoress

    Terrye, it’s not about intrigue or his “enemies.” When I say I am not convinced he will be the nominee, I am simply talking about life. Stuff happens. I’m just going by my gut.

  • theMachiavellian

    I really can’t understand how you can dismiss the Rev. Wright’s assertions, for instance that white controlled America created the AIDS virus, or his rants against Israel as not being racist?

    Thinking that whites are evil, believing that Jews are evil IS THE SAME as thinking blacks are bad, evil, and inferior.

    You’ve made excuses that justify and and attempt to explain why the Rev. says what he says, but it still unacceptable.

    Does he get a pass because he is black? Unfortunately, you have so rationalized what the good reverend has said, that you’ve lost sight of the hate behind it. And yes, that was unadulterated hate.

  • TheAnchoress

    Nevertheless, Obama is not responsible for every bit of lunacy ever uttered out of the mouth of this man, any more than I as a Catholic am responsible for bad priests.

    There are PLENTY of good reasons not to vote for Obama…if the right insists on THIS being the reason, she will pay for that insistence down the road.