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?

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