A few voices on the Right have expressed partial praise for Barack Obama’s speech on race, but by and large, right-wing commentators have stuck to the script, picking over the parts where Obama mentioned the country’s racial wounds, excoriating him for failing to disavow affirmative action or liberal economic policies, and generally promoting the idea that Obama is some kind of Manchurian candidate who secretly hates both America and white people.
But if Obama hoped to start a national conversation about race, he succeeded, in a way. Many right-wing commentators have proved willing to redirect their attacks on Obama to a discussion of their views on African Americans in general. Cal Thomas opined that “black people should be listening to” Bill Cosby, not Rev. Wright. Ann Coulter announced that she had had enough of blacks talking about racism:
But the “post-racial candidate” thinks we need to talk yet more about race. How much more? I had had my fill by around 1974. How long must we all marinate in the angry resentment of black people? …
We treat blacks like children, constantly talking about their temper tantrums right in front of them with airy phrases about black anger. I will not pat blacks on the head and say, “Isn’t that cute?” As a post-racial American, I do not believe “the legacy of slavery” gives black people the right to be permanently ill-mannered.
Unfortunately, the online videos of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church appear to be the first exposure some on the Right have had to blacks or the African American church. Human Events reporter Ericka Anderson admitted as much: “Those of us outside the black community lack any deep knowledge of black churches. The only black minister we are very familiar with was Martin Luther King, Jr.” Anderson added, “He never damned America.”
George Neumayr, editor of the Catholic World Report, was apparently scandalized by what he described as the “feverish” church-goers in the videos “hopping up and down like hyperactive children” as they follow their “buffoonish,” “sashaying” pastor.
Perhaps we should leave the final word to Pat Buchanan, who has made a career out of claiming that “white America” is under constant threat from other ethnicities. Before Obama’s speech, Buchanan pined for the “Negroes” of the 1950s:
That Wright is a revered preacher in black America also tells us that, far from coming together, we Americans are further apart than we were in the 1950s, when Negroes could be described as Christian, conservative and patriotic. Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad did not speak for black America then. Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young and Dr. Martin Luther King did. But Jeremiah Wright makes Stokely Carmichael and Rap Brown sound like the Mills Brothers.
After the speech, Buchanan was more blunt, writing that “Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.”
What is wrong with Barack’s prognosis and Barack’s cure?
Only this. It is the same old con, the same old shakedown that black hustlers have been running since the Kerner Commission blamed the riots in Harlem, Watts, Newark, Detroit and a hundred other cities on, as Nixon put it, “everybody but the rioters themselves.”
Was “white racism” really responsible for those black men looting auto dealerships and liquor stories, and burning down their own communities, as Otto Kerner said — that liberal icon until the feds put him away for bribery.
Barack says we need to have a conversation about race in America.
Fair enough. But this time, it has to be a two-way conversation. White America needs to be heard from, not just lectured to.
This time, the Silent Majority needs to have its convictions, grievances and demands heard.