Colin Delany March 22, 2008

Pat Buchanan on Barack Obama and the Reverend Wright’s Lack of “Gratitude”

An open letter to Pat Buchanan:

Hi Pat, how’s things these days? Don’t know if you’ve heard about it, but there’s this device out there now called the “internet.” An interesting idea: the ‘net can put your words in front of a large audience. In the old days, you could say something relatively inflammatory, even in print, and generally have it read or heard really only by people who already agreed with you or at least shared your basic attitudes. Nowadays, though, someone like, say, Media Matters can pick up one of your columns and distribute it to a very different group of readers, including a few who might not share the assumptions underlying a statement like this, which you wrote yesterday in response to Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright’s now-famous screed:

America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.

Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.

Now, I’m not going to go into great detail about how I think you might just be missing the point, though I will suggest that perhaps you’d be more persuasive if you considered the question of whether anyone ASKED those “black folks” whether or not they wanted to be brought in chains to the New World, kept in servitude for centuries, stripped of their cultures and their very names and forcibly converted to an alien religion. Oh, and largely trapped in relative poverty and second-class citizenship up until my lifetime, and I ain’t that old. But I digress.

Here’s the thing: when you put your words on the ‘net, you put them in front of everybody, just as Rev. Wright did when he allowed his speech to be videotaped. And in both of your cases, I suspect that you may be misjudging the attitudes and opinions of the majority of your fellow citizens. Before you get annoyed, I’m obviously being a little facetious in presuming to lecture you about the vaguaries of online communications, since you clearly intended to put your column in front of as many people as you could:

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.

Pat (and I’ll call you Pat, though I don’t believe we’ve met, just as you chose to refer consistently to the junior senator from Illinois in your column by his first name, as one might a servant or subordinate), I find it fascinating and perhaps even just a little racist to see you identifying a monolithic “White America,” in the same way that it’s just a little racist for Rev. Wright to assume a monolithic black American experience.

These days, the internet isn’t a bad model at all for America as a whole: it’s divided, split, separated, fragmented, mixed, mingled and cooked over-easy all at once. “White America,” which you identify with the Nixonian term “Silent Majority,” is no more one community than it worships a single god (I pray only at the altar of Rock And Roll, for instance). It’s from small towns, suburbs, cities and the middle of nowhere; it’s liberal, conservative, radical and none-of-the-above; its parents are straight, gay and confused; it listens to country, rock and roll, Tejano, jazz, classical and hip hop; and its friends, lovers and family are white, black, brown and every shade you can imagine in between. In short, it’s complicated, just as Barack Obama’s speech on race was complicated.

The nice thing about your column, by contrast, is that it’s quite simple and it makes it very easy to see where you’re coming from. I suspect that the millions of Americans who are trying very hard to live lives that revolve around individual people rather than flat stereotypes will be fascinated to read it, and I hope the internet carries your words far and wide. You clearly don’t intend to hide from them, and you wouldn’t be able to anyway — no one controls the modern means of mass communications. Thanks to the ‘net, plenty of us will read what you write, and I suspect that the actual “Silent Majority” will see your column as demonstrating just how out of touch you and those who agree with you are with the reality and difficulty of race in this fair country. For that, I am truly grateful.

Sincerely,

Colin Delany
Born in New Orleans
Raised in East Texas
Living in the District of Columbia
White guy
And you don’t speak for me.

P.S. I notice that you’ve turned off comments on the version of this article on your site. I can only assume that it’s because you’ve already heard from a few people who disagree with you fairly violently. Allow me to apologize for any excesses, though I must admit to being mystified at why you wouldn’t allow a free discussion. I’d hate to think that you don’t want to hear what people who don’t share your opinions have to say. Your old drinking buddy Hunter must be shakin’ his head in heaven.

cpd

7 Comments:

  1. An interested party

    I don’t understand how George Allen’s senatorial bid was torpedoed by the word “Macaca” and O’Bama gets a free pass when he has supported someone who, but for his church-related status, would be guity of treason and sedition.

  2. DrDigiPol

    Well said, Colin.

    As for “Interested Party,” I think you completely misunderstand what happened to George Allen. Yes, his comments were racist, but more than that his comments were bullying and mean spirited. Not to mention, they were his own words.

    As for Senator Obama “supporting” his pastor, this is neither an accurate description nor is this situation analogous.

    As for accuracy, attending services at one’s place of worship is not “supporting” the preacher. Houses of worship are communities with far more to them than simply the sermons the preacher gives. I am sure many of us have belonged to congregations where we did not always agree with a sermon.

    As for your analogy, in order for it to carry weight both examples must be similar in all respects and dissimilar in none. George Allen made the racists remarks himself, on camera. Barack Obama did not make the remarks in question, the Reverend Wright made those. From a simple rule of the logic of analogies, there is none here.

    As for your claim that his comments were treasonous and seditious, I would hope your “interest” as an “interested party” extends to the First Amendment. Clearly, your comments do not reflect an understanding of it.

  3. dannyb

    Colin,
    Excellent article. I have long been a fan of your work.

    AnInterestedParty would do well to read the sober and dispassionate discussion of race by Shankar Vedantam in yesterday’s Washington Post.

  4. Mahogany

    I happened apon your article by chance and I’m so glad I did. It’s witty, relatable, and was a pleasure to read!

  5. Pingback: Pat Burchanon on Said that Black Americans should be Thankful for Slavery?—What Year is this Again? 2008?!! « Riveroflifelisajoy’s Weblog

  6. Jonathan Richardson

    Over the years, I have witnessed numerous individuals and groups wield statistical data as a weapon to convince people that their (usually biased) stance is one supported by factual numbers. What I find amazing is how two differing groups (like Democrats and Republicans) speaking on one common topic can shape questions and extract data to support their polar opposite views. Depending on How, Who and When we Present, Ask and Collect data, it seems to fit neatly into to biased box containing the desired content of information which supports the view we wish the world to see. So I will not spend this whole article refuting Mr. Buchanan’s statistics with those of my own. Although I have little doubt that I could find a mountain of statistics which contradict his.
    First Mr. Buchanan, how can you decide or judge if America has been the best country on earth for Black folks? Have you ever been Black to know what we feel? It is ridiculous for you to make a statement like this when you are not able to know and feel the experience of being Black in America. Many Blacks have traveled to many other countries and found that the level of respect and acceptance of us as a people far exceeds that which we find within our American homeland borders.
    You speak as if growing from the 600,000 brought over on slave ships to 40 million was some kind of utopian milestone. We grew in numbers while here; What and How does that represent anything tangible towards your hypothesis that “America has been the best place on earth for Blacks”? While you talk about us multiplying to 40 million here, why don’t you include how White Americans (slave owners) helped grow our population by breeding us like cattle during slavery time?
    Do you really believe that you introduced Africans to Christianity? Acts 8:27-38 tells the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian (which by the way is an African my friend). Not only did Phillip expose him to Christ 1800 plus years before you generous White folks did to the slaves you brought over, but the Ethiopian was reading the scriptures of Esaias while in Jerusalem to worship. So while you think that Reverend Wright should get down on his knees and thank God that he is an American, maybe you should learn more about Biblical Scriptures.
    You ask, “Is White America really responsible for the fact that the crime and incarceration rates for African-Americans are seven times those of White America”? You asked this question as if it is answered strictly by a simple yes or no reply. There are some people (no matter their race) who will commit crimes regardless of their Socioeconomic status, their access to quality education, or their family structure. But to think that racial prejudices, poverty, not having access to exceptional legal representation, attending under funded schools ect., does not contribute to this large disparity between Blacks and Whites is preposterous.
    It’s interesting how Mr. Buchanan has chosen to use his statistics. He talks about how the African-American community’s illegitimacy rate has reached 70 percent, But he does not touch on the fact that Black women are less likely to have an abortion than White women. How many White children who are counted as legitimate, are living with one parental figure which is not their biological parent? What is the illegitimacy rate of White Americans living in impoverished settings, such as trailer parks? If we just take these three factors into consideration, How much higher would White America’s illegitimacy rate be? If you factor in, The separating of African-American families during slavery, The historical reluctance to allow African-American men access to Family Supporting wage earning jobs and The financial aide system set up to encourage women to be alone with their children, you can see how illegitimacy rates might soar.
    Mr. Buchanan goes on about how Blacks commit more crimes against Whites than Whites commit against Blacks. Plainly stated, interracial crimes are a small percentage of overall crimes committed. Most crimes are committed by someone of one’s own race (White on White, Black on Black, Asian on Asian ect.). Now in touching the subject of interracial crimes such as rape (in which Mr. Buchanan states is 100 times more likely to happen Black on White, than White on Black), are we talking strictly convictions? Who doesn’t know that you are more likely to be convicted if you are a Black man accused of raping a White woman? Well, I guess it could be worse, we could still be getting hung just for looking at one (That’s another story though). Are you counting in that number, Public defenders who did not give adequate representation to their Black clients? Are you considering how many Black women do not come forward, believing that this judicial system will not diligently pursue justice in a case of a White man accused of raping a Black woman? You say that the Tawana Brawley and Duke rape cases were hoaxes. But you do not state that the reason there was so much energy behind these cases was the despicable past sexual criminal acts perpetrated towards African-American women by White men. Of course none of those cases would be on your statistical data sheet since those men were not convicted. So in your mind, no conviction, no stat huh?
    Life is more than manipulated stats and your nonsensical view of how glad someone should be living in America. Maybe you should take the time to really listen, maybe you would learn something to help you make a true and accurate assessment.

    This Article Is Part Of The Perspectives Series
    By Jonathan Richardson
    Author Of The Thought Provoking Book: The Complicated Life Of The African-American Man(What’s on his mind)

  7. Greg

    Collin. Really? you need to stop listening to people who tell you it’s your fault that slavery happened and that you should be ashamed to be white. Your little elementary school description of how slavery happened is so vague and typical of how you are programmed to perceive slavery. You need to actually study how slavery happened in order to better understand it and perhaps you won’t be so hard on yourself. The fact is that white people didn’t go to Africa and “round-up” slaves. Most were prisoners of war sold by other tribes to the Dutch in trade for sugar and rum. The alternative for them would have been death or slavery to the tribe that captured them, which would have been much worse. Imagine being a slave to a tribe that already can’t feed its own. You would live only long enough to do their bidding until you starved to death. Also, most slaves here were treated decently. I know that sounds like an oxymoron saying “slave” and “treated decently” in the same sentence but you have to understand that it was just widely accepted at the time to have slaves so it wasn’t seen as a bad thing then. Most plantation owners knew that you could get much more productivity and loyalty from a person you treated well. And in the end, they were set free by the blood of millions of whites. Had it not been for the sacrifice of the slaves the blacks of America would have not been born or born into the plight of Africa. All Buchanan is asking for is to stop hating on whites because (and he’s right) whites have done more for blacks in this country than anywhere else on the globe – ten fold.
    Just so you know where I’m coming from, I grew up very poor, much like many blacks in this country. I was emancipated at 17 and at 19 decided to take my savings and go to college. Paid for it ALL myself. I was down to eating Ramen Noodles and saltine crackers but I was still pushing on. I spent all my savings, sold my car, got a full time job and took out loans but it didn’t seem to be enough. The kind ladies at the financial aid office worked tirelessly to find me some grant money but couldn’t. Know why? Because I was WHITE. They even had me think back as far as could in my ancestry hoping that I might hit on someone in my family that was black or Hispanic. Unfortunately, I’m 3rd generation from Germany so it was no good. I continued eating ramen noodles and sleeping on my mattress on the floor in my run down house while my black colleagues sat in the nice dorms and ate whatever they wanted at the mood courts. I graduated with a marketing degree and am currently paying back my $30,000 loan while 75% of the black students that got all the money dropped out and owed nothing. Now tell me how you would feel about that?
    It sounds to me like you are a perfect candidate for the liberal party. Naive, quick to judge, and believe everything you hear, but spend no time investigating and forming your own opinion. It’s frightening to think that people like you are allowed to vote. Sadly, you are a SLAVE and you don’t even know it!

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