Two-Faced Racism: Pfleger Does Not Equal Limbaugh

Dr. Boyce Watkins on his blog and at offers an excellent commentary on the way in which the traditional white-controlled media distort racial debates and match opponents of racial oppression and their sometimes strong language with the white maintainers and creators of that racial oppression. When Dr. Jeremiah Wright or Father Michael Pfleger get angry and mock the racist system–and make a few inappropriate or debatable comments (in the context of hundreds of accurate comments backed by research)–everybody and his/ her dog in the traditional media jump on them, but when whites like Pat Buchanan or Rush Limbaugh make many statements preserving the 400 year old racist system, the media take them on as pundits and let them make millions off helping keep the old racist system in place.

One key to understanding here is that Wright and Pfleger are operating out of a liberty-and-justice counter frame to the white racial frame that is so dominant in this society that most people, especially most whites, see it as “normal” and appropriate (see here). I have yet to see any significant analysis by the media or political leaders of how the African American population (including a significant sample of church members’) views Wright or Pfleger and what they have said about racial oppression.

Dr. Watkins makes some important points point about the debates over Dr. Wright and Father Pfleger, one of very few white leaders, including clergy, willing to give their lives to end 400 years of white oppression of Americans of color:

Those who claim that Pfleger preaches hate don’t know a damn thing about what hate really is. If they want to see hate, they only need to look at what their parents, grandparents and great grandparents have done to African Americans since our country was founded. The idea that fighting historical oppression is equivalent to maintaining oppression (i.e. Sean Hannity is the same as Jeremiah Wright) is not only silly, but it is quite revealing of how little racial education an individual has. A daughter who files a lawsuit against the family of the man who raped her mother and stole her belongings is not a thief and rapist herself. As Father Pfleger points out clearly, this government has benefitted from stealing from our ancestors, that is why black people have nothing: we don’t own media, we don’t own corporations, we don’t own universities. That didn’t happen overnight. It happened because of racism, and we are forced to deal with these effects every single day.

Yet the parrots in the mass media all in one chorus chant that clergy like Wright and Pfleger are evil, wild, hateful, or irrational. Yet somehow they do not chant that chorus about the 400-year-old racist system that has destroyed, and is still destroying, tens of millions of African American lives with the ugly white-controlled racist barriers of slavery (246 years and still no apology or reparations), legal segregation (90 years and still no apology or reparations), and decades of informal racial discrimination (39 years and still no apology or reparations). Why do you suppose that is?


  1. Joe Author

    Thanks, Mordy. I may do a blog post on that. Clearly, Clinton has been the victim of much sexism, most of it in the mass media and certain blogs. To feature that and research on it is a very good idea.

    Yet, in that oped, Ferraro seems to think racism is no big deal. Or at least not as serious as sexism. She writes there, in several places, as though “women” = “white women,” ignoring the great majority of Black women and some other women of color who have voted for Obama and oppose Clinton. And she seems to think that working class (“Reagan Democrats”) are the only working class Democrats to be considered on matters of class/economic pain.

    Yet, the majority of working class Democrats, interestingly, are NOT white.

  2. Mordy

    I look forward to your post. It seems that her piece could spawn multiple posts.

    Among many, one point that particularly unsettles me is her claim that Reagan Democrats (i think that is to whom she is directing this thought to) are for some reason absolutely unable to identify with an ivy league educated politician who is married to an ivy league educated spouse. Were this passage read void of context, she could accurately have been referring to Hillary Clinton. Thus, she must be implicitly referring to another quality these democrats just can’t identify with. Gee, i wonder what that quality that might be?

  3. Seattle in Texas

    I find such double standards difficult to stomach. Children and students throughout the nation say “Liberty and Justice for All” verbatim in the Pledge of Allegiance on a daily basis throughout the school year and in year round schooling system in most schools. It is said at sporting events, and other places by people of all ages. Okay, so an aspect of civil religion, of which the most extreme I have seen was in Texas where the students even pledged to the State flag, which I understand was removed over this last school year. We are supposed love this nation and internalize and cherish the pledge—if not, after all, we are traitors.

    Then we have religious figures that preach and teach about the Bible. So, this nation on one hand is a “Christian” nation when it is white supremacy theology that discussions operate through. So, of course we wish to have and uphold a separation of church and state for very good reasons. But what these folks do is bring their highly distorted and bigoted religious beliefs and principles into public and even incorporate them into public policy and politics—they bring their religion unwanted and unethically into the public realm in various ways. So on the other hand, Black theology use their teachings and interpretations to show how Biblical passages/interpretations, etc. are compatible with civil religious principles (even though civil religious principles are supposed to be entirely free of religion and especially theological monopoly) and by and large do keep their practices and beliefs private within their own churches, then when engaging in the public sector or politics, happen to do the best jobs of keeping the church and state separated (yet are villainized for embracing and maintaining the at least ideological principles this nation was founded upon…).

    So, Senator Obama is a product of Dr. Wright’s most fabulous church and theological teachings. Obama’s major themes have been about correcting corruption and oppression, unity, etc. which all operate out of the “Liberty and Justice for All” framework—while correctly keeping the church and state separate…until the media and others wished to bring in his private religious life, which has no place in the public political arena. Now, he and his family, the church, members, etc. have undergone an incredible psychological church burning. These folks did not ask for any publicity. I have never heard of a presidential candidate who had to sever his own private religious home from his personal life. So, like many, he was guilty until proven innocent. He is Christian…but not the right type?

    Many in this nation do not REALLY want Liberty and Justice for all, after all that would mean their children could equally end up in prison, never make it to college, etc. They just want everybody to pretend as though such is the reality. Though, it is interesting how the white (supremacist…there are perhaps a handful that are not) churches and conservatives somehow get away with bypassing this framework—perhaps it is because the fundamental meanings of the framework if ever really transcended into reality, could threaten their very own theological foundation and existence (ohhh, so much untaxed money would be lost). For many, unlike Black theology most generally, they necessarily have to keep their religious beliefs and ideological civil principles of the founding fathers separate because they are necessarily incompatible. The ideological principles set forth by the founding fathers, as far as I know, are compatible with the best aspects and translations of most any and all religions…. So, when religious teachings in this nation are incompatible with them, perhaps it might be safe to say there is something incredibly wrong with teachings and faith…and most definitely Black theology and churches are not among them in any way, shape, or form.

    Hmmmm. I liked the discussion above, however, must keep my thoughts to myself…sometimes silence speaks louder than words. But would be interested in reading about it and read some dialogues on it. Who knows, maybe “BARB” might make a comeback.

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