In a recent interview with conservative media commentator Joe Scarborough, former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee defended Barack Obama’s historic speech and the way Obama has handled the furor over his former pastor Jeremiah Wright’s recent statements. Even more surprisingly, Huckabee defended Wright himself (though, to borrow a phrase from Hillary Clinton, Huckabee made sure to “reject and denounce” Wright’s statements).
Huckabee stated that pastors frequently speak extemporaneously, and that this can often result in words said in the heat of the moment that the speaker may later wish he’d said differently:
Sermons, after all, are rarely written word-for-word by pastors like Rev. Wright, who are delivering them extemporaneously, and caught up in the emotion of the moment. There are things that sometimes get said, that if you put them on paper and looked at them in print, you’d say, ‘Well, I didn’t mean to say it quite like that.’
Huckabee also provides a rather thoughtful critique of those who would rush to rebuke Reverend Wright and minimize the impact that historic, systemic racism and discrimination have on present day experiences:
“And one other thing I think we’ve got to remember: As easy as it is for those of us who are white to look back and say, “That’s a terrible statement,” I grew up in a very segregated South, and I think that you have to cut some slack. And I’m going to be probably the only conservative in America who’s going to say something like this, but I’m just telling you: We’ve got to cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told, “You have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie. You have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant. And you can’t sit out there with everyone else. There’s a separate waiting room in the doctor’s office. Here’s where you sit on the bus.” And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment. And you have to just say, I probably would too. I probably would too. In fact, I may have had a more, more of a chip on my shoulder had it been me.”
Though I don’t remember Huckabee ever discussing the ongoing impact of racism during his time on the campaign trail, here he seems to demonstrate an understanding of how the history of racism and discrimination in the US has an ongoing impact on contemporary race relations. He also appears to show some understanding of what cultural critic bell hooks has described as “black rage” that is “non-pathological” and an “important response to injustice”. These are points that many of his conservative colleagues seem to want to ignore or downplay, and insights that have yet to be understood by those in the mainstream media who jumped to castigate Wright and refused to put his comments in context.