Does Joseph Lowery hate white people?

The major racial and ethnic communities in American life don’t talk much.  The dialogue vacuum makes it easy to assume that a generic or default American sensibility exists.  You notice the great gulf fixed between black and white America when a morally ambiguous story like Jena emerges.  Its a Rorschach test–you see what you want to see.  And white people and black people don’t see the same thing.

The Rev. Joseph Lowery’s benediction at President Obama’s inaugural ceremony offers another example of this phenomenon.

White people are outraged.  Garments are being rent in twain.  Lowery is being denounced as a racist and a race baiter.

Here’s the offending statement:

“… help us work for that day when black will not be asked to give back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right.”

White people take pride in the fact that America has elected a black president.  Doesn’t this suggest that we have quit our lowdown ways?  Aren’t we already embracing the right?  Isn’t there some kind of statute of limitations on black outrage?

The Rev. Gerald Britt helps place the issue in historical context.  As is often the case, the comments section is almost as enlightening as Rev. Britt’s post.

12 thoughts on “Does Joseph Lowery hate white people?

  1. I’m sorry Rev. Lowrey’s remarks are being ill received by some. I heard his rhyming benediction, and thought it rather clever. And gave it no more thought. Perhaps he could have qualified the last phrase somewhat so that it was not a blanket indictment of white folks. But when preachers qualify, they lose their punch. The prophet Amos said, “Four three sins of Israel, and for four . . .” Now Amos might have said, “Some of the Israelites are doing thus and thus.” But he said it like it should have been said. So did Reverend Lowery. So did Reverend Wright.

  2. As a white male, who lived through the civil rights movement, I think the racial references from Lowery and everybody on the program at the inauguration were muted. If the shoe fits, wear it. Some whites still harbor enormous subconcious racism, and Lowery just used a humorous and innocuous rhyme to point out the the transition to a color-blind society is not complete. JCB.

  3. Some white people are pissed off about this. Some of us thought it was awesome. 😀 (I don’t see why “white will embrace what’s right” is an insult, either, for that matter.) It seemed like the perfect way to end the speech–unexpectedly funny because you aren’t looking for something in the vernacular at such a high event, and yet spoke about something true. I thought at the time that Rev. Lowery was about the only person who could have gotten away with it (and I’m glad he did) but I guess there are some people still willing to fault him.

    A blogger–can’t remember the name–pointed out that if you’ve been listening to the speech, if you read the context, and if you heard his tone of voice while he was saying it, there’s NO WAY you can see any kind of hate coming from him in that verse. Basically, you have to be looking for it (ie, be working from an unrealized racist base).

    God bless you, Rev. Lowery.

  4. It seems pretty simple to me what the man was saying. He implied that the white man is putting all the others down. I have had the misfortune of serving around the world for decades and can assure you that our Great Nation is fairer to ALL people than any other I have lived in. This statement IS what it IS.

    Forgive me for not rereading the last post of President’s Obama’s statement, but I beleive he alluded to the fact that the MAJORITY of the black American’s problems derive by the fact that half the murders in this country are by blacks against fellow blacks. Another is the extremely high rate of unwed/single mothers. The single mother situation is the largest factor in whether a child will grow up in poverty or not. With the rapid rise of white single mothers the poverty rate is exploding among whites also. The last figures I’ve read is that there are 4 times as many poor white kids living in trashy trailer courts than their are poor kids in the Getto. NO ONE benifits by this!

    This devisiveness that separates people into groups that is propagated by the Democrats will most likely explode once the economy finally collapses, an event that is not too far in the future.

    As the President has said, we must ALL work together to make this a better country!

    PS: I will not comment on the fairness of the justice system in the Jena 6 since I don’t folow it closely. I will say I see 6 people of one race, one a star FOOTBALL player, beating down ONE singe kid of another race. That is just plain WRONG!

  5. Mac: Thank you for providing us with a perfect illustration of the “color blind” perspective on racial reconciliation. Also, thank you for not commenting on Jena.

  6. Rev. Lowery’s “offending words” are a paraphrase of a saying that used to be very prevalent in the Black community as it dealt with overt segregation and discrimination each day: “If you’re white, you’re right; if you’re yellow, you’re mellow; if you’re brown, stick around; and if you’re black, get back.” (His words have been thoroughly mangled in the media, by the way).

    Methinks those who protest doth protesteth too much …. they are looking for and finding what isn’t there. One of the other sayings in Black culture is “May The Works I’ve Done Speak for Me” — Rev. Lowery’s works speak for him.
    Those who protesteh too much are in the same category of those people who believe that after Dr. King made his I Have a Dream speech, black and white got together and sat around holding hands, singing Kumbaya when, in reality, the violence escalated against Blacks. In Dr. King’s own words, less than a month after his making that speech his dream became a nightmare with the church bombing that killed four little girls.

    Dr. King’s speech became a part of America’s iconic speeches AFTER his death — when supporters dusted it off to convince Congress to establish a national holiday for him.

    It did not obliterate racism and, though we celebrate the progress that Obama’s election embodies, Rev. Lowery understands that we must be reminded that there is still work to do; that we still haven’t sat down to sing Kumbaya — and mean all that singing Kumbaya should mean.

    Those who protest also signify their lack of understanding and an appreciation for what Blacks have endured and how they have coped as they have trod the rugged road, hills and valleys toward full American citizenship.

    I invite you to read my San Antonio Express-News column this Monday… and maybe I can figure out a way to register comments on your blog

    Keep up the good work
    Kathy R. Clay-Little
    San Antonio

  7. I was at the Inauguration and I can tell you that the implication that Joseph Lowery’s words in closing his prayer constitute an indictment of whites or justify a suggestion that Joseph Lowery hates whites is completely absurd. Some 1.8 million people laughed and cheered in approval as his words reached their crescendo. I turned to my son and said at that point, Joseph Lowery is the best poet on the platform today! And when he concluded asking people to say, Amen, and Amen, and Amen, the thunderous response was certainly not an endorsement of racism. It was an affirmation that Joe Lowery had spoken for all of us.

    Thanks Alan for your superb work.
    John Cleek, Louisburg, KS

  8. Dear sir, I believe your “color blind” perspective is blinding you to reality. Some of the highest ethnic income groups in America are black people who immigrated from Africa and the Caribbean Islands. The average person I know who came from Mozambique, Belize, Kenya, Liberia, and the Islands are smarter and more motivated than the average American, that goes for any ethnic group. I am willing to bet that they ALL had a fraction of the money spent on their education as any American has had on their education.

    Victimhood propagates victimhood. In the majority of workplaces, people don’t care what color, religion, gender, whatever you are. They care if you PULL your share of the load. If you pull a little of theirs they’ll love ya. Employers also don’t care. They just want to make money off your arse regardless of WHO you are. Of course, Nepotism is different and that ALMOST always depends on REAL blood ties.

    As I stated above, to cure poverty we must actually teach people in schools, discourage single parenthood, and MUST have the BLACK Community fight against thuggish behavior which is overtaking the inner cities. Which, as a side note, have been almost universally Democratic run for the last 50 years. Peace Out!

  9. Mac,
    I’m afraid you misunderstood me. Your perspective is consistent with the color blind approach to race. We just don’t see color. We forget what was and move forward. This approach is ahistorical; it pretends the tragic racial history of our nation was just a bad dream with no abiding impact. Black people need to talk about history; white people, in general, want to move on. I argue that we need to address the legacy of racism together. Only then can we understand the present condition. You make some valid points. Of course the black community should address thuggish behavior–and it is. But that isn’t enough. There must be a reckoning with the past. White people need to own their own history and come to terms with its implications.

  10. My appologies, I did misunderstand you. However, the point I don’t think you understand is that the majority of white americans ancestors did not arrive in the US prior to slavery. They were the poorest of the poor who toiled in the mines and steel mills of the emerging industrial revolution. The Capitalist valued their life less than a slave owner cared for the slave. When a slave died, it was a significant financial loss. When a white coal miner or steel worker died at work, their was always more waiting at the gate for his job. No financial loss except the time to clean up the mess.

    In addition, the slim majority of white Americans who were here prior to the end of slavery fought for the abolishment of slavery. Even the majority of southeners who fought for the Confederacy owned no slaves and were practically economically enslaved by their white “ELITES”.

    Overall, few white Americans today economically benifited from the past practice of slavery in America. I have worked 38 years with two employers who have vigorously persued affirmative action the entire time of my employment. How much affirmative action is enough?

    I beleive it is time to judge people by their character rather than the color of their skin. Is it right for the California state coledge system to discrimainate against Asians, so that nonAsians minorites and whites will be represented at the desired GOAL %. It is time to judge people by their skill and talent.

    Therefore, let me ask you to research George Soros and the other mutiBillionairs who have been running this country by deviding us into subgroups. We ALL benifit or LOSE together. This New World Order crap that is getting shoved down our throats will turn America into a 3rd world country where we, the people, will have nothing and the rich Trans National Kapitalist Globalist will own all. Just look around the world and see how the people live. The poorest people in America live better than the majority of workers around the world. Of course that is changing as I write. This economic collpse has been purposefully generated for years. It is just comming to a head now. It has been designd to take the wealth of the middleclass so we will all be “workers”. Then all pigs will be equal, just the very few will be more equal than the rest! It’s bed time for me, Good Night.

  11. I thought about it as just a cute little rhyme that tells truth. I don’t see anything worth getting upset over. It is not harsh or demeaning. But it would probably get under the skin of someone overly sensitive.

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