When Reverend Wright spoke about “them Jews” who are keeping him away from speaking to President Obama, he waded into dangerous territory. With those words, he waded into the territory where people go when they want to say something ignorant or offensive about certain groups of people.
We’ve all heard them before, talking about ‘them blacks’ or ‘them Jews’ or perhaps ‘them gays’ and we all know that what comes out of their mouths after that phrase isn’t likely to be flattering.
Reverend Wright believes that his no longer having access to the president, with whom he previously shared a close relationship, is down to a Jewish conspiracy linked to “ethnic cleansing…in Gaza” and “ethnic cleansing (by) the Zionist…”. He tenuously connects a number of different issues – many of them worthy of discussion when addressed on their own individual merits – conflates them and comes up with a conspiracy theory.
This week, James von Brunn shot dead a security guard – a black man – at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. Based on reports of what had been written on von Brunn’s website, he also had his own beliefs and theories about ‘them Jews’ or ‘them negroes’ as he called black people.
Von Brunn believed that president Obama planned to fill the White House with black people and turn America ‘brown’. He also believed that there was a Jewish conspiracy to destroy the West. He too had his own body of evidence, made up of many unconnected issues and topics, which appeared to support his wild claims.
James Von Brunn is an extreme, anti-Semitic, racist. Jeremiah Wright is a pastor, somebody responsible for teaching and embodying principles such as loving one’s neighbor as ourselves. So, why do their Von Brunn’s and Wright’s words sound eerily similar?
In the past I have defended Wright – who is a brilliant man – from the soundbites that the media have taken out of context and run with. However, although Reverend Wright cannot be said to be on a par with von Brunn, there is something dangerous about the comments that he expressed this week.
Every time Reverend Wright and others open their mouths and make stereotypical generalizations about people of other cultures and races, it seems to legitimize the views of people like James von Brunn. When a well-educated man – a pastor – like Reverend Wright starts talking publicly about Jewish conspiracy theories, why shouldn’t the crazies out there say the same?
The willingness to ascribe conspiratorial motives to entire groups of people is at the heart of every ‘ism’ that afflicts our society today, and black people have been at the receiving end of it for eons, as Reverend Wright knows all too well.
Wright being black does not give him carte blanche to say whatever he wants about whomever he wants and as someone with influence and platform, he has a duty and responsibility to choose his words carefully. The same goes for anyone in his position, including conservative leaning figures who also tend to buy and feed into conspiracy theories.
If Reverend Wright wants to address the issue of Zionism or the situation in Gaza he should do that, but those issues are very different from a Jewish conspiracy keeping him away from president Obama.
The most ironic thing about Reverend Wright’s words? Jesus was a Jew.