Sunday, February 1, 2009

Embracing What is Right?

The Rev. Joseph Lowery gave his benediction, and afterward, much was made over one particular line he dropped:

"Lord... help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in 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."

This has generated a lot of controversy, little of it deserved. If you want to see a bit of the controversy for yourself, check out the thousands of comments on the benediction's Youtube video. Some white people have gone on the offensive, smearing Lowery's comments as racist; I wouldn't go that far, but I still was a bit disappointed to hear them. On January 20th, we inaugurated a black man as president, a man who reminded us of how his father would not have been served in DC restaurants 60 years ago. And white people certainly helped, voting for Obama more than any other democratic candidate since Carter. Can't we acknowledge that, at least some of the time, white has already embraced what is right?

Of course, some whites continue not to embrace what is right. And I think that the accusation that Lowery was wrong because he "played the race card" rings hollow. These "race card" accusations are a mistake because they stifle necessary dialogue. But generalizing whites as monochromatic oppressors is not the way forward. How about we recognize that white can be all right?

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