Do most white people treat black people as if they are inferior? The answer is an angry: Yes!
All (not most, but all) black people know that the above answer is true. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright is black, therefore he knows that the answer is true. The same holds for Obama. Wright has the courage to publicly proclaim this truth. Obama is a politician.
Let us try to examine (even briefly) if that answer is really true. And, let us start from not very far back in history. Also, let us not restrict our search only to the US.
The year is 1754. Equiano is an eleven-year-old black boy, and this is his impression as he saw white men for the first time while he was thrown aboard a slave ship for the passage to the New World: "[W]hite men with horrible looks, red faces, and long hair…looked and acted… in so savage a manner; for I had never seen among any people such instances of brutal cruelty…" When Equiano and his comrades-in-slavery reached the new world and were about to be sold, the impressions were the same: [Equiano and the others] "thought that we [would] be eaten by these ugly [white] men, as they appeared to us." The excerpts are from the excellent book "The Slave Ship" by Marcus Rediker [Viking, 2007, pages 108 and 122].
The eleven-year-old grew up to be a remarkable individual who, after slaving "in the Americas" and after gaining his freedom, wrote his biography in 1789. The dominant impression that one gets by reading Rediker’s work is that the white man saw the blacks as mere animals. For example: "Equiano and the others were taken ashore, to the ‘merchant’s yard’… a place where ‘we were all pent up like so many sheep in a fold, without regard to sex or age’…" [Rediker, p.123]. To realize the magnitude of evil on the part of the white man in his treatment of the blacks it suffices to "hear" the words of another eyewitness in the slave trade [a white one this time]: "I never saw a happier race of people than those in the kingdom of BENIN." [Rediker, p.144]. These happy people were taken by stealth and violence from their communities and treated like "sheep" by the "superior" whites.
So the black human is "transplanted" to the Christian paradise of the Americas, especially the Anglo-Saxon Christian paradise of the USA. But what is "paradise"?
To one of the "malefactors" that were being crucified with him, Jesus simply said: "Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise."(Luke 23:43,KJV)… The Ecclesiastes, a mysterious unknown individual even by biblical standards, definitely turns things upside down: "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, nor have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten." (Ecclesiastes 9:5, KJV)
However, a part of humanity tasted paradise, also known and as ‘heaven", even while on earth. "Black churches in the North had split off before the (American) Civil War from the white churches of which blacks had been members. Aside from the desire of Blacks to express themselves in their own form of worship, they had been segregated within the churches, being consigned to galleries or ‘nigger heavens’ " [Paul N. Siegel, 'The Meek and the Militant', Zed Books Ltd., 1986, p.117].
One could argue that this had been a rather trivial negative impact of the Christian religion on society. There has been much worse taking place for almost 2,000 years. The people in the "nigger heavens" would not be willing to agree.
In the prevailing Christiano-economic context, slaves in America, being human, and therefore rational, turned into "believers" and exploited at the utmost any chances offered by religion to survive. This was a form of resistance against the white man.
The years go by and we reach year 1968 of our Lord. We meet an 18-year-old black girl in Detroit who has been a looter in the 1967 riots in that city. She is interviewed by a white official:
Interviewer: "What is a Negro then if he’s not an American?"
Respondent (18-year-old black girl): " A Negro, he’s considered a slave to the white folks. But half of them know that they’re slaves and feel they can’t do nothing about it because they’re going along with it. But most of them they seem to get it in their heads now how the white folks treat them and how they’ve been treating them and how they’ve been slaves for the white folks."
The words of the girl are printed on page 76 of the "Report of The National Commission on Civil Disorders" of March 1,1968 (also known as the "Kerner Report"). The truth of the words of the black girl is known to Rev. Wright, to Obama, to Con-Dolcezza Rice (of the Bush family), to Clarence Thomas (of the Supreme Court), to Collin Powell (of Vietnam and of the Pentagon) and to other "prominent" black people. Hillary (and her spouse), McCain (or McNasty, according to his fellow students and the "CounterPunch"), Cheney (the "white" par excellence), Rumsfeld (the humble pentagonist), Bush the Second (the benevolent Christian) and the other "prominent" persons do not need to know. They are white.
Halandri, the part of Athens that I live in, is a nice place [even Euripides, the great tragic poet, lived here]. Nice, except for its sidewalks which are endowed with dangerous traps of all kinds on their surface. A few days ago, one of those traps "succeeded" to throw me on the pavement. The result was only a bruise on my leg. Fearing that there could be a clot, etc, I went to a neighboring hospital, which is the main orthopedic hospital of Athens. I was directed to the section designated as "Emergency Cases". There were about 40 people there, most of them with broken arms or legs. Most of them were Greeks, that is white. There were also two black men in their early twenties. There were about 15 seats in the corridor that served as a waiting room. It was 11 a.m. when I arrived at the corridor.
The two blacks were standing silently against the wall of the corridor. Nobody paid any attention to them and they did not venture to take a seat when one became available. I decided to talk to them. They were surprised and quite guarded. They said they were from Ghana. They had come to Greece to find a job. About four feet in front of us there was a young man on a stretcher with a broken leg. All around the stretcher there were four rather burly men in overalls with the logo of a paint company printed on them. They were legal immigrants. They were white, well fed, comfortable in the Greek environment and they spoke rather a Slavic language. Probably the young man had fallen off a scaffold as he was painting. I asked the blacks if they had a job. They said they did not. With my head I pointed to the group of the white immigrant workers and asked the blacks if they thought that they had jobs because they were white. They immediately agreed. The bitterness on their faces was quite evident.
Then I bluntly put to them the question that, for decades, I have been putting to black people that I happen to meet. The question: "Do most white people treat black people as if they are inferior?" The answer was an eager and sad "Yes!". Trying to cheer them up I asked them if Nkrumah [the name of their first President] meant "Fuck Rome". They laughed and agreed. By now they were not so guarded and the conversation was friendly.
It was one of them that had a knee injury, the other one was a supporting friend. After I and the black had our legs x-rayed [mine unnecessarily], we compared our X-rays. His kneecap was almost an inch lower than mine, which meant surgery. By now it was 4 p.m. We had been standing against the wall of the corridor for five hours. That was just tiresome for me with a simple bruise. He had an injured knee.
Now, imagine a black person in an intensely racist Greek society, broke, without a job, without a relative to support him, to undergo surgery in a foreign land. Fortunately, Greece has a National Health System, so his treatment will be free. But what awaits him? Why can not he live a normal life in Ghana?
[Note: most Greeks deny that they are racist. The reader is referred to my ZNet Commentary "Racism; The Greek Variety" of 07/02/01.]
So, Wright was courageous to publicly proclaim the truth that America is still racist. Also, it was important that he referred to the barbarity of the US in Iraq. However, it is a sad thing that he still has to "use" the protection of the Christian church to do this. Fred Hampton of the Black Panthers did not have that protection, but if there was a "nigger heaven" he would be there.
But, if "most" whites are racist where is humanity headed? The answer may be found in a very crucial word [and sometimes dangerous, if applied to 9/11]. The word is: "why"? Why are whites racist? Are they born as racists? If not, at what age do they become racists? What is the role of the family [especially the family], the school, the church, etc?
As in all social matters it is the minority of honest and active people that are called to fight for social justice, for resistance to aggressive wars, and for elimination of racism. This has been going on for centuries in human history.