19 March 2008

Parallels and Double Standards

I confess I read Obama’s speech on reverend Wright very carefully, word by word, thesaurus in hand, twice. And as far as speeches go, that was an impressive and well written speech.

Basically, what I got from it was that blacks in this country have had an existential experience that justifies a righteous rage for their homeland. A white person who has never been subjected to racism cannot possibly understand what its like to suffer the oppression and humiliation of racism. African Americans have earned their right to be militant, belligerent and angry because they have been historically victimized. So we have to understand when people like the Rev. Wright go on anti-American tirades.

…Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

…This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What's remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them…

Fair enough.

But, like most things do, this made me think of Cuba.

And I can identify with this unique phenomenological cultural experience.

It’s interesting to me that Cuban exiles have also experienced a reality that is unique to us in that our own country victimized us and disowned us, not because of race or gender, but because of a different vision of what the social contract between the state and the individual should be. Because of ideas. Because of Orwellian thought crimes.

And yet, when we express our anger and our militancy against communism and human rights abuses, we are dismissed and discounted as hysterics and kooks. When we refuse to back down from the principles and values that we know are right – those principles that we so famously put forth to forge a “ more perfect union” as the eloquent Senator from Illinois reminded us yesterday, all those years ago in Philadelphia- we are called intransigent in the best case and rabid dogs in a worse case.

Even when the media needs to consult a Cuban expert, they usually, flock to the Latells and the Peters and The Sweigs of the world rather than the Valladareses and the Montaners of the world. After all, what do they know about Cuba? They have only experienced the evil and oppression of the Castro regime in the flesh so what would they know?

Imagine if they had asked Bill Clinton, that good ‘ol boy from Arkansas and “America’s first Black President” to give his expert opinion on reverend Wright’s comments and the black experience in African-American churches.

Imagine if a bunch of right wing pro American types went to protest in front of Rev. Wrights church the same way that a left wing anti American type group-Code Pink- came to protest against Castro’s victims in la calle ocho.

Of course you can’t - there’s a double standard.

No comments: