[Quoting Melissa Harris-Lacewell.] “One of the things fascinating to me watching these responses to Jeremiah Wright is that white Americans find his beliefs so fringe or so extreme. When if you
Since I am almost precisely the color negative of Matt — a straight white man with a black wife who lives in a majority-black neighborhood in Philadelphia, and migrated from the midwest to the Ivy League, I am surprisingly in much the same position. (It’s like shooting the moon, and coming around the other end.) I guess my only doubt is whether the naivete is genuine.
I can’t think of anything in Rev Wright’s speech, including the more outlandish conspiracy theories, that I haven’t heard many, many times before. And it’s hard for me to believe that white folks are totally unfamiliar with these beliefs either. There’s a joke in the pilot of 30 Rock about the CIA injecting AIDS into Chicken Nuggets. If it’s on must-see-TV, it can’t come totally out of the blue.
It’s possible that the bigger surprise is the incongruity with Rev Wright in those moments with the Barack Obama that people believed they knew (or mistrusted in the first place). “Him? Really?” It’s almost as though people found out one of their favorite coworkers — let’s say Matt — made jokes at their expense in private. Either you feel betrayed or confirmed in your worst suspicions.
Add that to Geraldine Ferraro (“you know, he’s only getting the promotion because he’s black”) and you have a familiar and unfriendly picture — a snapshot of the story that many, many blue-collar (and not-so-blue-collar) whites tell themselves when they are in private. Which may be the whole point.
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