Too hard on Reverend Wright

May 13, 2008

AFTER A week of racist media hysteria, it was refreshing to get to read Socialist Worker's defense of Jeremiah Wright ("Dumping Wright to Move to the Right" and "How Reverend Wright Was Wronged"). But at the same time, I think the editorial missed the mark in a couple places.

The editorial made a point of making clear to readers where SW's politics differ from that of Wright on certain issues. So SW notes that Wright is mistaken in arguing (as he did in a speech to the NAACP) that Black and white children learn using different parts of their brains. The real problem, SW correctly argues, is the "woeful under-funding of urban public education and de facto segregation of schools."

My guess is that Wright would probably agree that this is a problem. But more importantly, radical-minded people are not identifying with Jeremiah Wright right now because of his views on child development, or the "essentialism" and "identity politics" that SW criticizes. They're rallying behind Wright because the corporate media and political elite attacked him for his anti-imperialist and anti-racist views--and Wright actually stood up to them! His courage was a real shot in the arm for our side.

Readers of SW know that it's rightly not just a cheerleader for the left. But in this particular context, making a point of highlighting SW's disagreements with some of Wright's "essentialistic" views seems off point.

I think the editorial also misses the mark in accusing Wright of "glossing over [Louis] Farrakhan's anti-Semitic slurs." This didn't seem to be the crux of Wright's point about Farrakhan in his recent public statements.

More importantly, it seems SW's criticism of Wright is that he should have clearly condemned Farrakhan's views when asked about Farrakhan (Wright only went as far as saying they "don't agree on everything"). But given that the corporate media constantly and repeatedly demands of every Black minister, politician, activist, writer--you name it--that they "denounce Farrakhan," why would SW want to risk echoing this kind of stuff?
Stuart Easterling, Chicago

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