We who live in this corner of the western Chicagoland suburbs tend to be fairly affluent and fairly white. There are plenty of exceptions (as my wife, who works with the working poor, could point out), but by in large we exist within a privileged white culture. One of the implications of this reality is that when a story that involves race surfaces we often pay it little mind.
The most current example of this possible tendency involves the story of Barack Obama’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, and some of the controversial things he’s said in some of his sermons. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, the BBC has a good recap. This story has massive political implications but it also matters deeply to many African Americans, particularly those who are committed to the black church. While I could be wrong, my guess is that many of us in white suburbia remain largely unaware of the story and why it is so important to many Americans.
From personal observation- and this is huge generalization- it seems one of the reasons we don’t notice these types of stories is the tendency among our (white suburban) tribe to get our news and opinions from very similar sources. And, if I can be blunt, those sources often tend to be quite “conservative” and geared to white suburbanites. Think Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, The Wall Street Journal, or even many Christian radio stations. To be crystal clear, I’m not advocating that we should only get our news from more “liberal” sources. Not at all. The point is simply that we cannot expect to understand the perspective of those whose cultures and backgrounds are different than our own unless we intentionally listen well. And with humility… but that’s for another day.
After the initial hoopla over the Reverend Wright’s comments, two men I respect, both Christian and African American, wrote very insightful responses. If you have a few minutes would you read Edward Gilbreath (formerly of Christianity Today) and Professor Jonathan L. Walton?
As an aside, today Barack Obama* delivered an incredibly significant speech about race in America. I have a sense this may be the type of speech that people will refer to years from now. If you’ve not seen it, gather up the friends and family and take a look.
*No this isn’t an endorsement of Obama’s campaign. I’m currently wrestling with whether or not I can vote for anyone in good conscience… but that’s also for another day.