One of the great joys from having been out of the country the past week is that I haven’t been subjected to the suffocating din of the 24/7-cable news cycle. No ‘Breaking News’ alerts have disturbed me over the course of the holidays until I happened to hear that there was a brewing race scandal in America regarding the House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA).
Naturally, my interest got the better of me and I discovered that some 12 years ago, Scalise spoke before the European-American Unity and Rights Organization run by renowned racist David Duke (R-LA). I do not know the Whip personally but he has a solid reputation within the House Republican Caucus for his integrity, intelligence and wisdom. If Scalise says that he had no idea he was speaking before a group of white supremacists, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
In fairness, my alarm bells would have been ringing off the hook if I received an invitation to speak before an organization run by Duke. Again, Scalise has expressed his regret for a “mistake” and that he had no idea of the group’s leadership. For his part, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has expressed his “full confidence” in Representative Scalise. I’ve known the Speaker of the House for nearly 25 years and he has a zero tolerance for racism and bigotry. If Boehner has looked into the incident and said that his colleague made a mistake more than a decade prior, I will certainly show deference to someone who knows and works with Scalise personally.
What has struck me about the American media coverage I’ve been able to catch is that many are eager to paint the GOP as racist with a broad brush without any measure of perspective or introspection. Scalise offered his contrition that he had made a mistake and apologized for appearing before a group some 12 years ago. And yet The Washington Post’s Dan Balz was quite eager to remind his readers that: “The Scalise episode…is more than a case of one politician and one event. It is also a reminder of the complexities of race and politics in the Old and New South as that region has made a long transition from one-party Democratic rule a generation ago to today’s one-party Republican dominance.”
As I reflected upon Balz’s words, I couldn’t help but remember another politician embroiled in his association with someone with not only with a racist past but one who continued to preach racism from the pews to the present day. A politician who attended the congregation at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago for some 20 years, a man who referred to his Pastor as his second father—a Pastor who officiated his wedding and baptized his children.
Yes, I’m referring to the association between Barack Obama and his since disavowed Pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. What I find ironic is that Scalise is being excoriated for one speech before one group in which the gentleman in question professed no knowledge of white supremacist ties—while the current occupant of the Oval Office had to have known about the racist invective Pastor Wright issued from his pulpit each Sunday.
Have you ever heard of the “Black Value System” adopted by the Trinity Church in 1981, some seven years before President Obama joined their congregation? Chances are you haven’t, as I hadn’t either. Scrolling through this hate-filled manifesto for the first time made the hairs on my arm tingle with discomfort. There is reference after reference to the “black community,” “black worth ethic,” and adherence to the “black value system.”
Can you imagine the outrage if Representative Scalise had spoken before a group in Louisiana whose attendees vowed fealty to a “white value system?” Calls for his resignation and an investigation from the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice would have been swift and immediately forthcoming.
Again, I do not know House Majority Whip Scalise or President Obama personally. What I do know is that for the media to dismiss our President’s 20-year association with a racist pastor, while expressing moral outrage over one speech given 12 years ago before a group Scalise claims he knew little about, reeks of rank hypocrisy by a Pretorian Guard interested in protecting Obama at all costs while tearing down Scalise for what appears to be an honest and genuine mistake. How far the media have fallen.