I’ve been rather dismayed by the whole business with Jeremiah Wright. Leaving aside his rather strange personal attacks on Barack Obama, he does seem to be sparking some conversations about race that the candidate has said the country ought to be having. He is also making clear in his person and his pronouncements how complicated that conversation really is. I still prefer Hillary and still do not understand why the two campaigns aren’t trying to have a conversation about some kind of joint approach to the country. I suppose it is because they both really believe that they would be the best President. I’m concerned that it will be hard to broker a unified front at the convention and that one or other of them will go away without a clear role moving forward, but suspect that is what will happen to the detriment of the party and the risk that we will be led by someone who wants to keep this war in Iraq going indefinitely. I rather wish that Obama had responded to the reality that a conversation about race is complex and is underway now rather than simply playing into the hands of the pundits, publicly breaking relationship with his pastor (while talking about unifying the country), and failing to comment on the reality that on any given Sunday what Wright says can be heard in most if not all pulpits of black churches led by pastors of Wright’s generation.
I’m heading to a board meeting of Visions-Inc today and continue to find the model developed by Valerie Batts to be a useful lens for looking at what is going on in the political arena as well as a way of talking about ‘otherness’ in ways that are personally transforming for anyone who chooses to engage the conversation. You can find her theory in an article called “Is Reconciliation Possible?” published on the visions website here: http://www.visions-inc.org/articles.htm She looks at some ways in which modern ‘isms’ (racism, sexism, ageism etc) are made manifest and how those manifestations are mirrored to some degree as ‘internalized oppression’. She explores four levels of conversation (personal, interpersonal, institutional and cultural) and points out how often conversations are over before they have begun because one party is talking institutionally and the other personally , for example.
We talked about this in GIFT last Wednesday. Our staff has done some sustained work with this model and our new Senior Warden, Tom Cox joined us on one of our retreats. If any of you are interested in doing some work using this model, send me an email (or post a comment) and I’ll see if we cannot become the site for in introductory four day workshop at All Saints’.