The "racism cause"


Today in my email, from a family member, I received this little gem:

"In Katrina I Didnt See Racism, I Saw Brotherhood"
by Rabbi Aryeh Spero
Posted Sep 7, 2005

In New Orleans, beginning Tuesday morning, August 30, I saw men in helicopters risking their lives to save stranded flood victims from rooftops The rescuers were White, the stranded Black. I saw Caucasians navigating their small, private boats in violent, swirling, toxic floodwaters to find fellow citizens trapped in their houses. Those they saved were Black.

I saw Brotherhood. New York Congressman Charlie Rangel saw Racism.

Yes, there are Two Americas. One is the real America, where virtually every White person I know sends money, food or clothes to those in need -- now and in other crises -- regardless of color. This America is colorblind.

The other is the America fantasized and manufactured by Charlie Rangel, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who constantly cry racism! even in situations where it does not exist, even when undeniable images illustrate love, compassion and concern. These three men, together with todays NAACP, want to continue the notion of Racist America. It is their Mantra, their calling card. Their power, money, and continued media appearances depend on it.

Often, people caught up in accusing others of sin neglect to undergo their own personal introspection. They begin to think they alone inhabit the moral high ground. It is high time these men peered into their own hearts at the dark chamber that causes this unceasing labeling of their fellow Americans as racist. They may find in that chamber their own racism -- against Whites.

There is only one real America. Beginning Friday morning in Houston, thousands of regular citizens poured into the Astrodome offering water, food, clean clothes, personal items, baby diapers and toys, love and even their homes to the evacuees who had been bused in from New Orleans. Most of the givers were White, most of those being helped were Black. But there was Jesse Jackson, busy on TV, accusing the country of not putting Blacks -- i.e., him -- on some type of Commission he is demanding. Where was he early in the week? Not sweating with others from around the country who had scraped their last dollar to come help. With Jesse, its always about Jesse.

After decades of hearing accusations from Jesse, Al, Charlie, the NAACP and certain elitists about how racist America is, it would have been refreshing to hear them for once give thanks to those they for years have been maligning. These self-anointed spokesmen for the Black community lead only when it comes to foisting guilt and condemnation, and not when it comes to acknowledging the good in those they have made a career in castigating.

As a Rabbi I have a message I wish to offer to my fellow members of the cloth, Reverends Jackson and Sharpton: It is time to do some soul searching. Your continued efforts to tear this country apart, even in light of the monumental goodness shown by your White brothers, is a sin.

There are no churches in the world like the American churches. And there are no better parishioners and members of churches anywhere in the world. These churches are saving the day. Their members -- infused by the special and singular teachings of our unique American Judeo-Christian understanding of the Bible -- are, at this moment, writing an historic chapter in giving, initiative, and selflessness. They are opening their homes to strangers. They are doing what government is incapable of doing.

America works because of its faith-based institutions. It always has. That is what makes it America.

So next time the ACLU tries to diminish and marginalize the churches, saying there is no role for religion in American public life, that an impenetrable wall must be erected separating the citizens from their faith, cry out Katrina.

Next time the ACLU goes to court asking that U.S. soldiers not be allowed to say Grace in the Mess Hall and that communities be forbidden from setting up a nativity scene, ask yourself: without the motivation of Goodness sourced in Faith, would people offer such sacrifice? Where else does this Brotherhood come from but the Bible which teaches Thou Shall Love Thy Neighbor as Yourself.

I saw brotherhood on Fox News, where 24/7 reporters used their perch as a clearing-house for search-and-rescue missions and communication between the stranded and those in position to save. In contrast, the Old-line networks continued with their usual foolish, brain-numbing programming. Those who always preach compassion chose profit over people.

The New York Times has utterly failed America. Its columnists could have used their talents and word skills to inspire and unite a nation. Columnists such as Frank Rich and Paul Krugman, however, revealed their true colors by evading their once-in-a-lifetime chance to help and instead chose to divide, condemn, and fuel the fires and poison the waters of Louisiana. In them, I saw no Brotherhood. The newspaper always preaching compassion verifies Shakespeares They protest too much.

Similar elitists here in the northeast and on the west coast have over the years expressed their view of the South as unsophisticated and Texans as cowboys. Well, the South has come through, especially Houston and other parts of Texas, whereas, as I write this on Labor Day, the limousine moralizers are lying on east and west coast beaches thinking theyre doing their part by reading Times editorials and calling George Bush racist. How sanctimonious life becomes when proving you are not a racist depends not on living in a truly integrated neighborhood, but by simply calling others racist.

Like so often in history, facts trump platitudes. Reality reigns. Those who always preach brotherhood, thus far have acted devoid of it. Those who for decades have been accused by elitists of not having compassion are the ones living it. They are: the churches, the military, and the sons and daughters of the South.

Rabbi Spero is a radio talk show host, a pulpit rabbi, and president of Caucus for America.

I wrote back and told the sender that I saw racism, so much racism it made me physically sick, and I'd prefer she stopped sending me these things. But what else? I mean, I can alienate my family members all I want, but people, otherwise good people, actually BELIEVE this shit! How can I convince them otherwise? Is it even worth it to try?


I think the fundamental problem in debating that kind of column is that its utility is to make the reader identify their own goodness in contrast to an enemy. To question the column is to challenge the goodness of the reader/agreer. You could always point out that the model of "peasant virtue" against "intellectual elitism" is a rhetorical model put to excellent and brutal use in the communist revolutions of Russia and China. Tell people they sound just like people getting ready to put Stalin or Mao in power...and then be starved, imprisoned and executed for the next 80 years. Or could you tell them that maybe you think Al Sharpton is an asshole?

Something I noticed about the article is that this guy's patting himself on the back for all the good things we white people have done AFTER Katrina, while failing to notice that the racism people are talking about occurred before the storm. How hard is it to swoop down and be a savior after utter disaster has set it? A better test of compassion would have been working to prevent the socioeconomic disparities that left people in the eye of the hurricane. A while back you posted a link to a blog entry about being poor. The one thing on that list that has stuck in my head was "Being poor is getting tired of people wanting you to be grateful." I guess this struck a chord with me because I'm one of those folks that does want people to be grateful for what I give. I used to consider it a basic courtesy--someone gives you something, you say thank you. The more you needed what you got, the louder you say thanks. I'd like to avoid making this sound like a 50's sitcom moral, but reading that post made me realize that it's unrealistic to demand gratefulness when I'm part of the reason that the recipient is in the position of begging in the first place. It was hard to remember this when, at 10pm one night last week, a guy came begging to our door because he needed to "buy the family some chicken". So we gave him some chicken, and he was mad because we didn't give him cash... I don't know how to pass this knowledge on to people who are insulated against racism and mass poverty. I don't know if you can. Maybe it's just as unrealistic to expect understanding from them as it is to expect gratefulness from a poor person. In both instances, they are the products of the society we've helped create.

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