Byrd’s Eye View

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ears to hear

The Thermal Belt Friendship Council will hold a discussion on race relations May 13, 7 p.m. at Roseland.

If, as advertised, this conversation is to discuss Barack Obama&squo;s vision of a &dquo;more perfect union,&dquo; we should be willing first to hear about an imperfect union.

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We can&squo;t claim to know the frustrations here, any more than in 1968 we knew why Washington was burning. Modern sensibilities confine such discussions to private parlors, and to &dquo;the most segregated hour,&dquo; Sunday mornings.

Yet if we are seeking understanding, these grievances must find the open air. Apparently, on the national scene, most of us are unwilling to hear such angst from black citizens, unless their speech is first cleansed of all anger and exaggeration.

In that view, our own native daughter, Nina Simone, despite all her accomplishments, is disqualified from honor because she voiced black anger ‐ after 2,400 lynchings and the bombing of a black church. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, much in the press this week, is also disqualified, because his most outrageous statements were aired in 30-second clips ‐ mere seconds picked from a 40-year career of ministry to the poor and sick. &dquo;Oh, now we understand him,&dquo; we have the audacity to say, &dquo;He&squo;s out.&dquo;

That is outrageous. You can hear stranger national conspiracy theories most any day in white coffee klatches around any town, or just by opening your email.

The truth is that African American sharecroppers were used as subjects at Tuskegee to observe the natural progression of syphilis without medicine. Can we be so outraged that Rev. Wright would dare to think this nation also let AIDS run its course?

Can we truly be more outraged about Rev. Wright&squo;s exaggerated fears than the realities that spawned them? We need to be willing to hear it all, so we can arrive at some truth, which, please God, can set us free. ‐ JB