Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Scarcity of Information

I've had a lot of discussions about the black church in recent weeks.

Thanks to the hoopla surrounding Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama, race and religion have been frequent topics of converstaion with my family and friends. I've also watched way too many television personalities try to provide astute analysis.

The experience has left me with one dominant thought; there are too few black voices providing good information on television.

A few years ago I would have just said there were too few black voices on television, period. Thankfully, the complaints of minority viewers have been heard, and every cable news station has scooped up a few token black people to provide political commentary and analysis. Asians and Latinos are still excluded, but at least one minority group has a seat at the table.

However, Obama's political campaign has proven that the voices allowed to break through on mainstream television do not come close to representing the whole spectrum of black thought. Look, I think cats like Roland Martin and Eugene Robinson do a great job of providing opinions from a black perspective, but their burden is too heavy. Not only do they have to stretch themselves to be interesting and informative, they also have to counteract the rampant coonery of people like Juan Williams, Larry Elder and whoever else Fox News trots out.

More importantly, it's ridiculous to expect every black person to be an expert on every "black" topic. This latest foolishness about Pastor Wright has only proven how far black analysts have had to stretch.

As I watched television these past few weeks, I grew increasingly tired of listening to people parrot the meme that Pastor Wright's comments were just something you find in the black church. Every time I heard somebody make that point I wanted to smack them in face and remind them that every black church is not the same.

Black churches, like black people, come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Little storefront churches, massive mega-churches, historical churches, mission-based churches, new school, old school and everything else on the religious spectrum can be found in the black community. I've been to black churches where they never mentioned politics and the sermons were always from familiar biblical passages. I've been to other churches where the preacher's exegesis included the Greek roots of words and was liberaled sprinkled with historical and political nuggets.

Some black churches have flourishing community ministries that are often on the cutting edge when it comes to serving the whole Christian. Other churches strictly have Sunday School and BTU, and anything else is sacrilegious. Do people even realize that there are still many rural black churches that share a pastor and can only have church service a couple Sundays out of the month?

Not only was I disappointed to see so many black analysts rejecting many of Wright's statements outright, I was angry that those individuals who tried to defend his comments used so many stereotypes about our community. I understand that television does not provide a lot of time to break down topics, but it seemed like many of these people weren't even trying to move away from the accepted discussion points.

That's the challenge for black people allowed to attain positions of influence or power. And I purposely used the word "allowed" because it's still the reality of our world that qualifications alone do not provide black people with opportunities.

Prominent black folks have to validate certain accepted "truths" to avoid being marginalized and denied their platform. However, those accepted "truths" always reflect the mainstream, or white, perspective, and severely limit the productivity of any discussion. It's much more difficult to point out the evil that has been done in America's name across the world when your first comment always has to be that America is a great country.

In my short time blogging, and much longer time reading blogs, I've run across some incredibly intelligent and insightful people. And trust me, given the very high opinion I have of my own intelligence, it means something when I compliment other people. These individuals are writing blog posts and making comments every day that prove they have a great grasp on the political and racial realities in this country. But, their insights typically are confined to like-minded readers on the web.

Straight up, that sucks.

The web is cool. It's really cool. But, as my brother pointed out to me, comparing the number of people reached on the web to the people reached by television is like comparing Justin Timberlake to Prince. Even Gov. Paterson could see it just doesn't add up.

Individuals who would never check out The Field Negro, Too Sense, Jack and Jill Politics or even my blog, watch television incessantly. And the opinions that are dominating television are also dominating radio and the print media. There is a serious problem in this country when it comes to mainstream information options.

In a world where a huge variety of people are finding their voices, the entities that can scream the loudest are all saying the same thing.

10 comments:

BigMik said...

Big Man,

The black church is not taking this crap lightly. My church in Seattle, Mt Zion Baptist Church is lead by the legendary civil rights leader in the Seattle area Rev. Berry McKinney, this man was MLK's man in Seattle and he went to school with King.

On Easter Sunday he was pissed and threw down the gauntlet on the fools that have been "crucifying" his friend and brother Rev. Wright (Wright officiated his daughter's wedding).

I must tell you it was more white folk in the pews than I have ever seen. That made me wonder, looks like the media wanted to hear what this highly regarded community leader was going to say.

He said the people attacking Wright are the same people who are flying American Flags now, but were just flying their confederate flags just a while ago. He also said this is attack against the black church by people who don't know the black church and don't care about it.

He went off and I love him for it. He has always preached for black liberation and he said he would stop. He said a prophet is never politically correct.

Keep your head up a change is coming!!!

OBAMA 08

BigMik said...

Big Man,

The black church is not taking this crap lightly. My church in Seattle, Mt Zion Baptist Church is lead by the legendary civil rights leader in the Seattle area Rev. Berry McKinney, this man was MLK's man in Seattle and he went to school with King.

On Easter Sunday he was pissed and threw down the gauntlet on the fools that have been "crucifying" his friend and brother Rev. Wright (Wright officiated his daughter's wedding).

I must tell you it was more white folk in the pews than I have ever seen. That made me wonder, looks like the media wanted to hear what this highly regarded community leader was going to say.

He said the people attacking Wright are the same people who are flying American Flags now, but were just flying their confederate flags just a while ago. He also said this is attack against the black church by people who don't know the black church and don't care about it.

He went off and I love him for it. He has always preached for black liberation and he said he would stop. He said a prophet is never politically correct.

Keep your head up a change is coming!!!

OBAMA 08

WNG said...

Papa G always ranted baout how our church, the oldest AME church in SC wasn't political enough. Rev Wright was much more his type of preacher, although we were always loyal to our church no matter what. I've been watching and reading some of the rest ov the Revs sermons and I think that not only is the MSM missing the range of issues concerning the Black church they are missing the variety of issues concerning this one man.
I'm not sure what we can do about this( Op Eds, emails to the networks,inviting white friends to church?) but I'm not taking my focus off of the upcoming contest in NC, where HRC will be trying to capitalize on any type of PA win. I won't let them torpedo this campaign and smear the church without putting up a fight.

Karl said...

Just read your blog first time. Was a little disturbed to find that you did not go far enough in your 'Raving'. You seem to think bigotry exists only in white minds.
Sorry, friend, it exists everywhere. It just gets carried to extremes in different ways. Sometimes slavery, sometimes economic discrimination, sometimes political power, sometimes homo-stuff, sometimes whatever.
Our temptation is to see only the BS that hits ourselves. Raving against this does not go far enough, and it blocks our voice from being heard by people who are on the receiving end of the crap in some other area.
I have been fired from my job because I was the wrong race. I have been blocked from getting at least one job because of my race. I am as angry as you are.
I love the Black Church. I taught Sunday School at Central United Methodist in Atlanta. I have spoken in several Black Churches. I have worshipped in many Black Churches.
Yet I am angry. I am not angry at Rev Wright. I support him, for I understand his words as being both condemnation and prayer about the bigotry situation in America. I have heard this from many pulpits in the country, both Black, White, Asian, Native, Latino, whatever. I know that, had Brother Wright said "condemn" instead of "damn", the Puritan undercurrent of the nation would still be asleep.
One statement you make that speaks a majestic truth. "In a world where a huge variety of people are finding their voices, the entities that can scream the loudest are all saying the same thing."
Let us understand that our target finally is not just the bigotry that impacts ourselves, but any bigotry anywhere. We have to learn that our own anger is copied in every soul that feels the sting. No community on earth has ever fully comprehended that source of hurt.

Big Man said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Big Man said...

Karl

Thanks for checking out the blog. I don't think I implied that only white people can be bigots. That would be ludricrous.

What I did say is that the mainstream media is dominated by a white perspective. It only allows dissenting views to stray so far from the pre-approved script.

I wasn't "raving" so much about the existence of bigotry in different communities, but rather about our unwillingness as a country to listen to viewpoints that differ wildly from our own. Not only that, our media encourages this state of events.

I have no problem standing against bigotry involving other groups, I've spoken out to family and church members about it in the past. But, I think the real issue is that far too few people in this country have their viewpoints challenged by the media on a regular basis, and many of them are unwilling to challenge those viewpoints on their own.

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

with everybiody still talking about this, i wonder what we should be talking about and what we missing

dewfish said...

great post. I agree that it is impossible to have an open, honest discussion about what is wrong when you aren't allowed at the table to speak unless you agree that "everything's fine".

T.A.N. Man said...

On the topic of the absence of a varied perspective in today's media, The Dallas Morning News ran a story yesterday about a Black Student/Faculty group at the Texas Christian University's Divinty School which is honoring Rev. Wright at its "State of the Black Church" Program this weekend. The story included the university's recent objection to the event and the fact that the event has been booted off the campus.

What I learned at church on Sunday was that our pastor (Freddie Haynes) has opened the doors of the church to the lecture portion of the event. And, he has encouraged the president of Paul Quinn College, an HBCU here in Dallas, to hold the reception for the event at his school on Friday night.

It did not surprise me that he would open to church to Wright, as Wright preaches the pastoral anniversary message at our church each year. Nor was I shocked to here that President Sorrels offered his school for the event. But, I found it very interesting that the the newspaper would make no mention of the new location for the event. A random reader of the paper would assume that the event has be thwarted and Rev. Wright has no support in the black religious community in Dallas. I suppose these happenings could have taken place after the story was printed; but if so, I wonder if it will be updated given that the Dallas Morning News is the only major newspaper in the metroplex.

Big Man said...

T.A.N. man

What would really be interesting would be finding out if any other controversial speakers have been allowed to speak at the divinity school. I'm surprised the paper or the students who were villified didn't find something on that.

It's truly said what mainstream America has done to Pastor Wright.

Raving Black Lunatic