Monday, November 26, 2007

A dialog:

Bill Moyers last Friday had a discussion with a Dr. James Cone, a black theologian, which centered around the historical acknowledgment of white racism and the poisoning implication it had for the black experience in this country. They talked about white denial of this country's racist history. I did not much care for the interviewee because I thought I was being yelled at and preached to. As PBS explains Dr. Crone's credentials: "Professor James H. Cone is the Charles A. Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary. Dr. Cone is an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He is the author of eleven books and over 150 articles and has lectured at more than 1,000 universities and community organizations throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean."

My comment and other responses -- some quite impassioned -- to my comment were as follows.

My comment on Billy Moyers Journal:

A preface: I will always love Bill Moyers.

I am riveted to most Bill Moyers interviews. Unfortunately, Dr. James Cone's interview did not inspire. I always want to give my honest assessment and hope you will indulge me my criticism. I loath being preached to and yelled at. Dr. Cone's loud diatribe lost me and at one point I turned the channel. I have the UTMOST empathy for the historical plight of the black man in this country. I must because I am a Jew. I know full well the impact of racism and its exclusion and what it does to a people and to a human psyche. My people were slaughtered for centuries, ghettoized and excluded often seemingly with no hope. Anti-Semitism exists en mass to this day. Jews had to come back from their near extinction and did so wherever they could through savvy intelligence, communicative abilities, education and hard work. While no two group's experience is the same, the similarities of racism, I believe, are profound.

Dr. Cone's sentiments, I thought, were cacophonous high decibel rants. While we should never forget man's inhumanity to anyone, Dr. Cone's utterings were a bit tiresome. I utterly agree with Bill Cosby. At some point one must take responsibility for one's own life. There are so many contributions blacks have made in every field. Yet, when one looks at many black ghettos one sees violence, drug addiction, crime, all manner of other illegalities and commonplace immoralities. Worse, one sees gangs which refuse to work with authority, commit murder and impose their own "justice" which means no justice at all. I see white's responsibility in part for this historically but I see present day behavior of some black people to be responsible today for their own deep malaise.

In our culture most people care about their own day-to-day lives. Sadly, this is not a very caring culture. As difficult a reality as that may be, one has to work within that as best one can to create a better life because no one else will do that for him. Reading, education, effective communicative techniques, I believe, are some of the road maps out of the quagmire of poverty, horrific murder and crime. No one is going to give one the desire to achieve that. One must have those values instilled fundamentally in the family unit and one must use those values to make a better life.

I thought Bill Moyers was a little cowed by Dr. Cone and perhaps afraid to disagree or argue points with him either on race or religion. I thought Dr. Cone was preaching loudly to me and, frankly, I'm tired of the sermon.

Some agreed and others vociferously did not.

One said:

Of course Mr Drake, you wouldn't see it. First of all, there was no rationale put forward by Dr Cone to justify the current state of the African-American comumunity - that was imagined by Ms Rosen. His message was about America in general and the symbol of the noose in particular and our tendency to sweep that essential fact of our collective being under the proverbial carpet. And therefore the fact that we can't really become a real nation until we have dealt with it.
If there had been a show about the meaning of the Holocaust and then I blogged afterward with a statement that approximated Ms Rosen's statement, it would read something like this:

"All these people that talk about Jewish suffering during the Holocaust are so strident. That's old history: the story today is that Israel persecutes Palestianians and they drop depleted uranium bombs on Lebanon . So therefore, because of Israel's current day actions, the Holocaust is nullified as a moral issue."

Please note that I am NOT saying this myself - and I don't believe that and neither does Norman Finkelstein (and if you're not aware of the struggles of this son of Holocaust survivors then you're ill equipped to enter into this debate). I am only creating the mirror image of Ms Rosen's statement in order to make her and other thoughtful Americans see the hidden racism in her statement.
Because we are not yet in a culture where race does not play a factor in our opinions (as this blog makes so patently obvious) it is important that i present myself. I am white, 25% Jewish on my father's side yet my occupation is in African American culture. My ex wife is African American and I have also lived a year in post civil war Lebanon. I am also active in an anti war group whose leaders are for the most part of Jewish origin.
And i am 100% in agreement with Dr Cone and Dr Mike Jones about the fact that IF we did had more successfully dealt with the tradition of racial conflict in our own country, we would better equipped to equitably deal with the problems in the Middle East
A book that I recommend to all who are honest about their pursuits to purge America of it's ghosts and move on and "live up to the full meaning of it's creed"(as one oft cited American once said) is David K Shipler's(alas a Jew !) "A Country of Strangers- Blacks and Whites in America"

Peace (yet also Vigilance…)

Another said:

I am absolutely aghast at Ms. Rosen's disgusting contribution to this forum. It is just dripping with her own racism, which of course only she is permitted to exhibit in current day American culture exclusively because of her own ethnic origin which gives her "carte blanche" to dismiss the struggles of any people other than her own .
If she wants others to take her holocaust seriously, she should start by taking other people's holocausts seriously.
I am waiting for the first accusations of anti semitism from the JDL types like Ms Rosen to appear on this blog. Such a label is supposed to turn off the spigot of my first amendment rights to speak about this subject - a subject which has become even more 'sensitive ' in modern day USA than the nooses.
I dare anyone to find the slightest substanstiated example of racism in my text, I'm only calling for understanding, awareness and sensitivity.


Well said by Natalie Rosen. My reaction to the interview was very similar. Dripping with racism? You can't be serious!

I too was a little disappointed in Mr. Moyers. He came across less like a skilled interviewer and more like an awe-struck student sitting at the feet of the master. That's okay. Everybody has a bad day now and again.


My note: I certainly did evoke controversy and if one really READS my former statement it is, I think, fair. I acknowledge history but I also acknowledge the individual's responsibility to help himself.

I respond: I stand by what I said and think too Dr. Cone's discussion with Bill Moyers had NOTHING to do with the realities of the Holocaust and the existence of the State of Israel today. Israel is a fact and the Jewish people, as they always have, fight for their right to live. Even with nearly a century of annihilative threats, the Jewish people literally made flowers grow in the desert. They made a heretofore barely cultivated land thrive. That does not mean I am impervious to bad behavior when I see it. I am not. No state gets it all right all the time. The Jewish people knew, however, -- and in pertinent part to the interview -- that the only ones they could trust with their survival and advancement were themselves.