Saturday, May 19, 2007

What is often missed...

The invaluable Derrick Jackson provided a very necessary postscript to the obituaries written about the less-than-valuable Jerry Falwell in a Boston Globe column:

...there was virtually nothing on one of [Falwell's] greatest offenses. In the mid-1980s, he was an ambassador without portfolio in helping the Reagan administration coddle apartheid South Africa.

In both a LexisNexis search and a Dow Jones Factiva search, no newspaper in the top 20 of circulation in the United States mentioned Falwell and South Africa in its news obituaries. ...

As Nelson Mandela remained behind bars, as police killed black children at funerals, as miners went on strike, and as the black majority remained without the vote, Falwell urged Christians in the United States to invest in South Africa's gold Krugerrands. He said of [Archbishop Desmond] Tutu, "I think he's a phony, period, as far as representing the black people of South Africa."

Jackson points out that in this, as in much else, Falwell was "a perfect complement" for the views and policies of the Reagan Administration.

Scratch most any U.S. conservative and there'll be a racist component to his/her preoccupations, even if their claim to notoriety is primarily in some other foul swamp of bigotry. The original sin of racially-defined slavery is deeply rooted in the national cultural DNA, passed down the generations. Fortunately, the national history is also the history, still profoundly incomplete, of the struggle to root out that racism.

1 comment:

Jane R said...

I had a hunch when I moved South nearly two years ago that you couldn't understand the U.S., and especially U.S. politics, without understanding the South. I've found this true, and I'd add to that that you can't understand U.S. culture or religion without understanding the South either. And here in the South, slavery is the day before yesterday and so is the Civil War. Teaching --and learning-- about race here is a profound and challenging experience. In some ways it's easier, because the dynamics and related histories are less overt in other parts of the U.S. and thus harder to address. But the particular mix of race, politics, culture, and religion here affects everything; it burdens daily life in ways that as an outsider I may feel in different ways from the ways experienced by people who grew up here.

I had forgotten or not noticed the Falwell statements on South Africa and on Desmond Tutu. I'm speechless.

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