Several people have replied to my earlier post on this blog and made statements elsewhere on the web in defense of Rev. Lowery’s benediction during the inauguration. In short, the response has been that his words should not be interpreted as racist remarks. The rationale for dismissing his statements as not racist are essentially three:
- Whites have never been treated like other races in the United States…so get over it
- His statements were thanking God that the day mentioned in his song had arrived
- He was merely quoting an old song familiar to many in the civil rights movement
To the first objection, my response is simply this: You’re right, whites have never suffered the horrible atrocities that other races have been subjected to in United States history, but two wrongs don’t make a right. This objection is bogus.
To objection number two, if you look at the transcript of his benediction on my first post, Rev. Lowery prays that God will “help us work for that day…” Clearly this is not thanksgiving for the arrival of said day but a pleading that we will get there in the future.
The most common objection is the last one, that he was merely quoting (or alluding to) a song familiar to those in the civil rights movement. Wonderful! If Rev. Lowery wishes to pay homage to those who have labored in the civil rights movement against adversity, persecution, and the horrors that have been a sad part of our nation’s history, I will be the first to stand by his side (as a Caucasian) and say, “Amen!” I for one am horribly ashamed of the racism that has been and arguably is still part of U.S. history. To quote or allude to a song that itself is racist (which this lyric clearly is…whites after all are the problem that needs fixing in this verse) as a tribute to Civil Rights leaders is so blatantly wrong and hypocritical, I honestly struggle with the fact that we’re having this discussion in the first place.
If I, as a Caucasian, were to be in the position of Rev. Lowery and quote any kind of racist poem as part of my benediction I would rightly be called to account for my actions. Why the same standard is not being applied to a Civil Rights leader, who from his own hallowed experiences should know better, is beyond me. If we are to move beyond racism in this nation, this sort of language must perish from the lips of all.