During this whole Rev. Wright brouhaha I’ve had a Chris Rock bit (from Bigger & Blacker, 1999) in the back of my mind:
A brother in his sixties hates everybody.
He can’t stand white people. Why? Because old black men went through real racism. He didn’t go through that “I-can’t-get-a-cab” shit. He was the cab. The white man would jump on his back and say, “Main Street.”
Update: hilzoy notes that Rev. Wright was born the same year as Emmett Till. Context, context, context:
Jeremiah Wright was fourteen when Till was killed. Though he did not live in the South, Jim Crow was in full force there until his early twenties. He was twenty one when George Wallace called for “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” He was a few days shy of twenty two when a bomb went off in a Birmingham church, killing four young girls who were at Sunday School, about a month shy of twenty three when Lyndon Johnson finally signed the Civil Rights Act, and almost twenty four when Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.
One more date, both because it is itself outrageous and because it is something to bear in mind if you should happen to wonder why someone like Rev. Wright might believe that our government caused HIV: when the Tuskegee Study ended in 1972, Rev. Wright was thirty one years old.
I imagine many of you know about the Tuskegee Study, but if you don’t: it was a government study designed to see what happened to black men with syphilis when they were not treated. The men enlisted in the study were poor, and often illiterate, sharecroppers in Alabama. There were ethical problems with the study from the start, but the really appalling part came when penicillin became available in the mid-1940s (before then, there were no really good treatments for syphilis.) Once an effective treatment for syphilis became available, the moral thing to do would have been to halt the study and provide penicillin to everyone in it.