Now that both the Republican and Democratic Conventions are over and all the speeches tucked away in the storage bin of patriotic rhetoric about just how great this country happens to be, it is time to take a closer examination of the messages delivered by over 300 spokespersons for different constituent groups throughout the country.
For Black Americans two of the more interesting speeches were delivered by two ministers, one at the Republican and one the Democratic Conventions. Some may argue that 1) the two were not speaking for the majority of African Americans, and 2) it is an erroneous assumption for me to assume they were more important to Blacks than any other spokesperson. I will respectfully disagree because for centuries, Black ministers have assumed to role of spokesperson for the race. Alexander Crummell in the 1800’s as well Howard Thurman in the 1930’s, to Dr. Martin Luther, King, Jr., in the middle 1950’s and the 1960’s, Reverend Jesse Jackson in the 1970’s and 1980’s and Reverend Al Sharpton from the 1990’s to the present serve as proof to support my position that Reverend Darrell Scott at the Republican Convention and Reverend William Barber at the Democratic Convention were fulfilling a long historical tradition, as spokespersons for the interest of Black America.
We as a race, are so deeply immersed in our love of God that we often fail to assess the person delivering the message. We seem to assume that they have been given a special anointment from above to be our spokesperson, and what they deliver is straight from God. However, these men and women who wear the cloth are no more anointed than any of us. But we listen to them and internalize their words, and that is what happened at both conventions.
What is critically important for Black America, is how divergent are the views of these two ministers; and if they do represent the race, it is an indication as to how bifurcated the culture is today. A close examination of their speeches will substantiate my assertion. Let’s begin our analysis with Reverend Scott at the Republican Convention.
Reverend Darrell Scott of New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights, extolled the virtues of Donald Trump while attacking the eight years of leadership under President Barack Obama, and what Scott alluded to as the President’s legacy of leaving the country “spiritually empty and divided, now more than ever before.” He was careful not to mention the President by name, but instead aimed his attack at the Democratic Party stating, “The truth is the Democratic Party has failed us. At home our growth is lethargic…This is their legacy, and we need to make a sharp turn. We need to put into practice the great ideals and principles that our country was founded on and which, after God, are the source of our strength that has made this nation great.”
If I had only the audio of his speech and not the visual also, I would have assumed this to be a European American and not an African American. His words about great ideals and principles coming out of the Constitutional Convention, definitely didn’t apply to our ancestors. What is great and principled about a compromise that in effect considered our ancestors as 3/5ths of a human being? His final attack on the President makes a mockery of Obama’s “Audacity of Hope,” when he refers to the last eight years as nothing more than the “rhetoric of hope.” Reverend Scott ends his peroration with a claim that Donald Trump will become a President that everyone can be proud of. And just as if he was one of the many at the convention longing for a return to the past, he shouted to the audience that, “we can become great again.” Scott essentially spoke well of Donald Trump and ill of President Barack Obama, despite the fact that Trump made what I consider a blatant racist proclamation, when he referred to Obama as “the most ignorant president in the history of the country,” therefore leading me to wonder if he really does represent a legitimate Black perspective on the state of affairs, as we approach the national election.
One week later, Reverend William Barber, President of the state NAACP in North Carolina and Pastor of the Greenleaf Christian Church, Disciples of Christ in Goldsboro, North Carolina, took to the podium and immediately refuted Scott when he said, “I’m troubled and worried by the way faith is cynically used by some to serve hate, fear, racism and greed.” He went on to not applaud the brilliance of the founding fathers, but to state, “now to be true, we have never lived this vision perfectly, but it ought to be the goal at the heart of our democracy.” This appears to be a much more correct assessment of the history of this country. Again, taking direct aim at Scott he goes on to say, “And when religion is used to camouflage meanness, we know that we have a heart problem in America.”
What I consider a legitimate Black perspective on the state of affairs was articulated by Reverend Barber as he suggested that “We need to embrace our deepest moral values and push for a revival of the heart of our democracy. When we fight to reinstate the power of the Voting Rights Act and we break the interposition and nullification of the current Congress we in the South especially know, when we do that, we are reviving the heart of democracy.”
Most Black Americans recognize, with the exception of Scott and his ilk, that there has been a concerted effort to disenfranchise the Black vote, especially eight years ago when the Trump supporters recognized what could happen when President Obama won the election two times. In the image of the great Social Gospel preachers of the 20th Century, Barber went on to say, “When we fight for…universal health care and public education and immigrant rights and LBGTQ rights, we are reviving the heart of our democracy.” The Reverend ended his speech with words that best symbolize the nature of the Black culture with, “We must shock this nation with the power of love and the power of mercy.”
No doubt that the two ministers delivered contrasting messages to the country. Just how deeply entrenched Scott’s message is a part of Black America is questionable. I would argue that President Obama is still the most loved and admired Black in this country and will remain so well after he leaves the White House. The fact that Scott attacked him for the benefit of the Trump lovers, probably left a bitter feeling among the mass of Blacks and he definitely failed as a spokesperson for the race. On the other hand, Reverend Barber addressed those issues of importance to the Black community. He did not extol the virtues of Hillary Clinton, but instead talked of the problems that must be addressed by the Congress and the next President, as well as the Supreme Court if this country ever expects to live up to what Scott claimed are the ideals and principles of the United States, and make it the greatest nation in the history of the world.
These are the two divergent views articulated by two of our Black ministers. You be the judge of who best represents the interest of the Black race.