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Was Joseph Lowery’s Benediction at Barack Obama’s Inauguration Racist?

Rev. Lowery to the left of MLK in Ithaca, NY during the civil rights era (cornell photo)

Rev. Lowery to the left of MLK in Ithaca, NY during the civil rights era (cornell photo)

A long time civil rights leader and companion of Martin Luther King, Jr.,   Reverend Joseph Lowery, stirred up a little controversy in some circles due to the benediction he gave at President Obama’s inauguration on Tuesday.  The benediction which lasted a little over 5 minutes asked for God’s guidance and forgiveness, expressed thanks for our 44th president and ended on what some are calling a racist note.  What?!  Rev. Joseph Lowery racist?    Here’s an excerpt:

Rev. Joseph Lowery

Rev. Joseph Lowery

God of our weary years, god of our silent tears, thou, who has brought us thus far along the way, thou, who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our god, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee . . . .We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that yes we can work together to achieve a more perfect union. And while we have sown the seeds of greed — the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other . . . .Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.

(Full transcript of Lowery’s Benediction here)

Or if you prefer to watch/listen to it again:

The closing words of the prayer have gotten a few people’s dander up.  What do you think?   Was the reference to black, brown, yellow, red, and white going too far?  “Red man” certainly seems to be a pejorative these days.  Is asking for the day “white will embrace what is right” a racist comment?  Some have also pointed out that the phrases were reflective of common thinking in the civil rights era and that he was giving a nod to that time.  The phrasing about black brown and white might have been inspired  by his blues song back in the late 1950s (not sure where the yellow and red references come from):

What do you think?  Was the benediction racist or offensive to you personally?  If so, please tell us why.  If not, tell us why you think it was ok.

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Jordan Weekend Headlines #6

I’ve been on a bit of hiatus from headlines over the last couple of weeks due to studies and an out-of-town trip to Wadi Rum (will post more on that later this week).  But, here is a quick look at this weekend’s headlines as published in the Jordan Times (the only English paper I know of here).

Top Headline: Jordan signs 11 deals with Brazil”the king seems to be traveling a lot since I got here.  I don’t know if this is normal or just because I’m here.  Anyways, HM King Abdullah and some of his advisors spent some time firming up Jordan’s relationship with Brazil and a broader alliance of South American countries.  Three things I found interesting:

  • Brazil will be helping Jordan with processing oil shale as a means of alternative energy.  Jordan has no natural petroleum reserves, except in the form of oil shale, which apparently it has good quantities of.
  • HM King Abdullah highlighted Brazil’s support of a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli crisis.
  • There are 12 million Arabs in Brazil, which accounts for about 6% of the population

I wonder what a king-for-life thinks when he’s flying around the world talking to elected leaders who are only going to be on the political scene for a relatively short amount of time.

Another Headline: “Gov’t to guarantee bank deposits till 2009 end” This is with no JD limit.  All deposits in all amounts will be guaranteed till next year.  An official is quoted as saying that no Jordanian depositer has ever lost any money.  Of course I am not sure what time period we are talking about.  And I am pretty sure that most people have very small deposits in the bank.  This is one of many articles recently stressing Jordan’s overall financial health.  The subtext is that there is no lending/banking/morgage crisis as in the states.  Perhaps coorporate greed has not infected this corner of the globe yet.

Most Interesting Sidebar: “Jordan to play Palestine in Ram” This probably means nothing to most people, but has huge significance hear.  Ram is a town outside of Jerusalem and home to the Palestinian national soccer stadium (Faisal Hussein Stadium). No international football match has been played on Palestinian soil since Palestine joined FIFA way back in 1998.  Until this past weekend!  The Palestinian national team has had many hurdles to overcome including the difficulty of everyday life under military occupation, civil war, and travel restrictions imposed by Israel.  For example, 18 officials and players who live in Gaza were denied travel by Israel to the World Cup qualifiers in Singapore earlier this year.  The Israeli overnment also delayed the Jordanian national teams border crossing into Palestine this past weekend.

Here is a YouTube Video highlighting a bit about the Palestinian Team:

Despite travel difficulties the match did go on this weekend, with FIFA president Jospeh Blatter on hand for the historic event.   Our Palestinian taxi driver was excited to tell us about the game this morning.  I asked him who he had wanted to win.  He paused – a difficult question.  Ethnically he is Palestinian – but he was born and lived his entire life in Jordan.  He admitted that he didn’t really care which team won – and it didn’t matter in the end as it was a tied game: 1-to-1.  For Palestinians this match was an importan symbol of peace and normalcy.

Below is a clip of the Palestinian goal – take a moment to listen to the cheers and watch the excitement of the players and fans.  You would think this was a winning goal in a World Cup.  But, no, it was simply a goal by the 180th ranked team in the world (out of 207?).  Their first goal ever on native soil.  It seems to me that they are celebrating not just a goal in a soccer match, but in some small way celebrating this taste of freedom and self-determination (as fleeting as it may be).