The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. Psalm 118:22-23 NRSV

Friday, February 1, 2008

Constructive Debate

While this certainly could be a congratulatory post regarding last night's Democratic presidential debate, I actually have other items and issues on my mind.

Over the last several weeks, I have witnessed public altercations within the Black community that made me feel that a renewed commitment to civil debate is in order not only for the candidates in the presidential race but for opposing sides in various arenas. While I am not talking about politics exclusively, it is certainly true that the internal bickering and escalation of insults among Black people who are supporting Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton exemplify the exact problem I am discussing. Differences in candidate preference, especially when the policies of the candidates in question are so close, are no cause for insults and name calling (calling Maya Angelou a "ho" is unconscionable). But I am not just talking about politics.

There has been a recent debate on What about our Daughters regarding certain prominent Black preachers' signing a letter congratulating BET on its awards show and other things. While debate and questions about why such a letter appeared, especially with a heading citing "freedom of expression, are absolutely in order, the escalation of hostility between WAOD and Dr. Iva Carruthers does not speak well for either side, in large part because it leads to greater misunderstanding and confusion.

Everyone who aspires to public influence is naturally and rightly submitted to public scrutiny. This applies to Obama and Clinton as candidates as well as to Black intellectuals and preachers as persons who purport to shape our common life. I am not by any means suggesting that we exchange the rigorous quest and question of the truth for some easy civility that harbors and nurtures duplicity. I am saying that bluster for its own sake is not good. And when it is directed at our own people, it is generally more harmful than helpful. While we are arguing with one another, BET and Viacom and their ilk (along with, my forbears would have said, the Devil and his imps) are standing on the sidelines laughing at us.

It seems that at least for one evening the Democratic presidential contenders got that message. How useful it would be for the Black church, the Black community, and the Black family to practice the wisdom of constructive rather than destructive debate.


Johanna said...

I have no quarrel with your statement. I just wanted to express that I concur with you. As someone who likes a good debate and does not take a debate personally, it's sad to say that I have stopped being surprised when someone tells me "I just don't like you because..." Many times the because is followed by.."you're a black republican." This has happened maybe once that was obvious with another black person. Usually, I'll just get the joking comments from people that know me. But, it has happened most often with white liberals, as if to say "how dare you have the nerve to disagree with me." Each time it is hurtful, because it is usually someone that has not taken the time to get to know me, but simply wants to judge me for a label, even as they preach political correctness.

In turn, however, sometimes I have found myself turning that hatred around to others. I have met some (not all) black republicans who start talking about what they believe and I think to myself -- "you're the reason my life can get difficult sometimes."

I guess having the overwhelming majority of my friends as democrats (some I think are even self described socialists -- God help them :) ), I have just learned to accept and respect differences. Frankly, when I think about it, I am glad not everyone believes the same thing, because I believe no one way of thinking is perfect. I don't understand why a debate on policies or even religion to some is taken as a personal attack. Why can't we have debates and discussions (with open minds). Often I find a good debate helps me to think more critically about my beliefs and, yes, sometimes change them.

My thoughts...

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