In addition to the reality, as I discussed in part two, that desegregated schools are as oppressive as segregated schools, there is something else one can pick up from Jeremiah Wright’s description of learning styles. It makes sense that people with different learning styles will not only learn differently but see the world differently. From there, it is a small step to understanding that they might also have different understandings of oppression. The left-brained understanding of oppression will be clinical, formal, positivistic. There is no oppression because there is no institutionalized oppression: there is Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity, reverse discrimination; we’ve had Blacks on the Supreme Court; two black Secretaries of State, and now a black, female Vice-President. We’ve also had a black President, two, counting Bill Clinton (which is not as silly as it may sound when one understands James Cone’s definition of blackness). On it could go.
The right-brained understanding of oppression will be difficult to discuss, since right-brained thinking is not, according to Wright, “logical and analytical.” Blacks will experience oppression, the existence of which, for want of left-brainedness, they will not be able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of left-brained Whites, who would like to confront and examine the evidence against them. According to Wright, Blacks don’t have the tools to demonstrate that they still are being oppressed. Indeed, the insistence on the part of Whites that Blacks demonstrate the existence of this oppression is itself a form of oppression. The accused is to accept his guilt on the grounds that he has been accused; and asking for the evidence against him is oppressive since it requires the accused to employ thinking of which he is, being right-brained, incapable.
It goes without saying that left-brained and right-brained will also have different ideas of what liberation looks like. For the left-brained, the past oppression was embodied in the law. Blacks were slaves in the past because the law permitted it. They were segregated because the law required it. They sat at the back of the bus and yielded seats to Whites because the law required it. They had separate water fountains and restrooms because the law required it. And on it goes. Things are different now. Not only does the law not require these things, but it also forbids them. Not only is the state prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, so are private citizens. In most instances under the law, a hotel owner, for example, would be permitted to decide what sort of clientele he wanted to cater to. He still can, but not on the basis of race. For the left-brained, there is no legal boot keeping Blacks down: liberation has been achieved.
For the right-brained, any set-back, any perceived injustice is injustice. If, for example, a white Hispanic man is tried for the murder of a young black man, but is acquitted because the jury found that he acted in self-defense, that is evidence of oppression. If a group of police officers is put on trial for killing a black man during the course of an arrest and are acquitted, that is evidence of oppression, even if some of the police officers are black: those black police officers have simply identified with their oppressors. Had those officers been charged and found guilty of use of excessive force, perhaps things would have been different. But the right-brained is not interested in such fine distinctions and, in fact, has difficulty making them. As Reverend Wright informed his audience, the black mind, being right-brained, is not logical and analytical; superficial similarities will therefore justify the destruction of a neighborhood.
In addition, therefore, to being perpetually oppressed as a member of God’s people, one can always be assured that the oppressor (the left-brained, logical, analytical, white) will never really understand just how the oppressed (the right-brained, non-logical, non-analytical, black), actually and genuinely experience oppression, why they do not feel liberated.
And that, naturally, means the white oppressor will be powerless to cease being what he cannot understand himself to be. If Whites, being left-brained, cannot understand the ways in which they are oppressing Blacks – despite their best efforts – because they are powerless to think like right-brained Blacks, to experience reality in the way that lacks do, then they cannot stop doing it. Whites would have to be able to understand that oppression from the perspective of Blacks in order to cease oppressing them. But this is impossible, so the left-brained will simply have to understand the right-brained rage, without explanation: the demand for explanation is tacit denial. And as Ibram Kendi, the son of two James Cone disciples, informed us in a recent tweet: “The heartbeat of racism is denial.”
Go to Part Four >>