Not the Wright Stuff

For those who may be unaware, NU Law School recently announced that it would be featuring no less than the honorable Jerry Springer as its headliner at commencement.  I personally find this choice beyond questionable for a top ten law school.  In light of this fact, I have spent the last week emailing every administrator that I thought had even a smidgeon of information regarding the undergraduate commencement speaker.  The deadline for purchasing a cap and gown is today and I did not want to make the purchase if the undergrad speaker was of the same quality as the Law School’s speaker.  I have received no replies.  Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.  Why all the mystery?  Perhaps it is explained in this story.    

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8 Responses to Not the Wright Stuff

  1. laurabethnielsen says:

    Riddle: Who could NU get that would be WORSE than the law school’s choice? Jeremiah Wright!

    NU is not obligated to give anyone an honorary degree. If you read the campus hate speech code, you can see that NU doesn’t even really give a whit if their own students have “free speech”

    I say good for NU — no more logs on this media fire — don’t give the platform.

    Wright has plenty of places to talk – NU is not obliged to give him another one at the expense of the students who are graduating, their families, and the faculty who would have had to sit there and think — this guy is losing democrats the election right now. There is a war, a global food shortage, a national economy on the verge of collapse, prisoners being held and tortured in US control with no access to lawyers or judges. If Americans forget all that just because this dude will say anything to get on tv, then God help us all.

    Of course there is some truth to some of what he says. Before last week, he was in a place to have a platform to try to help people see it. Now he just seems like a spotlight-craving meanie. The fact that there was a chance to start a real dialog about some of these issues that he has now blown is part of what makes me so mad and sad about it.

  2. 4realdoe says:

    I’m sorry I have to take real issue with this – both the withdrawal of the invitation and the previous comment.

    The withdrawal of the invitation strikes me as an act of cowardice that runs counter to the much ballyhooed call for a racial dialogue in Barak Obama’s “race” speech a few weeks ago. In many ways it confirms the suspicion among many blacks that dialogue is all well and good until one starts to question the fundamental organizing principles of the United States and how those principles might be structurally organized to stick it to blacks (and other minorities). I don’t know if it’s because such a critique implicates even the most liberal of white people, but when you start asking about the role of the state in perpetuating racism or suggesting that all white people (through white privilege) might be implicated in racism, all of a sudden you are a bigot, unpatriotic, or an attention seeking egomaniac. That’s what makes me so mad and sad.

    But it’s not surprising since denouncing Wright as a racist and a bigot falls from the same logic that undergrided the Obama race speech – that somehow black anger and white racism are equivalent and have the same impact on the social landscape. Frankly, Wrights “rantings” about white racism or Goddamn America have virtually no impact on white people.

    Rev. Wright is not saying anything different than he was when Northwestern first extended the invitation. Moreover, if one was to read this blog you’d get the general impression that much of his analysis about racial inequality was fine until it started to force Barak Obama to have to touch these prickly issues…which, I might add Obama has consistently opted to totally avoid and instead pander to white voters with a cop out “denunciation.”

    Finally, to suggest that outrage over Democrats possibly losing the election would be justification of withdrawing the invitation makes huge (and probably inaccurate) assumptions about the politics of parents, students, and administrators. Last I checked Northwestern hadn’t endorsed Barak Obama.

  3. nobamakoolaid says:

    LB is absolutely spot-on when she says that much of what Rev. Wright has truth and needs a dialogue. I watched him Sunday evening in Detroit and came away feeling that none of what he said was offensive, at least not to me. If some want to criticize his various impersonations, fine, but I thought he used them to make his points effectively. It was Monday morning when he came off as so smug and above criticism that went too far. Disrespecting and calling out a member of his parish that is in a position to make more advances in race relations that at any time in our history were beyond selfish. Rev. Wright has been a sort of father figure to Mr. Obama over the years and shared in many of the most important points in his life. Who can blame Barak for being hesitant to sever ties, even if he disagrees with the reverend on particular issues? The whole thing is just sad.
    As a candidate for graduation at Northwestern on June 20, I have a question for you, 4realdoe. Why should a day that is supposed to be a celebration of mine and my classmates’ accomplishments be turned into a circus with no apparent purpose? Must we put aside our own admittedly selfish interests of wanting to be the center of attention for these few hours in deference to this man’s cause? I would likely have skipped the commencement, having had no interest in being used in such a way.

  4. jeffaregularworkinglawyer says:

    NU is certainly not required to give anyone an honorary degree. But I’d like to know (’cause I haven’t read) what its stated rationale was for changing its mind about giving one to Rev. Wright. When did they first invite him? Was the invitation given in solidarity against what the administration thought was unfair criticism from the right? What’s changed since the time the invitation was first given? Has Rev. Wright said anything he hadn’t said before?

    I think I know what’s changed — Rev. Wright’s rather petulant decision to pursue what looks like a personal fight with Sen. Obama now, in the middle of the campaign, has made him an even greater shit magnet than he was before. NU would have faced more negative publicity than it had originally bargained for (it knew when it extended the invitation that it would get some, after all, and perhaps may have welcomed a little bit of controversy — just not too much), and decided to do what it had to do to avoid it. This may be cowardice, as Doe says; it may be a valid exercise in discretion, to avoid turning commencement into a circus, as Koolaid suggests. The line between cowardice and discretion is not always clear, and becomes less clear with age and experience, unfortunately. But if NU is really concerned about avoiding circuses, the choice of Jerry Springer to address the law school commencement is indeed curious. And after the Lavine affair, it’s hard to credit NU’s administration with any great measure of moral seriousness.

    Oh, well. It’s probably not too late to get Mary Schmich from the Trib to pop over and remind you to wear sunscreen. Enjoy your commencement, NU students, and please don’t puke all over the sidewalks of my lovely hometown as you leave the bars and parties afterward.

  5. 4realdoe says:

    Of course Northwestern students deserve to celebrate their accomplishments and be the center of attention. And why should you be held hostage to any speaker’s cause? But that logic rules out any speaker associated with an “issue.” No Dali Lama. No Al Gore. No Nelson Mandela. Really, no high profile commencement speaker. With any commencement speaker, or any speaker for that matter, you’re being held hostage by their message while you listen. I see Wright’s message as raising awareness about issues of race in America in a thoughtful manner from a black perspective (one of multiple “black” perspectives out there) that is often silenced in high profile settings. This just seems to be a case where the university has decided that Wright’s message is not worth listening to. Or not worth the flak it will bring right now. I think that’s a shame and it reflects poorly on Northwestern in my eyes…especially since this message was fine a few months ago.

    Also, why can’t the university conduct this event in such a way that it’s not a media circus? Don’t allow the media in. As has been duly noted, it’s a private school that can control who can and can’t be on its campus as a speaker. Surly that authority extends to who can be on campus as a lookie-loo.

  6. laurabethnielsen says:

    Oh I am quite sure that you are right about the politics of the students and parents — I did not mean to suggest they were mostly democrats. I am not that dumb.

    If you read my other post on Wright you will see that I am largely with him on his theology. I go to a church a lot like his (lots of politics, lots of community service etc). But his message (or at least my read of his message and I am listening with a pretty receptive ear) changed substantially over the last week.

    The real shame is that somebody who shares the views that I think you and I share, Doe, has or had a chance to become the President of the United States and instead of helping him, Rev. Wright chose to make it harder. It makes me sad. That could have made a real difference in the world in a way that speeches on Larry King, or even NU commencement cannot. So I see it is an oppurtinity squandered or at least risked. So I am not wanting to squelch the “black message” (though I would bicker that this essentializes blacks) – rather it is the opposite — I just want that perspective in the white house, not just on tv as a charicacture like the african-american politicians we have had in the past (though I voted for some — my first vote cast in my life was for Jesse Jackson!)

    There is no keeping this from the media — to keep them out would just lead to more youtube style comments out of context. Bad.

  7. laurabethnielsen says:

    Oh and PS – I am all about understanding structural inequality — it is what I do for a living. And I completely believe that organizations and institutions in the US are organized in such a way to systematically disadvantage certain groups of people — particularly people of color.

    That’s why I keep saying there is a lot to talk about here and why “goddamn america” in context does not bother me (there goes my chance of running for office). But what changed is how he talked about it.

    For example – HIV and its disproportionate effect on African-Americans. I think you can (quite easily) make the argument that this public health failing is about race. It has to do with race/poverty/insurance/neighborhood. And then, you can say these policies that ignore these ineqaulites result in higher infection rates, less control of the disease when people get it, and ultimately higher mortality. These policies have a racialized impact which results in DEATH. When you make this argument, I’ll be the one in the back shouting “amen!” But is there Tuskegee like evidence that the government was infecting African-Americans with HIV? I haven’t seen it.

  8. vickywoeste says:

    Here’s what I wrote on the other thread: in the interests of time I must just cut and past here:

    I watched the entire National Press Club speech and Q&A, and was struck by the complete schitzophrenia of it all. The speech was brilliant–learned, scholarly, paced. The Q&A was a train wreck from the start. Even a sympathizer like myself had to see that he invited the media’s contempt. You go into their club and tell them they are shit and they will dissect you publicly in the most humiliating way they know how. And that’s just what he did. Was race a part of all of that? Only because it is ineluctably a part of everything he does. But any white person who did what he did would have gotten the same treatment. Gary Hart comes to mind, for any of you old enough to remember the 1988 primary season. He dared them to catch him in the act of adultry, and damned if he wasn’t stupid enough to permit that to happen. Game over.

    Here’s something to consider. Mike Huckabee was quoted yesterday by the NYT as saying that Wright is upset at Obama for threatening to change America so fundamentally that it will no longer be possible to criticize the government for oppressing African Americans. I guess if we are enlightened enough to elect an African-American president, we can’t be as racist as he believes we still are. And I would argue that if the Democrats throw off the incompetence of their national committee (and its corruption) and make clear what has been apparent for eight weeks now–that Obama is the nominee–I would suggest we’re getting a good part of the way there already.

    In any case, it is not necessarily an act of racism not to want to listen to Rev. Wright, in view of the appalling judgment he has exhibited in the last 10 days. I would gladly listen to any speech he gave as long as I could be certain that I could leave before he started taking questions and ad libbing

    New thought: Jeff, I think you’re right about how the personal animus between Wright and Obama makes this now newsworthy. But you have to admit that this is substantive and tragic. Why is Wright now doing everything within his power to torpedo Obama’s chances now and in the fall when Obama is in a position to effect real change for the causes in which Wright believes? It makes Wright look like a stooge, like a tool for someone else’s agenda as well as someone whose own ego overpowers his own sense of social justice for his people and his church.

    I disagree that universities who disinvite “hot” speakers are therefore barred from associating themselves from issues. What they do, typically, is wait until the issues are somewhat cooler than this one. But they usually embrace debate because that is what they are all about. Right now, Wright is not about debate, dialogue, or discourse. That is why NU disinvited him, or at least why I would have if I were NU. But I would still go hear him preach.

    Btw, I voted for Jesse Jackson in the 1984 California primary–my 2d presidential vote.

    Preview of coming attraction: later today I will blog about the Obama family’s skating party in Lafayette, IN, last night–my family and I all got to go, and we got to meet the Senator and Mrs. Obama, who couldn’t have been nicer. But I gotta say right now, if I had to live in that media scrum for more than 20 minutes, I’d be screaming insane . . .

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