Part of the May 5, 2008 series – “The Obamas and the TUCC Bulletins,” the point of which is that the claims by Barack and Michelle Obama that they have not been aware of the objectionable beliefs of their pastor and of his theology for the 20 years they have been church members are greatly lacking in credibility.
The earliest TUCC church bulletin I have is from May 30, 2004. I only have three others from that year. What’s in them makes me wonder if the 2005-2008 bulletins are relatively toned down.
In that first bulletin, the Reverend Reginald Williams introduced me to something I hadn’t heard of before: The Rhetorical Ethic. It is apparently a concept formulated by a Dr. Marimba Ani, whose work ventures into the neighborhood of black separatism, as well as one other radical African-Americans cause (bolds are mine):
Dr. Marimba Ani has been involved in the Afrikan Liberation Movement since her work as a Field Organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Mississippi from 1963 to 1966. In 1967, after having traveled in Afrika, she began formal study of the nature of Afrikan Civilization in the attempt to determine how the process of culture formation could be used to achieve self-determination for Afrikan people on the Continent …..
….. Marimba Aniâ€™s thorough and systematic critique of the European paradigm demonstrates the anti-Afrikan nature of European thought and behavior.
The following are a few of her scholarly writings:
â€œThe Ideology of European Dominance,â€ The Western Journal of Black Studies, Vol.3, No.4, Winter, 1979 and Presence Africaine, No.III, 3rd Quarter. 1979. …..
….. She was the founding Director of the Afrikan Heritage Afterschool Program in Harlem, N.Y. from 1983 to 1998, and is actively involved in the Afrikan Reparations Movement.
Williams explains the Rhetorical Ethic in that May 30, 2004 bulletin, and applies it in a unique way to past and current American history (bolds are mine):
The American government historically and currently has been marked what Dr. Marimba Ani calls â€œRhetorical Ethic.â€ Rhetorical Ethic according to Dr. Ani is defined as: Culturally structured European hypocrisy. It is a statement framed in terms of acceptable moral behavior towards others that is meant for rhetorical purposes only. Its purpose is to disarm intended victims of European cultural and political imperialism. It is meant for â€œexportâ€ only. It is not intended to have significance within the culture. Its essence is its deceptive effect in the service of European power.
When we think about the history of this country with respect to its imperialistic actions, such as stealing of various lands, mistreatment of people, and total disregard and disrespect for other people and cultures, we see how acutely accurate Dr. Aniâ€™s description is.
However, if we move from the past to the present, we will continue to see how accurate her analysis is, especially with regard to this current Presidential administration. This administration has clearly shown its rhetorical ethical characteristics by stealing elections, overthrowing a democratically elected president in Haiti, and now with the prison scandal in Abu Gharib (sic).
This Resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has known for approximately 2 years that his administration has been pushing policies and practices that qualify as war crimes.
….. Because the demon of white supremacy is more concerned with possessing a disabling power than respect of people, it finds ways to implement its supremacist practices on people regardless of who it affects negatively, as long as it is does not disserve white supremacy.
Rhetorical ethic is the hypocritical exercise of white supremacy used to service the same. It sets laws that are only to be adhered to by others. But if those laws or structures get in the way of white supremacist actions of power, they will not apply. Such is the history and current state of this American government.
Williams recites the Rhetorical Ethic at least three other times in the bulletins I was able to obtain (July 24, 2005; August 20, 2006; December 17, 2006; links to pictures are at Update 2).
Besides the obvious question (What did Barack and Michelle Obama know about all of this, and when did they know it?), it sort of makes you wonder what the kids are being taught in Sunday school.
UPDATE: A Wiki entry on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee has this to say about it during the time Ms. Ani was involved:
Many within the organization had grown skeptical about the tactics of nonviolence. After the Democratic convention of 1964, the group began to split into two factions — one favoring a continuation of nonviolent, integration-oriented, redress of grievances within the existing political system, and the other moving towards Black Power and revolutionary ideologies. These differences continued to grow during the Selma Voting Rights campaign.
After the Watts riots in Los Angeles in 1965, some SNCC members sought to break their ties with the mainstream civil rights movement and the liberal organizations that supported it. They argued instead that blacks needed to build power of their own rather than seek accommodations from the white power structure. Eventually, the leader of the militant branch, Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Toure), replaced John Lewis as head of SNCC in May 1966.
Carmichael first argued that blacks should be free to use violence in self-defense, then later he advocated revolutionary violence to overthrow oppression. Carmichael rejected the civil rights legislation that the movement had fought so hard to achieve as mere palliatives.
Further subsequent history at the Wiki entry would indicate that, through Dr./Ms. Ani, at least some of what is considered fundamental “doctrine” at TUCC can trace its lineage back to the violent late-1960s Black Power movement:
Carmichael raised the banner of Black Power in a speech in Greenwood, Mississippi in June 1966. As the mainstream civil rights movement distanced itself from SNCC, SNCC expelled white staff and volunteers, and denounced the whites who had supported it in the past. By early 1967 SNCC was approaching bankruptcy and close to disappearing.
Carmichael left SNCC in June 1967 to join the Black Panther Party. H. Rap Brown, later known as Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, replaced him as the head of SNCC. Brown renamed the group the Student National Coordinating Committee and supported violence, which he described “as American as cherry pie.” He resigned from SNCC in 1968, after being indicted for inciting to riot in Cambridge, Maryland in 1967. Brown then became Minister of Justice of the Black Panther Party.
By that point, SNCC was no longer an effective organization. It largely disappeared in the early 1970s, although chapters in communities such as San Antonio, Texas continued for several more years.
UPDATE 2: Here are links to pictures of relevant pages from the four bulletins where Reginald Williams recites the Rhetorical Ethic (each will open in a separate window) –
UPDATE 3: When you go to the second, third, and fourth pictures, you’ll see that Rev. Wright would ordinarily be seen to taking responsibility for Reginald Williams’s work. The Williams-authored “To Do Justice” pages are labeled “Â© Sermons copyrighted by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr.”