From a nice piece in The Economist about the Obama/Wright situation:
“But there is also something deeper here: a generational struggle for control of black politics. Mr Wright belongs to a generation of activists—Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are other prominent members—who thrived in part by playing to the resentments of their black supporters. Mr Obama belongs to a much more pragmatic generation, people who want to get beyond racial polarisation and enter the political mainstream. Mr Wright’s generation is not about to leave the stage quietly. So much the worse for America.”
This article is not the first to make notice this distinction. I think Shelby Steele also captured this point perhaps a bit better in another piece he wrote in Time Magazine not too long ago about “Bargainers” and “Challengers”:
“Bargainers make a deal with white Americans that gives whites the benefit of the doubt: I will not rub America’s history of racism in your face, if you will not hold my race against me. Especially in our era of political correctness, whites are inevitably grateful for this bargain that spares them the shame of America’s racist past. They respond to bargainers with gratitude, warmth, and even affection. This “gratitude factor” can bring the black bargainer great popularity. Oprah Winfrey is the most visible bargainer in America today.
Challengers never give whites the benefit of the doubt. They assume whites are racist until they prove otherwise. And whites are never taken off the hook until they (institutions more than individuals) give some form of racial preference to the challenger. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are today’s best known challengers. Of course, most blacks can and do go both ways, but generally we tend to lean one way or another.”
So again, Obama is a pragmatic bargainer and Wright is a rash and relentless challenger. But I don’t know to what, if any, extent this fiasco should be labeled a generational disagreement between older (Civil Rights era) and newer (post Civl Rights era) black Americans regarding race relations. After all, pragmatic bargainers have always existed to some degree throughout US History.