Rev. Joseph Lowery Addresses Offensive Remark on White People

The civil rights icon says his comment that all white people are going to hell was meant as a joke.

Posted: 11/01/2012 03:28 PM EDT
Rev. Joseph Lowery Addresses Offensive Remark on White People

At an event last week aimed at getting African-Americans to vote, civil rights advocate Rev. Joseph Lowery made an off-color remark that many aren't finding too funny.

Lowery, who gave the benediction at President Barack Obama's inauguration in January 2009, said that all white people are going to hell.

"When I said it, I said it was a joke, I identified it as a joke," Lowery told the Daily Caller. He explained the the comment was made from the perspective of a young militant, something Lowery himself used to be.

"He was saying [that] based on all of the hatred that's going on," said Helen Butler, the executive director of Lowery’s Georgia-based Coalition for the People’s Agenda. "He just felt that he should feel the way he used to feel."

Butler explained that Lowery is "a very caring person" that doesn't truly believe that whites should go to hell. But when asked about another quote he made at the St. James Baptist Church event in Forsyth, Georgia, in which he said, "I don't know what kind of a n----r wouldn't vote with a black man running," Lowery denies he said it at all.

Maybe Lowery's comments were also partly intended to get Blacks riled up and marching to the voting booths. Instead it left some wondering what's the point of combatting hatred with racist remarks?

Electing the first African-American into the presidential office might have given one the hope that we had finally entered a post-racist society, but hate and racism are still present and evident by the birther movement, allegations that new voting policies have been put in place to keep the minority vote down and effigy lynchings as the 2012 presidential campaign draws to its close.

An article on CNN shows the parallels between Obama's election and that of Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African-American elected to the Senate in 1870. His position sparked backlash among whites and instead of pushing Reconstruction forward, it brought about a Jim Crow era instead.

CNN writes: 

"To some historians, Revels' story offers sobering lessons for our time: that this year's presidential election is about the past as well as the future. These historians say Obama isn't a post-racial president but a 'post-Reconstructionist' leader. They say his presidency has sparked a white backlash with parallels to a brutal period in U.S. history that began with dramatic racial progress.

Some of the biggest controversies of the 2012 contest could have been ripped from the headlines of that late 19th-century era, they say: Debates erupt over voting rights restrictions and racial preferences, a new federal health care act divides the country, an economic crisis sparks a small government movement. And then there's a vocal minority accusing a national black political leader of not being a 'legitimate' U.S. citizen.

All were major issues during Reconstruction, an attempt to bring the former Confederate states back into the national fold and create a new era of racial justice. And many of the same forces that destroyed Reconstruction may be converging again, some scholars and historians say."

Read the full story here.

 

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(Photo: Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post / Getty Images)

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