Politicizing Human Suffering

Welcome back.

Last Sunday night, CNN anchor, Carol Lin, three times baited televangelist, TD Jakes, in an attempt to solicit a “race-based” criticism of the Bush administration’s handling of the deluge in New Orleans.

CNN anchor, Carol Lin

Lin’s interview focused on comments made by Kanye West at a fund raiser in NYC last Friday. West who is referred to as one of the smartest guys in the hip-hop world announced: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
Kanye West

TD Jakes didn’t take the bait offered him by Lin of CNN. In fact, unlike West, Bishop Jakes came across like a thinker and a leader with a focus on the issue of fixing the problem not the blame. Later after the immediate crisis, Jakes suggested, we can analyze the processes and what went wrong.

Bishop TD Jakes

I’ve never bought any music by West or any sermons by Jakes…most likely never will. But I’m with TD Jakes on this one. This is the time to focus on bringing people together in an effort to help the city and people of New Orleans.

Katrina didn’t measure the ethnicity of the city she was about to devour. America will prove as well that the ethnicity of the city is irrelevant when it comes to generously helping people in need.

Wise up West. You’ve become a force for harm on this one. It’s not about race. It’s about helping the hurting.

What do you think?

Into the Mystic…

Alex McManus


17 responses to “Politicizing Human Suffering”

  1. Sally Schilling Avatar

    Thanks, Alex. I WILL NOT add to the negative. I have put a good deal of energy into surrendering to God, so that I can be a conducter of His restorative grace and healing. But I have been distracted by the incessant BLAMING! I watch in horro as people spend energy screaming and clanging….. while the lost, hurting, homeless and sick walk down our own streets!
    I cannot go to the gulf, but my kids are involved and I have assisted in other ways. I cannot take a sisplaced family in either. About the time that was determined, I ran into a homeless couple living in the woods. I CAN do something for them. My hairdresser agreed to cut their hair. I’m speaking to my dentist tonight to see if he’ll do dental work without asking questions. And I have a call into the acting Chief of Police, a new follower, to see if he can guide me. God will always provide a way – he just asks us to follow him.

  2. Amy Nicholson Avatar

    So awesome, Sally.

    My friends saw West this weekend an told me about him. It makes me sick how we play into the Lier’s hand. It just saddens me so much that people are still so blinded by color. This situtation was not brought racism, economics, or politics. True, none of those elements have helped matters, but there are people whose lives will never be the same from every demographic in New Orleans and the other effected areas. It’s just easier to continue the inproductive banter that we charish than to actually make a change for good.

    It looks like Southwest Airline is going to ship the supplies my church gathered to Houston. Now if I can figure out how to get them to Beaumont…

    Thanks for your prayers.

  3. joe kennedy Avatar

    I made a post over on my blog about what it means to be a refugee, which I do consider myself. People have way too much to be concerned with other than word games and “political correctness.” Seriously.

    As for it being a race issue. The media really doesn’t get New Orleanians. It’s not about race. They’re a culture all of their own. Stubborn as mad and loud with words. That’s just how they are. Check out my post “Why I Am A Refugee and A Summary of Thoughts.”


  4. Van Avatar

    Alex –

    Like the new site, “long time reader, first time commentor” – as they say.

    As someone who grew up in the gulf coast states and whose family is thankfully all safe and accounted for I’m well aware that this is by no stretch of the imagination the most vital issue up for debate/consideration at the moment. People need help. Period.

    That being said, I’m not sure we should dismiss Kanye too easily and I’m absolutely certain that we shouldn’t dismiss the thousands and thousands of voicless African-Americans all over the country that were either caught in the midst of the tragedy or increduously glued to their TV’s over the last week thinking the very same thing but having neither the prestige or the platform to speak their measure of “truth to power.” I confess to being cynical about virtually every “public” figures motivations these days (be they political or pop-ular) and I’m sure that I’m not the only one to wonder if the release of Kanye’s much acclaimed sophomore cd last week–acclaim that has subsequently been relegated to the back, back page in the wake of hurricane coverage–had anything to do with wanting his name in the headlines. Likewise, I’m pretty sure that Bishop Jakes’ reluctance to weigh-in on the matter of race has as much to do with being the leader of a very large, very conservative, primarily republican, congregation and his recent access to the ears and the accompanying publicity of the Whitehouse as it does with with his opinions/priorities. All that to say that in our country everything is politicized – especially human suffering – witness the way that 9/11 has so quickly become both a carrot and a stick used without hesitancy by all parties. While that in itself is troubling what is even more troubling to me is that as a result, those who suffer – and they are invariably the marginalized in our society – become even more marginalized and even more voiceless. As a result they need others to speak up, they need others to ask questions, they need others to seek justice for them – those in positions of power, those in places of influence, those with platforms and stages who are willing to risk their own social capital for the sake of those who have none. (Sounds a lot like what the church should be doing by the way) If I was Kanye, I don’t think I would have phrased things exactly like he did–globally I think economics are fast becoming the defining social/cultural reality, not race, and thus I think our society/government has turned a blind systemic eye to the poor amongst us, who in this case happen, geographically, to be largely African-American communities–but then again I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to take my eyes off the written script either. Yes, we need to be helping, healing and restoring those suffering and in need, I don’t know anyone who thinks we shouldn’t, but I wonder if any real tranformation takes place unless we push into questions of systemic, institutional racism and class-ism that are responsible for creating the environments and conditions that give birth to such vulnerable communities. Methinks there won’t be any telethons or NBC specials for that campaign so I can’t fault Kanye from saying what he could when he could. Sorry for rambling on so long.

    ps – in the interest of full disclosure I also think Kanye’s music is worth checking out on both artistic levels (uncanny hooks, beats and rhymes) and cultural ones – there are few artists out there who are as honest about the themes of conflict and contradiction inherent in ourselves as individuals and our society as he is.

  5. john edgar Avatar

    Alex- you are so right on! We were friends yesterday and were having this conversation. Now is a time for being proactive. It is about helping the hurting.

    Years ago I personally lived thru a few hurricanes in Florida and at the time wondered if anyone else cared what I was going thru.

    I am so blessed that our nation is responding. I am glad that President Bush is stepping up efforts to make sure help is on the way. It must be terribly hard to be president during such times. He needs our prayers and encouragement to do everything possible to bring hope to a tragic situation. I’m glad TD Jakes kept the focus on the present.

    I think we need to be doing what we can to channel our focus. A group from our community of faith decided to remind people to be in tune with the Gulf Coas Crisist. They gave out hundreds of bottles of water on Saturday in the Inland Empire. As they did they asked people to be proactive in remembering, praying, giving, going to help. The people who received the free bottle of water were so appreciate for the challenge and reminder.

    I do think that there needs to be advocates for those who have no advocate. It is ashame that we only rise up when such a crisis occurs. I want to be more proactive on a regular basis.


  6. Max Wilkins Avatar

    Alex, you are right on it. At least I think so.
    Sally, you are right on it too. I had a chance to speak to a public group today about our hurricane relief work. I reminded them that although the whole thing is overwhelming in its scope and magnitude, it is the individual contributions of all of us doing what we can that will make the difference.
    Van, I enjoyed reading your long and very well stated post. I would have to say, however, that where I perhaps differ with you is in having confidence in the human systems you are wanting to address. I don’t look to Egypt for horses and chariots. (Sorry, obscure Biblical reference). I think the line in your post that rings truest to me is the aside (sounds a lot like what the church should be doing by the way). That is right on. I would go further and say that it is only the church, or at least passionate God lovers touching hearts and changing lives who can possibly make a difference in the things you are lifting up. I don’t place any hope for positive change in any political, economic, social or religious systems. Why? Because there is little evidence that any of them have ever made any lasting difference. Almost all significant social change has been a result of serious God lovers changing hearts a few at a time and often paying a heavy price in the process.
    Oh well, enough from me. Blessings everyone. Max

  7. Bernie Avatar

    For far too long with politicize and wax racial about all kinds of things – so why not a disaster and loss of life and property like this. Some observations on my part – was T.D. Jakes on Bush’s arm to be a token colored man of power and prominence or just simply because he is well known? How about the CNN report in which Bush was thanking the pastor of the Bethany Prayer center while Jakes was center stage and never moved to pull this Brother into the path of the camera? Okay enough of that.
    CNN and FOX need to focus more on the body of Christ serving, being the body and following the model given to us by Jesus – Salvation Army, Red Cross, Churches and ministries are not seeing colors but seeing hearts. Let’s keep being the body of Christ, giving, praying, going and sowing. Bless You All. Bernie

  8. Bill Clark Avatar


    Good call. I’ve been away …but my impression of events on the gulf is that this teaches us how much poverty their is in this country. When natural disasters strike, the poor are vulnerable. For the rest of us, its mostly an inconvenience.

    By all means lets do what we can to help during the crisis… but my prayer is that the church will commit itself to serving the poor for the long haul.


  9. Peter Avatar

    I wouldn’t discredit West for introducing the issue of race. Race definitely is an issue. However, I would more discredit West on the basis of his oversimplification of the situation. Yes, there is still racism in America. Yes, that played a role in the way people responded to the situation. But NO, race is not the predominant issue here. The tragedy is also about the way we value wealth and status, but basically, it’s just a result of the fallenness of humanity. Fortunately, in the efforts of the courageous relief workers, we are also seeing the capability of humanity to do good.

    As someone who is an ethnic minority, I urge you as leaders of the church (and who I assume are mostly Caucasian), to be careful in the way you speak about race issues and to not deny race issues. Being an Asian American, I get a lot less discrimination than people of other ethnic minority groups, but I still face discrimination on a regular basis.

  10. Dennis Avatar

    The rheteric is common to those who do little but say a lot. James would say, “Show me your faith by your actions, not the fluttering of your lips.”

  11. Marc Cardenas Avatar
    Marc Cardenas

    I have a lot of artistic respect for KW. I agree with you Alex that KW went too far and acted the fool on this one. KW has said many good things through his music, but his comments whilst in NYC I believe to have were made in ignorance. I am glad to hear that old man Jakes proved wisdom right and didn’t go for the political bait.

  12. JVD Avatar

    Thought provoking discussion – I am a fan of Kanye’s music – brilliant, cannot wait to get his next CD. Kanye is someone who interacts with faith / God / Jesus – a fellow traveler on this journey we call life. Some here call “into the mystic.”

    I think Kanye made himself look silly with how he delivered his message. Even worse was what words he chose. But, he brings up issues that need to be addressed, probably after the immediate crisis passes.

    Things we should do: Serve, Give, Pray for a thought provoking ‘what should we do’ check out http://www.xanga.com/brian_russell

    Things we shouldn’t do: Stick our head in the sand because we want it to all go away.


  13. Jimmy H Avatar

    i posted a challenge on my blog (http://transferringglory.blogspot.com) in response to what KW had to say on live television…

    if you believe GWB and his administration is not indifferent to blacks and other minorities, explain your thoughts regarding people like Kanye West and others who draw a different conclusion.

    i am not a minority. i am a heterosexual white male. and if there are minorities making accusations like the one KW made, i think i need to listen up. i’m not endorsing KW’s method or even his conclusion re: Bush, but it is not my place to disregard his message.

  14. Andre Daley Avatar

    Quick question? Did Bush politicize suffering by parading Jakes around with him yesterday or hugging a black family for the cameras on his first visit to the area?

    I wondering if others haven’t done exactly what we are beating up on KW for doing? I’m dissapointed.

  15. Alex Avatar

    Appreciate the conversation. Welcome to those of you commenting for the first time. Good comments and challenges. Regardless of where you fall in this conversation we could all probably agree on this:
    Let’s open our wallets, our homes, our hands, our ears and eyes.

  16. Conrad Weber Avatar
    Conrad Weber

    We live a little north of Mobile, AL, and though we were on the edge of the storm and had little damage, it’s so personal to a lot of people around here…friends, relatives, familiar places, etc. What strikes me is that in all of this is that it seems like we all tend to use this disaster to jump on our pre-conceived idealogical bandwagons…including myself.

    People who don’t like big business are yelling about the oil companies. People who think liberalism is evil say that New Orleans had a strong welfare culture and that it was to blame. People who don’t like Bush are saying it’s his fault. And people who have a racial chip on their shoulders (that goes beyond the real racial issues that exist in our country) are saying that the response was slow because the people left in the flooding are black. The list goes on.

    There may be some truth in these and many other issues surrounding this tragedy. But when I find myself getting all amped up about some aspect of this, I look down and realize I’m standing on my own bandwagon. Maybe we all just need to shut up.

    I agree with the other sentiments expressed here…we need to love & serve…as much and to whomever we can.

  17. Cliff Avatar

    If Kanya wanted to speak his mind, he should have taken all those capitalist dollars of his and purchased his own airtime.

    It was inappropriate for him to speak his mind during a telethon.

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