Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Obama/ Wright Situation

Rev. Jeremiah Wright is not running for president. Rev. Wright and Barack Obama are not the same person.

I was on the treadmill at the gym when Rev. Wright's NAACP speech aired on CNN the other day. This is not the "chicken coming home to roost" speech* that has been in the news so much lately, this is the speech he gave at a recent NAACP event. The fact that this event was televised allowed him a very public stage on which to clarify his position and convey whatever points he deems important. As soon as I saw it, I thought "uh-oh..." not because I was worried about what Rev. Wright would say, but because it seemed as if he were being put on public display so that he could be examined from every angle so that his perceived shortcomings could be applied to Senator Barack Obama by association. While he was speaking, the CNN anchor would break in periodically. During one such interlude the anchor described the speech as "entertaining". We go to the circus to be entertained. We go to the theatre to be entertained. Correct me if I'm wrong, but generally don't expect spiritual leaders and civil rights proponents to "entertain" us. I'm curious to know if anyone has ever described the Pope as "entertaining". Many might argue that the Pope and Rev. Wright are not on the same level, but my question would be - if they have both been ordained by God, then they are at the same level as far as He is concerned - one is just more well-known than the other.

I have no political aspirations, I am not trying to convince anyone to vote for any particular candidate, I was not an Obama supporter until very recently, and I have met Rev. Wright and didn't particularly cotton to him. I have no ulterior motives in writing this post, and in my opinion, this has become a witch hunt, and the black church is collateral damage.

While not all black people think or feel the same way, and not everyone feels the same way Rev. Wright does, the views expressed in Rev. Wright's speeches are not, by and large, anything new or surprising to those of us who are familiar with African-American churches. Traditionally (and even currently), people of African descent have been treated as second-class (at best) citizens in general, and particularly in the United States. Things have improved over time, but most of my predecessors, living and dead, have had to experienced things that I have never had to face, yet when their viewpoints are expressed publicly, they are accused of 'playing the race card'. To borrow a quote from a good friend of mine, "Who put the race card in the deck? Because I couldn't play it if it was never put into the deck." At a time when church was the only 'authorized' place where African-Americans (then "Negroes") could gather, the church gained a central position in the black community. It was a place where African-Americans could fellowship, speak frankly, recharge our batteries, and get their needs met in a society that equated dark skin with sub-human status. Today's black church was borne on the wings of that tradition, and Rev. Jeremiah Wright is old enough to have experienced injustices that many of us can only read about today. He speaks his mind openly because that is what he is SUPPOSED to do. The idea that he needs to be renounced or castigated in some way is a repugnant throwback to the time when the enslaved Africans were forced to use violence to keep one other in line out of fear of reprisal by the slavers. While the concept and tradition of brotherhood and sisterhood has fortified us against complete annihilation in the face of tremendous adversity, the idea that we (black people) are all the same, accountable for one anothers' actions, and should be painted with the same broad brushstroke is an oversimplification of who we are as individuals and as a culture. Sometimes we agree with Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and sometimes we don't. I don't think that requires a public lynching renunciation. Yes, Senator Obama was (is?) a member of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church. That does not mean he agrees with every word that oomes out of Rev. Wright's mouth. I went to school from "K" to "B.A.", and because of the importance that I placed on education, I was sometimes subject to instructors opinions that did not jibe with my own. Rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater, I gleaned what I needed and let the rest blow in the wind.

There is so much more that I could write, and I may write more later, but this post has already gotten longer than I thought it would, and I have some things to do. Just had to get this off of my chest.

--Nicole J. Butler

P.S. - Rev. Wright did not originate the concept of "the chickens coming home to roost"...


  1. Nicole, like you, I am extremely frustrated with the situation. Not because of the actual events that occured, but because the media finds in neccesary to discuss it to an excruciating extent on a daily basis.

    They keep talking about how his latest comments could have a negative effect of Senator Obama's presidential bid, but if they didn't make it such a big deal, it wouldn't!

    It saddens me to think that some less educated voters will be swayed by this. It also saddens me that I have seen the flipside which is an African American former supporter of Senator Obama's has decided to vote for Hillary now because Senator Obama did not stand up for Rev. Wright.

    A woman I saw on the news said it best. Can we please get back to the issues? Let's talk about the economy, the war, gas prices, homelessnes. For crying out loud, can the presidential race please be about the American People and not a circus, for ONCE...

  2. I agree - the media sensationalizes whatever will drive viewership and make sponsorship $$. If we allow ourselves to be distracted by this, we will miss the issues entirely.


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