I hated the way Reverend Jeremiah Wright was treated during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Republicans used him as another means of fueling white racial fears that then Sen. Barack Obama was some militant black man who, if elected, would force every white person to pledge allegiance to Bad Boy Records, start eating scrapple and be forced into slavery by way of some magical executive powers he was bestowed by a Kenyan demonic spirit.
Obama had it right the first time when he said Wright ”is like an old uncle who says things I don’t always agree with.” But actual racists with an agenda just couldn’t leave well enough alone.
Some may not have agreed with the tone of this now infamous 2003 speech that was exploited during Obama’s first presidential campaign, and it was easy for those with obvious agendas to turn substantive comments into a spectacle. But Wright was correct in his condemnation of the prison industrial complex, our widening inequality, and America’s past support of domestic terrorism abroad.
It does not excuse the horrific events that transpired on September 11, but one of the biggest failures of the 9/11 attacks was this nation’s refusal to see how its own behavior has spurred a sizable hatred for our country across the world. It’s just easier to turn a thoughtful and progressive Christian leader into another Black boogie man.
Thankfully, Rev. Wright is back in the spotlight, thus, being given another chance to steer the conversation beyond the superficial.
Wright has claimed that he and Obama are likely to be buddies eventually. Maybe, but now that Wright is back in the public eye, such a rekindling of their friendship might take even longer now. The fiery minister is currently working alongside the Chicago Teachers Union. In a recent interview, CTU President Karen Lewis said of Wright, “He’s a theologian and a scholar. He is highly respected in this town amongst the clergy.”
True, but he is certainly no less controversial. While speaking at a breakfast co-hosted by the CTU to commemorate Dr. King’s birthday, Wright said that while MLK proclaimed “I have a dream,” Obama says, “I have a drone.” Wright went on to say that, “Every Tuesday morning, there’s a kill list that the president decides who they’re going to kill this week.”
And according to the Chicago Sun-Times, Wright also blasted “corporate media for reducing King’s words to palatable sound bites.” Not to be outdone, he also took shot at another major American political figure who has been given a Walt Disney-like historical makeover: Abraham Lincoln.
As Wright explained to the crowd, “Abraham Lincoln liked to tell darkie jokes. He liked to hear darkie jokes and he used the N-word incessantly.”
Criticism also went in the direction of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. In Wright’s eyes, Duncan landed his job after he “ruined the school system” in Chicago as CEO of schools. “A good hook shot playing basketball with . . . Barack Hussein Obama,” Wright said to audience.
On Obama’s former chief-of-staff and current mayor, Rahm Emanuel, Wright asserted: “Where would Dr. King be standing in 2014? With the Chicago Teachers Union boycotting a mayor who was sent here by the president to shut down the union.”
I can understand why some are less than thrilled about Rev. Wright being back in the public eye. Depending on whom I’m speaking to, descriptions of Wright vary from “brilliant” to a verbal scolding of his behavior following Obama publicly distancing himself from Wright, labeling him a bit of a “petulant child.”
However, I find can understand Wright’s frustration with both the press and Obama. His words may not be pretty, and his tone, harsh, but much of it is rooted in honesty and a better understanding of Christian doctrine than many of the people wagging their fingers in his direction.
And as Karen Lewis explained, “The issue is, how do we put those things in context so we can get to the point where we can have a world that’s healed and perfected, where we don’t have war?”
Wright’s way may not be everyone’s preferred means of attaining the goal, but it certainly comes across as a much more sincere effort than a lot of the other people talking.
Michael Arceneaux is from the land of Beyoncé, but now lives in the city of Master Splinters. Follow him at @youngsinick.