Rev. Jeremiah Wright preaches racial tolerance

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., pastor emeritus of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, told 12,000 people in Detroit on April 27 that there is a need for racial tolerance in America.

The former pastor of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-IL, whose sermon regarding the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks has been a firecracker for Obama’s campaign, addressed the Detroit Branch NAACP 53rd annual Fight For Freedom Fund Dinner, touted as the largest such dinner in the country. A liberation theologian, Egyptologist, linguist, author and orator, Wright on Sunday evening told the gathering that there are clearcut differences between Blacks and whites. Wright told the standing-room-only audience at Cobo Hall, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. first gave his I Have a Dream speech, that African Americans are different from European Americans, but one is no better than the other. “In the past, we were taught to see others who are different as deficient, and that anybody not like us was abnormal,” Wright said referring to the stereotypes African American children have been subjected to for decades. “But a change is coming because we no longer see others who are different as deficient. We just see them as different.” Addressing the theme of the dinner, “Change is Going to Come,” Wright said, “The NAACP has been built on a primary premise├╗that all men and women are created equal. The nation’s oldest civil rights organization has changed America’s history despite violence, intimidation and hostile government policies.” Wright took a swipe at the Republican Oakland County Executive, L. Brooks Patterson, who told a political forum in Birmingham, a suburb of Detroit, that Wright is one of the most divisive individuals he has ever heard speak. “Somebody please tell the Oakland County Executive that the sentence starting with the words ‘despite violence’ is a direct quote from the NAACP. Otherwise, he will attribute the quote to me and continue to say that I’m one of the most divisive people he’s ever heard speak, when he’s never heard me speak,” Wright said. “I know some say that just my appearance in Detroit will be polarizing. But I’m not here for political reasons. I’m not a politician. Many in the corporate-owned media have made it seem that I’m running for the Oval Office. I’ve been running for Jesus for a long, long time, and I’m not tired yet.” An African American political consultant, Sam Riddle, has told the Associated Press in an interview that Wright’s presence in Detroit would be polarizing. “I’m sorry your political analysts are saying I’m polarizing and my sermons are divisive. I’m not here to address an analyst’s opinion,” Wright said calling out Riddle and others who decried his NAACP invitation to speak. “I stand here as one representative of the African American church tradition, believing that a change is going to come.” The speech was historic and his first major public appearance since snippets of his sermons critical of America were shown on national television. Remarks such as “God damn America” contained in some of his controversial sermons were flashed on television screens across the nation repeatedly, especially Fox News which first took issue with them. Detroit Branch NAACP President, Rev. Wendell Anthony, gave a moving introduction of Wright before his speech, at one point asking all clergy members, both Black and white, to stand. In his introduction Anthony said Wright’s work is one that points to the historic role of the African American church to defend and speak to issues in the African American community. The NAACP will continue to speak truth to power, Anthony said, urging Wright not to feel lonely in what many are calling his new “battle to defend his reputation of helping and caring for the needy in America and Africa.” Defending the NAACP invitation to Wright, Anthony said, “It’s bigger than all three of them,” referring to presidential candidates Obama, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. and Republican Sen. John McCain. “This is about the African American church. This is about our church. This is about our people. This is about our right to speak truth to power. It is not a white thing, nor is it a Black thing. It is the right thing we’re doing here tonight,” Anthony declared. Receiving loud standing ovations during and between his remarks, Wright pointed out that the African American church was an institution that spoke out boldly against slavery. In his 40-minute speech, Wright took the audience on a historical excursion, separating fact from fiction and explaining in detail that the learning differences of African American children from European Americans does not mean they have a learning disability. He said European Americans learn from an object while African Americans study from a subject. But, “one is not deficient because (he or she) does not follow the same methodology of the other,” Wright said. Beaming with optimism, he said change is going to come but it will take “the wisdom of the old and the energy of the young; it is going to take Republicans and Democrats but we can do it.” Several African American actors and actresses were on the dais with Wright including Vivica A. Fox, Anthony Anderson and Morris Chestnut. CNN contributor Roland Martin, who moderated an engaging national town hall meeting on the African American church on the eve of the dinner, was also in attendance.

______ Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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