I give up trying to get anything productive done today. I haven’t been able to focus for all the emails and phone calls from the media requesting comments on the latest Jeremiah Wright/ Barack Obama spectacle. I may as well let my blog readers in on the discussions I’ve been having with family, friends, and interviewers over the last couple of days.
What do you make of the latest round of speeches Jeremiah Wright has given over the last few days, forcing Barack Obama to come back out and put even more distance between himself and his former pastor?
What we see is that despite its signature wall of separation between church-state, America continues to be a place where religion and politics are deeply entwined. We are curious about the religious beliefs of our politicians because we think a person’s religious beliefs say a lot (or ought to say something) about the way that person treats people and does politics.
But more to the point, what we see here is how both religion and politics have the potential to drive wedges between families, friends, and members of the same faith and political groups.
What are we to make of the timing of Jeremiah Wright’s latest round of media appearances?
First, when would have been a better time for Wright to come out and start speaking again? Invitations to speak for the NAACP are issued months ahead, and booking the National Press Club is not something granted you just because you asked. Meaning, these engagement have probably been on the books for awhile. Besides, I know Jeremiah Wright is a minister, but do we really think Wright had the prophetic gift of foreseeing Obama losing Pennsylvania far enough in advance to choose this as the ideal time for reminding the American public of his history with Barack Obama?
What do you make of the rumor that someone in Hillary Clinton’s camp hired Jeremiah Wright for the National Press Club speech?
I love conspiracy theories too. But, are you kidding? You obviously don’t know Jeremiah Wright. And neither does Hillary Clinton know Jeremiah Wright, if it’s true. Haven’t you noticed? Jeremiah Wright is just as apt to rip into a Clinton as he is to rip into the U.S. gov’t.
Is Jeremiah Wright doing this to get back at Barack Obama?
Why does everything have to be about Barack Obama? Can it be that the only thing on Jeremiah Wright’s mind is clearing his name and not leaving to Obama to define who he is which Obama sought to do last month when he cast Wright as the eccentric uncle everyone has in their family? Perhaps Wright sees this as an opportunity to use the spotlight on him to shed broader light on the black church.
Did you get the feeling from watching Jeremiah Wright speak there at the National Press Club that this was all about male ego?
All about male ego? No. Is male ego at work somewhere in all that’s going on? Yes. What else is new? When has male ego not been a driving force in politics and religion?
Here we have this historic chance to get a Black man in the White House, certainly Jeremiah Wright understands the importance of this moment, knows the consequences his comments are likely to have on Obama’s campaign, and wouldn’t want to blow the chance for a former member of his congregation to become President of the United States.
Is that a question or a statement? Both men have made it clear. One is a politician and the other is a preacher. Both seem prepared to do what he has to do to get his message out there.
Am I hearing Obama’s supporters saying: “Don’t blow it for Obama. Keep all the colorful relatives in the attic until after the election”? If it is, it doesn’t work that way. If 90% of black voters are behind Barack Obama, as his supporters like to claim, then Obama can’t court black votes and expect black people to shut up and remain on their best behavior just so he an make a good impression on others. Besides, I thought Obama is the candidate who’s trying to bring the races together and sow seeds of reconciliation. Well, here comes Uncle Jeremiah to the reunion. Make them love and embrace Uncle Jeremiah, and you’ve done something.
Do you think this latest Wright/Obama spectacle has hurt Obama’s bid for the White House?
That depends. This latest drama will not cause black people to desert Barack Obama. Black people are smart enough to see through the drama. Now, will it turn white voters off from voting for Barack Obama? I don’t know. I’m not a white voter. I’ll venture an educated guess and say that I suspect that it will turn off some white voters. Correction: I suspect that it will turn off a lot of white voters. (Teh heh. Teh heh.) But will it turn off enough white voters to sink Obama’s campaign? That remains to be seen in the coming weeks. But I will say this: if the only way white voters feel comfortable voting for Obama is if he distances himself from fiery, brash, radical thinking black men of his past, like Rev. Jeremiah Wright, then Barack Obama may win the White House, but he’ll be forever a loser in the eyes of his own people (the black ones anyway).
Do you agree that Wright is the one under fire, not the black church.
Both are under fire.
Here’s something we can all agree on: Jeremiah Wright is no Joel Oesteen, that’s for sure. Jeremiah Wright’s fiery, defiant, idiosyncratic personality notwithstanding, ignorance about the black church, about black liberation preaching, and about black preaching abound in this whole political spectacle. The black church is under fire if the only kind of black preacher that white America will tolerate as pastor to its aspiring black presidential candidate is one who does not criticize America from the pulpit, does not comment on white privilege in her or his sermons, and is humble and remorseful when s/he has been clobbered by the media – then the black church is definitely part of what’s under fire in this drama.
Which brings me to my last point.
The worst thing that can happen is for black people to let the media make us choose between Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright. We must hold on to both men recognizing that both are fighting powers beyond their control and navigating and negotiating them the best way they know how. Though neither has been faultless in the way he has projected himself, both men represent styles of leadership, masculinity, and oratory that we’ve come to appreciate in the black community and which we shouldn’t have to choose between because we need both. Barack Obama: calm, measured, deliberate, and idealistic, and Jeremiah Wright: fiery, brash, defiant, and pragmatic.
Now, if you don’t mind I’ll go back to reading the biography on Hillary Clinton that I started last evening.