May 2, 2008

The Betrayal of Black America by Jeremiah Wright

I observed with anger and sadness the spectacle of Jeremiah Wrights comments in the question and answer session at the National Press Club and the subsequent repudiation of those comments by Obama in a press conference that clearly marked the end of a 20 year relationship between these two men.

I was angered by the reckless, flippant and self indulgent manner in which Wright responded to questions at the National Press Club. He treated the opportunity to speak on the world stage as though he were in the pulpit before a friendly crowd of Christian congregants who would understand his antics. After weeks of being vilified as a racist, small minded preacher trapped in the past, Wright proceeds to confirm the hyperbole with his comments. He was the perfect illustration of the adage, better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt. I heard one commentator describe his performance as vaudevillian. Throwing up the Q sign, tossing out nonsensical opinionated quips like the government creating AIDs in the black community and in general making an ass of himself. It was a very self indulgent performance and now we learn that he has a book coming out later this summer in which no doubt he will liberally bash Obama with unflattering stories from their 20 year association. It promises to be a traitorous hit job. I'm angered by a man of God who now stoops to vapid self aggrandizement in order to wreak what history will regard as a small revenge on the senator for the vilification he endured for Obama's sake, though not at Obama's hand. Black America will not reward him for his actions. Indeed even his own former church members are expressing disappointment at his antics. As I seek to put Wright into some perspective, to understand the basis of his behavior at the Press Club, I can't help but think he suffered from a deficiency of vision. Had he only been able to endure, to hold his peace, come November he might have looked up and found himself the friend of the leader of the free world.

Watching Barack's press conference to respond to Wright, I felt sadness to be witness to what was clearly the end of a 20 year friendship. I was sad for Barack that once again he was being forced, pushed and compelled not only by events but by Wright himself to create distance, to disown this time not only his comments but indeed the man himself. It is a measure of Barack Obama the man that he did not disown Wright initially and even now, has been measured in his response. He did not vilify Wright as others have done. He was specific in singling out Wrights comments and how they were not consonant with his views. Even as he separated from Wright, he did so with grace and with restraint, remarking that perhaps he did not know Rev. Wright as well as he thought, that the man who performed at the Press Club was not the man he met 20 years ago. I imagine that as he watched the replay of the Press Club comments, he may very well have thought to himself that he was watching a stranger, this supposed friend of his now knowingly savaging his campaign without any regard. It was evident that he didn't want to cast his friend away, but also equally evident that Wright had already thrown Obama overboard.

On the eve of the South Carolina primary, we predicted that the destruction of Obama's campaign had begun by the purposeful tagging of him in the mind of the white electorate by the Clintons as the black candidate. The judgment of history, certainly of black history, will regard Wright as the primary enabler of Obama's defeat. With his ill considered remarks and reckless antics, he has provided an easy excuse and rationale to the white working class electorate to withhold their support from Obama. A once sympathetic black America will not reward Wright for his role in that.