Obama is "outraged."
After weeks of blistering attacks by the media, Barak Obama
held a press conference on Tuesday and made it official; his relationship with
the Reverend Jeremiah Wright was over, terminated, kaput. He would no longer
associate with a man who believed that the United States of America could do
horrible things to its people (like infect them with AIDs virus) or that 9-11
might have been blowback from US foreign policy. As Obama said, that's just
Obama's press conference: "I have spent my whole life
trying to bridge the gap between different human beings . . . That's who I am
and that's what this campaign is all about. Yesterday we saw a very different
kind of vision of America (Rev. Wright's speech to the National Press Club) I
am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle. The
Reverend Wright I saw yesterday was not the person I knew 20 years ago. His
comments were not only divisive and destructive, but they give comfort to those
who prey on hate. They do not accurately portray my values and beliefs. If
Reverend Wright thinks that is 'political posturing' than he does not know me
very well. And based on his comments yesterday I may not know him as well as I
The media, of course, is elated that Obama has thrown
in the towel and jettisoned his longtime friend. For them, the destruction
of Wright is just another trophy for the mantelpiece; another
well-executed media-mugging that required around the clock coverage with plenty
of libelous commentary. Every verbal miscue that Wright made in the last decade
has been thoroughly analyzed, picked apart by lacquered-hair anchors, and
coughed up endlessly on the 24 hour news stations. The Obama campaign never
really regained its footing. Barack has been backpedaling from day one, while
Wright is wondering if he'll ever overcome his image as a fire-breathing black
Since Tuesday's press conference, over 2,000 articles have
appeared in headline news celebrating the prodigal's return to the
fold. Barak is back. Hooray. Obama's capitulation may be the greatest media
triumph since the shrewish Linda Tripp produced the blue dress with the
incriminating splotch. It doesn't get any better than this. Obama showed that
he is not only willing to sacrifice a friend for his political ambitions, but
that he's also willing to distance himself from the very traditions and
movements which made his candidacy possible. It's a crushing defeat.
But the Wright episode is just the beginning of
Obama's troubles and the good reverend is just one of many
weapons that will be used to bludgeon the well-meaning candidate into
submission. By inauguration day, he'll have been stripped of his dignity, his
aspirations, and his identity as a black American. It's all part of the
grueling preparation for becoming the next president of the United States.
On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal ran an article
attacking the "Afrocentric educators" to which Wright referred in his
NAACP speech. According to the Journal, these black academics are no more than
Wall Street Journal: "The list of Afrocentric
'educators' whom the Rev. Jeremiah Wright has invoked in his media escapades
since Sunday is a disturbing reminder that academia's follies can enter the
public world in harmful ways. Now the pressing question is whether they have
entered Barack Obama's worldview as well.
"Some in Mr. Wright's crew of charlatans have already
had their moments in the spotlight; others are less well known. They form part
of the tragic academic project of justifying self-defeating underclass behavior
as 'authentically black.' That their ideas have ended up in the pulpit of
Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ and in Detroit's Cobo Hall, where Mr.
Wright spoke at the NAACP's Freedom Fund dinner on Sunday, reminds us that bad
ideas must be fought at their origins -- and at every moment thereafter.
"Approving of self-destructive behavior in school is
just one part of the vast academic project to justify black underclass
dysfunction." ["The Wright Side of the Brain" Heather MacDonald,
Part of the tragic academic project of justifying
self-defeating underclass behavior as authentically black?
But MacDonald is right; how dare black Americans think they
can have their own history, traditions and education? What effrontery. As Ms.
MacDonald points out, it's all "crackpot Afrocentric pedagogy." But
we must be vigilant, the WSJ warns, because "we may be on the verge of
seeing such madness spread into the White House."
Hide the children!
So, it looks like Obama will have to wash-away the stains of
black culture before he'll be accepted as a viable candidate in some quarters.
Some things never change. And the guileless Obama thought he could simply toss
Wright overboard and be done with it. Wrong. There's no Faustian bargain in
politics; no "one moment" when a man sells his soul and then moves up
to the next level. Politics is like gangrene; it's piecemeal. One body part
turns black and rots away and then it spreads to the next appendage. The same
rule applies to presidential candidates; as they elbow their way to the
top of the political ash heap, they cast off one chunk of their
humanity after another. Eventually, if there's anything left, they enter El
Dorado and take the swivel chair in the Oval Office.
It's no different for Obama, but that doesn't make him a bad
man. In fact, he's a good man and would probably be a better
president than either John McCain or Madame DeFarge. But that doesn't change
the fact that the system prevents people with strong convictions
and integrity from reaching the highest rung on the political ladder. It
does. It grinds them down and contaminates them. They're forced to
compromise on too many issues. Eventually, the level of compromise is so great
that the system no longer functions properly; the economic situation
deteriorates, the corruption spreads, the country gets bogged down in
unwinnable wars, and the liberties upon which the nation was built begin to
crumble. The same things we're seeing right now.
Obama can't reverse the course of events nor can
anyone who operates within the system. That's why men like Reverend Wright are
more important historically than Obama, even if Obama becomes
president. Wright represents people-powered change, "transformational
change"; the change that takes place when workers organize into labor
unions and shut down plants and factories. The kind of change when women form
liberation movements and demand the right to vote or equal pay. The kind of
change when gays demand equal protection under the law and equal opportunity at
work. The kind of change when black people say "enough" and take their
place at "white's only" lunch counters or in seats at the front of
The real society-altering changes, which have shaped the
class-race-gender struggle in America for over two centuries, have nothing to
do with politics or politicians. They don't even have that much to do with
voting. They came about through grassroots movements that took the political
system by the throat and demanded radical change. For the most part, those
groups were spearheaded by charismatic leaders like Jeremiah Wright.
Wright laid it all out in his speech to the National
Press Club: "Our congregation took a stand against apartheid when the
government of our country was supporting the racist regime of the African
government in South Africa.
"Our congregation stood in solidarity with the peasants
in El Salvador and Nicaragua, while our government, through Ollie North and the
Iran-Contra scandal, was supporting the Contras, who were killing the peasants
and the Miskito Indians in those two countries."
While the US government was squashing the workers and
peasants, Wright and his congregation were part of the struggle for liberation
and radical change -- no to apartheid, no to neoliberalism, no to occupation.
There's nothing wrong with Obama; he'll probably be a
better-than-average president. But don't hope for miracles. Transformational
change will not come from within the system; it must be forced on the system.
And that's what Jeremiah Wright is all about.
Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at email@example.com.