How Wrong is Wright?

05/25/2011 12:25 pm ET
  • John Ridley Emmy-Winning Commentator and Writer for Esquire

Okay, here's what we know: Barack Obama thinks of Rev. Jeremiah Wright of the Trinity Christ United Church on Chicago's south side as his old uncle who says things I don't always agree with. We know that Obama has busted his public ties with Wright, both rejecting and repudiating Wright's hotter remarks. Rejecting and repudiating being essential as Senator Clinton made much semantic hay over those words at the Democratic debate in Hollywood. We know that conservatives are sharpening their knives for Obama on the Wright mill stone, waiting to stab him with the accusation of being a closet racist.

But here's what we need to talk about: exactly how wrong is Wright?

Much has been made of Wright saying that instead of singing "God Bless America," black people should sing "God Damn America."



The full text of the pastors remarks are: The government gives them (blacks) the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing God bless America? No, no, no. Not God bless America. God damn America. Put in context, there is a difference. Personally, not a song I would sing, but there is reasoning to the argument.

And how about Wright's racist barb thrown at Senator Clinton? He's quoted as implying that Clintons had an easier time of things because "Hillary was not a black boy raised in a single parent home. Barack was." Well, uh, yeah. Basically the statement just makes Wright the Geraldine Ferarro of black men. Plus, being a black man, we all know that he was born lucky!

In March of last year Fox news...talker guy Sean Hannity got into it with Wright over doctrines posted on the CUC website. Among those quoted and berated by Hannity were: commitment to the black community, commitment to the black family, adherence to the black work ethic.


When conservatives get on black people to do more about the welfare queens in their communities, that's considered tough love. When a black pastor encourages the same, that's separatist. Unless Cosby says it -- then it's tough love again. Now, the website did, according to Hannity, say something about pledging allegiance to all black leadership which to me is inflammatory 'cause I hate the notion of black leaders. But until Sean Hannity actually gets himself down to Chicago's south side to do some community service and act as a role model for white leadership he better not get down on people of color looking to their own to problem solve.

Wright has said plenty to raise eyebrows. Blaming America for 9/11? Sorry, I'm not down with that. But at the same time I'm always amazed when the establishment -- especially conservatives -- read being pro-black as being anti-white while remaining oblivious to their own bias.

Example? I've written before about attending the first Republican presidential debates of this primary season. They were held last May at the Reagan library in Simi Valley. Fifteen years prior, almost to the day, the city of LA was still in turmoil after a Simi Valley jury acquitted four white cops in the beating of Rodney King. And Reagan? Let's not forget, when Reagan launched his 1980 presidential bid he did so in Philadelphia, Mississippi. A place previously made famous as the location where three Civil Rights activists were murdered in the 1960s.

The Republican Party could not at that moment have been more anti-black if they'd done their debate as a minstrel show.

So, Obama's cut ties with Wright. Good. Same as it's good that Clintons cut ties with Ferraro. But after skipping debates sponsored by blacks and Hispanics, after kicking off their primaries amid racial overtones...after Katrina for God's sake, the Right is going to have to do a whole lot more to prove that Wright is wrong.