By Tara Wall
"America is overrun by poor black people... Slavery was Africa's chickens coming home to roost... God shouldn't bless Africa, God damn Africa." Imagine these words if you will — coming from white evangelical leader the Rev. Pat Robertson. What would the public's reaction be? Total and complete outrage — at the very least.
Of course, Mr. Robertson never spoke these words, but the Rev. Jeremiah Wright did. At least the equivalent of them when he said, "God damn America" and Sept. 11 was America's chickens coming home to roost, that the U.S.A of KKK is run by rich white people and that God should damn it. Now, as he embarks on his pompous, ill-timed information tour across the country, Mr. Wright wants us to believe that this kind of speech is common fare in black churches. That it is a misunderstood part of the "black experience." I (along with a number of black Americans) would argue — to the contrary.
Just as Mr. Wright attempts to invoke the Bible in defense of his remarks, the KKK and white supremacists use the Bible to justify their hate speech too. And while Mr. Wright may think that he is helping Sen. Barack Obama with his "explanations," he couldn't be more hurtful, his timing couldn't be worse and his accusations more absurd.
It doesn't matter that Mr. Wright "isn't running for public office" as he proclaimed at the NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner Sunday night. His influence over presidential wannabe Barack Obama does matter. For a public who still knows very little about the man who could be president, garnering knowledge about the people who impacted his life and value system is completely legitimate.
This is the pastor who said America wouldn't elect a black president, heaped praise on Mr. Obama in the pulpit, prayed with him, married him, was appointed to one of Mr. Obama's campaign committees — and now wants us to believe he's not "political." Mr. Wright can't have it both ways.
He insists his words were "taken out of context," without taking any responsibility for a single one of them. The same words Mr. Obama himself rejected and condemned as offensive.
Though Mr. Obama seems to have a touch of wanting it both ways as well. He made that apparent in an interview Sunday with FOX News Channel's Chris Wallace. The senator-who-would-be-president said: "[Wright's] been the subject of pretty sharp attacks." Rightfully so!
Mr. Wright, who considers all the coverage a "devious, smear campaign," wants to blame the media for the words that came out his own mouth. The only smear is what he said about white people and America. He also called media reports "an attack on the black church." Not only is it arrogant for Mr. Wright to purport that he speaks for all black churches, but his message misses the point — as the eloquent media analyst, and (black) Rev. Joe Watkins said it best as a pastor could: "Pastors are to preach a message of love, not hate."
Assume in the "what if" scenario I painted above that Mr. Robertson asked us to understand that the damning of Africa is what goes on in white evangelical churches across America. And suppose he was the "spiritual leader" of Sen. John McCain. Can't even fathom it can you?
Furthermore, if it's our desire to expand a much-needed discussion on race in America, I would argue that it will never be a legitimate conversation as long as we keep making excuses for people like Mr. Wright while at the same resigning people like Don Imus for his "nappy headed-hos" remark and former Sen. George Allen for his "macaca" moment. It's a glaring double-standard. To dismiss away such hateful language because Mr. Wright is black is not only arrogant but irresponsible and only deepens the divide in the discussion on race.
When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice addressed a number of us last month at an editorial board meeting at The Washington Times, she also spoke candidly about race in America. While acknowledging America's "birth defect," she also expressed an inherent love of country: "Black Americans loved and had faith in this country even when their country didn't love and have faith in them."
Love of country is a privilege, no matter the wrongs, the hate or who is in charge. We are among the founders, not immigrants of this nation (as Miss Rice emphasized). That is our legacy — as blacks, as Americans, as black Americans. We shouldn't let Mr. Wright rob us of it but hold him accountable to it.
Not only is it arrogant for Mr. Wright to purport that he speaks for all black churches, but his message misses the point — as the eloquent media analyst, and (black) Rev. Joe Watkins said it best as a pastor could: "Pastors are to preach a message of love, not hate."
Amen Pastor Watkins. If we are truly Christians than we are all parts of the same Body of Christ. We are not black, white, Hispanic Christians, we are CHRISTIANS period. And as Christians we are called to LOVE.
37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'[a] 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Matthew 22:37-40 (New International Version)
7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:7-21 (New International Version)