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  • Why the Wright Episode Haunts Me

    5 posts, 4 voices, 492 views, started Nov 1, 2008

    Posted on Saturday, November 1, 2008


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      I am haunted by the Wright episode as a sort of original sin for the Obama change revolution. It now defines Mr. Obama as an agent for change.
      It defines him as a sellout I fear.

      I admire and find inspiration in the past work of many Black leaders who sought to liberate Black America from the enslavement of white bigotry. From Marcus Garvey to WE DuBois, from Malcolm X to Kwame Ture, from Eldridge Cleaver to Dr. King, many brave souls led the charge for an inclusive and dignified tomorrow.  Reverend Wright seeks to carry that legacy forward,for better or worse in 2008.

      I was inspired by the story of a young Barack Obama finding his spiritual and political home in the Black church. I embraced his work as a community organizer who dared to stare down the powerful on behalf of those still victim to de facto segregation.

      Then, Mr. Obama sought to go national. This is an ambitious and courageous step by Mr. Obama, no doubt. The challenge is to change the future without breaking faith with the past - to enable healing without ignoring open wounds and new cuts. This means setting forth a vision and bravely speaking truth to power.

      The Wright episode was Mr. Obama’s test of resilience and conviction. Would he stand tall and face risk like Dr. King and Malcolm, or would he blink? He blinked.

      Mr. Obama’s 3 step rejection of Pastor Wright, and in effect the Black Power movement or whatever we may call it, was painful to watch. First, Mr. Obama denied knowing Pastor Wright’s message, reminiscent of Simon Peter’s betrayal. Next, Mr. Obama staged an embrace of Pastor Wright and all his complexities in his A More Perfect Union speech. This was a soaring and hopeful moment. It seemed as though Mr. Obama could muster the stuff to stand tall.

      But, the courage was a short-lived one. Mr. Obama then dumped not just Pastor Wright, but the entire Trinity Church. For political purposes he denied the very roots that vaulted him onto the national political stage. This retreat was made more painful by the soaring rhetoric in Philadelphia that proved to be words, not convictions.

      So, now I see the sad irony of a would-be change agent who cut ties with his past and his oppressed constituency before he could begin change. All America watched as this played out.

      Yes, in betraying Pastor Wright, Mr. Obama remained viable to white voters who felt “safe” that Obama would not rock the boat too much. But, his revolution lost its energizing core. It is doomed to deliver the status quo because it embraced the status quo to enter the Oval Office. Mr. Obama is now a prisoner of the Wright moment. He has struck his compromise.

      I hoped it would be different. I wanted greatness. Instead, I find myself better understanding the warnings of Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele and other conservative Black voices who early on saw the holes in Mr. Obama’s promise.

      This is the character thing for me. It hurts.


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