Jeremiah Wright’s resurrection

Chip Somodevilla Getty Images As Jeremiah Wright is once again thrust into the political spotlight, we must ask ourselves if … Continued

Chip Somodevilla

Getty Images

As Jeremiah Wright is once again thrust into the political spotlight, we must ask ourselves if we’re truly a nation ready for racial progress, writes Rahiel Tesfamariam.

While Barack Obama was still hot on the campaign trail in his first bid for presidency, many Democrats began to fear that his history of church attendance at Trinity United Church of Christ under the pastoral leadership of Rev. Jeremiah Wright would cost him the election. Four years later, as the NY Times reports that a Republican “super PAC” had plans to unleash an intense advertising campaign intended to resurrect the controversy, it’s important to reflect on why the G.O.P.’s use of the strategy mattered so much then and why it still matters now.

While Joe Ricketts, the billionaire who would have backed the proposal but has now disavowed himself from it, and Mitt Romney (like John McCain before him) have chosen to not participate in this form of character assassination, the mere existence of the proposal and the care that went into laying it out suggests to me that the G.O.P. has no problem playing on racialized fear in its campaign efforts.

The Jeremiah Wright controversy was about much more than what many believed to be unpatriotic sound bites coming from an Afro-centric sanctuary on the Southside of Chicago; it was also about advertising campaigns and conservative media outlets capitalizing on mainstream America’s discomfort with and lack of knowledge about black identity, culture and spiritual practices. The controversy sought to situate Obama outside of the “normative” American religious narrative by implying that he embraced a radical strand of Christianity, black liberation theology, that was not only subversive – but also hateful.

The reality of the matter is that millions of Americans have encountered black liberation theology at the most basic of levels – in the singing of “We Shall Overcome” at public functions, in encounters with seasoned black Christians who say they are determined to “keep on keepin’ on,” and in iconic figures like Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson who connect faith and social justice intimately in their rhetoric and action.

Yet, there are those within the Republican Party who wanted back then, as they do now, to send the message to Americans that there’s reason to look at Obama’s faith through a lens of suspension. “He can’t be trusted” is the intended message. After four years, the implication is that we still don’t truly know the man that we elected into the country’s highest office and have reason to fear him and what he believes – rather than accessing him on what he has done.

We have found ourselves once again discussing Jeremiah Wright in a political context. How did we get to this place? How did we go backwards?

In politics, a wide of spectrum of dishonorable strategies will often be deployed, but it’s only when we give in to these tactics that we must take responsibility for the outcome. If we allow political propaganda to elicit fear in us yet again, then we’ll only have ourselves to blame.

Rahiel Tesfamariam is a columnist and blogger for The Washington Post and TheRootDC. She is the founder/editorial director of Urban Cusp, an online lifestyle magazine highlighting progressive urban culture, faith, social change and global awareness. Follow her on Twitter@RahielT.

Written by

  • sovine08

    We have found ourselves once again discussing Jeremiah Wright in a political context. How did we get to this place? How did we go backwards?
    We are dicussing it.. we are going backwards because the NY Times.. who are in the tank for Obama.. thought puting it on the front page would hurt Romney!!! Of course it didn’t matter to them Romney had NOTHING to do with it and refuted it the second he heard about.. but why let that get it the way of trying to tie Romney to it anyway…

  • tranquilcrisis

    Funny, the real story is Ed Klein has audio tape of Jeremiah Wright in HIS OWN WORDS claiming Obama offerred him a $150,000 BRIBE to keep quiet in the 2008 election, but the main stream media is IGNORING the story. No I’m not making this up and yes I have heard the tape, and for what it’s worth Ed Klein says he even voted for Obama. Oh well, let’s talk about something else besides asking about irrelevant things like ethics, legality, integrity, election violations… No, let’s just paint this as another racial story instead of the BRIBEGATE story that it is. This is why people loathe the mainstream media. Oh, and let’s not even ask questions.

    Besides Romney’s involvement in a haircut prank from 1965 is much more of a barometer to a candidate’s honesty than an election bribe offer from 2007. Oh, oops, I guess looking at the truth is a racist thing…I forgot… Sorry, I’ll write that down in my list for political correctness rules. Gimme a break!

  • mrsm117

    How did we get to this place? We arrived because Barack Obama still remains an enigma and someone who is not to be trusted.

    His hypocrisy is one example. He articulates to Americans about the Golden Rule when he made a decision on his support for same-sex so-called marriage. I would ask him where’s the Golden Rule as it applies to the Catholic Church on the HHS Mandate when he asks them to violate their conscience?

  • Secular1

    Really Romney refuted it right away, hardly. Besides didn’t your boy bring it up several time during primaries. Go peddle your prevarications somewhere else.

  • AgentFoxMulder

    We are here because Obama has come out on the side of gay marriage and this has angered the african american community. The Obama campaign is now trying to bring them back to his fold by by playing the race card through his folks at the Washington Post and other media outlets.

    The problem is, Jeremiah Wright does not represent the African American Church. He represents Jeremiah Wright, who has taken it upon himself to damn America. Speaking against Wright does not equal speaking against he African American Church.

  • WmarkW

    Jeremiah Wright is totally relevant because Obama offers us a biography in place of a record. If he had a significant career in pubic office, we’d look up his voting record to understand his positions. But if we have to get them from The Audacity of Hope or Dreams from My Father, then we need to merge in what we hear in Wright’s sermons.

  • Secular1

    Speaking of extensive public career Obama had a longer on than yoor man Romney. How do you propose to vette your guy.

  • Secular1

    AFM you must live in your own world, It is your billionaire bigots that cooked up the scheme to bring up Jermiah Wright, When that got exposed the repudiated. Now sheeple like you who listen the fox echo chamber starting the rumors that somehow Obama engineered all this. Well I guess you are right, and logicaly your so called Pols are stupid enough to fall into these traps again and again.

  • Hillary08

    Guilt by association? in this case it’s just stupid, Wright is a Reverend, if the criminal Romney wants to site this kind of relationship what about guys like Pastor Ted Haggard? how many Republicans had ties with that award winner? Hey Romney, NEWS FLASH: Jeremiah Wright is not the President, he doesn’t even talk to the President. You Romney on the other, you personally yourself if you want to go back in time, ganged up on, assaulted a man and chopped his hair off like the bully and creep you were and still are and then when questioned about it recently, you laughed. I bet the man you bullied and assaulted wasn’t laughing, you creep.

  • Hillary08

    Sorry Wmark, try again, Obama is Obama, not Wright. I will listen to what President Obama says directly to gain an understanding of what he is actually about and believes. I am sure you, like everyone you know and everyone I know have people in their lives who have had questionable character, that does not make your own character questionable just because you knew that person. Obama knows thousands of people, not every one of them are good people, it means nothing, we all have met and know people that aren’t the best people, you Republicans are shooting blanks, because that is all you have, that’s the real story. Four more years!!

  • DrTim1

    We are talking about the Rev. Wright because the media refused to explore who the real Obama was prior to the first election. Wheat they told us he was be has proven to be inaccurate. He is anything but a moderate, God fearing leader destined to unite a divided country and bring financial prosperity. He is an extreme left wing idealist, who according to Wright never even converted to Christianity from Islam. More than that, he has wrecked havoc in our economy and created a dent crisis it will take 100 years to get out of. That’s the real story here!

  • WmarkW

    Obama sat in Wright’s pews for 20 years. Seeing as Obama’s entire adult life has been about promoting one vision of social justice, one has to infer that such a long association implies support for sermons expressed.

  • DavidJ9

    The Republican Party put up a big welcome sign for racists four decades ago. It’s no surprise that they still are chock full of racists.

  • DavidJ9

    The Roman Catholic bishops have made it clear that they don’t care about anyone but themselves. They are trying to enforce their fake morality on everyone in this country while still refusing to take responsibility for the rapes of children by priests that they covered up.

  • DavidJ9

    Why should I believe Ed Klein?

  • SimonTemplar

    Reverend Wright is not controversial simply because he belongs to a black church. He is controversial because he says controversial things. It is obviously no more racist to criticise him than it is to criticise the members of Westboro Baptist “Church” or Bill Mahr or Rush Limbaugh or any other high profile speaker who says controversial things.

    The New York Times reported that a wealthy, conservative, republican supporter of Romney was allegedly CONSIDERING doing a commercial about Wright. Note that he hadn’t even made the commercial yet. Note also that Romney has stated that he would rather they NOT make such a commercial. I don’t see how that all translates to racism.