Barack Obama: The influence of Pastor Jeremiah Wright?

Right Time, Wrong Candidate – Part 2
Friday, March 21, 2008

“Senator Obama’s repudiations notwithstanding, maybe he really was paying attention all those Sundays in The Church of Outdated Ideas.”

This piece is a sequel to an article entitled “Right time, wrong candidate.” which I posted on Wednesday.  I hadn’t intended to write a sequel, but then I didn’t anticipate that Senator Obama would make the comment he made yesterday on ESPN radio which clearly suggested that white people – not just a few or some white people, but white people in general – react with apprehension, and sometimes fear, when they encounter Black Americans.  To quote Senator Obama who was attempting to clarify what he said in his speech about race:

The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity, but she is a typical white person. If she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know, there’s a reaction in her that doesn’t go away and it comes out in the wrong way.*

Senator Obama’s remark is too politically stupid for someone of his obvious intelligence not to actually reflect what he believes.  As such, it gives us extraordinary insight into the personality of someone who boasts of his ability to bring us together – all of us, Americans of course, but also nationals of other countries in the management of our foreign policy.

I don’t pretend for a moment to speak for anyone other than myself, nor do I believe that Barack Obama speaks for Black Americans other than himself.  What I am is a student of behavior, my own, and others I observe.

I was in New York, yesterday, on business.  It was a long day, including time on trains, taxis, and walking crowded streets.  It was, as always, an ethnically mixed experience of the highest order, covering the full spectrum of incomes and occupations.  I saw no fear in the faces of the white or other people who found themselves in the company of their Black countrymen.  Nor have I in the faces and behavior I have observed in any other context, in any other city, large or small, sophisticated cosmopolitan or working class rural, grocery store, mall or schoolyard.   What I see is people of all colors and hues, working, living and playing together.

No doubt there are still people out there, white and black, who harbor latent and even conscious fears of the other color, but if these fears are commonplace, if they are the norm, then I have completely missed it.

One of us – Senator Obama or me – holds the more correct view of how black and white people, Hispanics and other ethnic groups, have come to relate to each other.  I believe we are a nation that has gone from open prejudice to accommodation, to understanding, to acceptance, to “Who cares?” in my own lifetime, and I am impressed by, and proud of my country.  It’s breathtaking, the speed at which we have reaffirmed and extended the principles upon which our nation was founded.

If I’m wrong about how people feel toward each other, then I stand to be corrected, and will humbly return to my job and blog, the wiser for what I have learned.  If, on the other hand, Barack Obama is wrong, he can’t be allowed to be President because his point of view will adversely affect his ability to govern, to formulate and implement domestic and foreign policy.

From what age, from what era in all this progress we have made does Barack Obama originate his sense of the “typical white person”?  He tells us he is about the future, when he clearly lives in the past.  The Senator is 46 now, and for the past 20 years, since he was twenty-something, has considered the Reverend Pastor Jeremiah Wright to be his friend and spiritual advisor.  Senator Obama’s repudiations notwithstanding, maybe he really was paying attention all those Sundays in The Church of Outdated Ideas.

*From a telephone interview, yesterday morning on 610 WIP.  See the full text at

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6 responses to “Barack Obama: The influence of Pastor Jeremiah Wright?

  1. Pingback: Obama Defends Typical White Person Remark « Right News

  2. To quote from an Avenue Q song:

    “Everyone’s a little bit racist.”

  3. I like the concept, ej… “The Barack Obama Story” as a musical comedy. I’ll call Mel Brooks.

    You know, as my favorite historian, you have carte blanche to use the “Guest Postings” page. No topic off limits. Next time you need a break from all that heady stuff you’re doing, put your feet up, keyboard in your lap, lean back (but not too far), and make yourself at home.

    Regards to Offspring. -wf

  4. Barack’s speech simulates a courageous address on race. But, as with more transparent race hustlers like Al Sharpton, he finds the engine of black faults in white racism, both in the past and (implausibly) in the present. A more courageous address would have asked for something real and substantive from blacks. But the black nationalism he and his pastor endorse does not consider blacks to have any faults, misdeeds, or need for collective action in contrast to the strenuous demands put upon whites. Real racial peace requires both sides to engage one another honestly and with sincerity. His hair trigger accusations of racism–against his grandma and Ferraro–coupled with his view of exquisite black victims and persistent white victimizers does nothing to advance such a conversation.

  5. Hi. Interesting point about the presumption of innocence. Let’s see if any other people dropping by have a similar reaction, or counter-comment.

    Stop by again when you have time. – wf

  6. Long Tall Texan

    The following is an excerpt from the full comment I received. -wf

    Campbell professor speaks on real meaning of Christian unity

    BUIES CREEK – When Barack Obama refused to denounce controversial pastor and mentor Jeremiah Wright recently, he was doing something that reflected the Bible’s teachings about the nature of Christian unity, according to Steven Harmon, associate professor of Christian theology at Campbell University.

    As Campbell’s Staley lecturer for 2008, Harmon used the analogy in the third lecture in the series, “One Life With Each Other: The Theology of Ecumenism,” to illustrate the spiritual meaning of Christian unity as explained by scripture.

    “Christian unity is no easy unity,” Harmon said. “We are members of one another, but we can be angry and disagree with each other without turning it into a sin.”

    “When Senator Obama said Wright was like family to him, that he couldn’t disown Wright because he was a part of him, he was precisely right. Baptism creates a new family that takes precedence over the relationships we have with the families that include parents, siblings, spouses and children,” Harmon said.

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