Watch Your Back, Barack – Part II

I am disturbed.  The events of the last few days are a classic display of an intergenerational struggle that exists in the black community.  Barack Obama’s former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, put on a show for the press and for the country.  He was strutting his stuff and spouting his bizarre beliefs on a well-lit stage, cognizant of the fact that he was providing a serious detriment to Obama’s campaign.  This is not the first time I’ve seen it.


I am at the tail end of the Baby Boomers.  In the black community, we were just ten years too young to participate in any of the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s.  I was old enough to be aware of the movement, and to mark the deaths of the notables, but not old enough to march or carry a sign or vote.  More than that, I was already living in the rarefied air of the U.S. Army officer’s child, an integrated living and work and school situation long before that existed in mainstream America.  It was my age group that began to see the benefits of the Civil Rights movement, to actually live with some of the improvements that have come in this country, and even to sometimes take them for granted.   


Before my generation, college-educated blacks were frequently very limited in career choices.  They could become educators, preachers, or-with the required family wealth-doctors, lawyers, and dentists.  Whatever the choice, they would practice their profession in a segregated society.  Those who became preachers were frequently the most powerful professionals in their communities.  They ran large organizations (their churches), lording over both the social agenda, the finances, and the religious direction of the institution.  They were looked to for wisdom that was far wider than their field of training.  They held large groups of people in their sway, and people were commonly willing to overlook the areas of their lives and presentations that were not in tune with the prescribed religious doctrine that they professed.  This was Rev. Wright’s generation and millieu. 


These are my experiences:

     I once attended a church with a powerful minister who was a contemporary and acquaintance of Dr. Martin Luther King.  He was a powerful speaker, adept with words, and he used his words instead of the yelling and noise that is sometimes proffered as preaching.  He was a community leader in my hometown and was well-known in the black and white communities.  He served his church for more than 40 years.  That is not a term of office, it is a regime.  Most politicians and monarchs can only hope for such lengthy rule.  That kind of power for that length of time can be corrupting and beguiling. 


     Several years ago, a local black civil rights leader who was of the same generation as Rev. Wright made a  public anti-gay declaration in the name of civil rights.  When I wrote an editorial to the local paper lamenting his use of Dr. King’s name in the interest of homophobia, and noting that everyone deserved the fair treatment for which the civil rights movement had struggled, I was contradicting one of my learned elders.  That set up some animosity and resentment towards me, the upstart who dared to speak out and publicly disagree, somewhat analogous to the relationship between Obama and Wright.


     As a high school senior, I finally had the opportunity to learn from one of the few black instructors at my predominately white private school.  I was overjoyed to be in that class.  I was probably a little more talkative than usual, with the end of high school approaching.  I may have also been seen as over-confident, as I was near the top of my class and had never seen a grade lower than an A.  However I was seen, my confidence was thoroughly trashed by the teacher, who informed me with the words “You’ll get yours.”  To this day, I cannot recall anything that should have inspired such hatred and disdain in that teacher.  Another example of one generation resenting the successes of the next, and angry that the next generation’s choices had expanded. 


Some of those who fought for civil rights in this country seem unable to stand back and allow progress to be made.  One would logically think that the “old heads” would be overjoyed to see the country at the point where a black man and a woman are vying for the Democratic nomination.  One would also expect that anyone with a history of supporting equality would only be interested in supporting those candidates and promoting a fair race with focus on what the country still needs.  Instead, the ministerial power has gone to Wright’s head, and subverted his thinking, reducing him to a jealous old man who resents the next generation, the benefactors of his early work.  It is one thing to hold unpopular views and disregard science and history in your understanding of current events (such as the AIDS crisis); it is a whole other thing to deliberately impose those views on others in a public arena, whether it is a pulpit or a press conference.  Jeremiah Wright is egotistical and irresponsible. 


Last time I said “Watch Your Back, Barack”, I didn’t think I’d have to repeat it in reference to his former pastor. 




2 Responses

  1. Ok!

    I’m still not quite sure what Rev. Wright is doing; there are also those (right-wing Republicans; I watch The VIew just to see how often Elisabeth Hasselbeck can bring this up, btw) who say Barack Obama should have left that church years ago, and by not doing so is complicit with Rev. Wright’s more extreme leanings.

    I watched the entire “chickens home to roost” sermon and found it compelling; I wish more people would refuse the sound bite and take in the whole meal.

    Do you think Rev. Wright is in fact challenging Obama to step up and embrace the black community and the past in a more compelling, in-your-face-white-America manner??

  2. Did you see Michael Moore on Larry King? He made some good comments about the whole Jeremiah Wright issue and Hillary’s response that she would have gotten up and walked out of the church. Something along the lines of the fact that he goes to the Catholic Church and if he walked out every time the priest said something he didn’t agree with, such as that women can’t be priests, or on birth control, he would get alot of aerobic exercise. I thought that was a good comment.

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