For a while at the National Press Club, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright was going along fine. But there was a point—and you can see it with the sound muted—where he started to answer questions and flew off the rails. I know a lot of Old Black Folks doing that Wright Thing: spouting off in public hoping that someone will hear and acknowledge their righteous outrage. He's that uncle at the church picnic who's telling it ALL. About everyone. Right or wrong. Loudly.
NOTE TO WRIGHT: Wrong picnic.
This is the problem with him and other Civil Rights Era Old School illuminati: they think it's all about them and their close-up, their message, consequences be damned. The Wright Thing of trying to jack the national stage is a recurring motif. Jeremiah Wright's most recent comments reveal that he thinks every lectern is a pulpit, every audience is a church congregation, and every sound-bite is a teaching moment.
Sound-bites cannot be teaching moments by virtue of their brevity. Church is probably not the place to unveil geopolitical history lessons or theories on genocide. As Wright himself said, there are graduate-level studies dedicated to (conflicting) scholarship on these matters. So you can argue that it is irresponsible to drop little bombs on such heavy topics in church, then pass the plate, say "Amen" and call it a wrap. But it was his church, and it was his prerogative. From that side of his pulpit Wright was within his right.
But he did Obama a disservice by grabbing the mike in D.C. and free-styling a theological remix of Nat X's Moment in Black History. Bad look.
I'm on record: I admire Wright's courage, his will to power, his willingness to step into the fire and defend what he believes. Whether we like it or not, he has a right to his politics; he has the right and the responsibility to divine scripture and the right to share that revelation with his flock. All people have the right to congregate and discuss their own politics candidly, any place they'd like. Unmolested. Wright's thing works in controlled environments. But taking that show on the road is another thing entirely. The right move was to fall back. In an attempt at some kind of short-hand, half-assed biblical clarifications, he dug himself in deeper, and pulled Obama in with him.
I feel for Barack Obama, because Wright put him in a trick bag where he was going to take a hit coming and going. If Obama didn't divorce himself completely from Wright, he would scare away the skittish among his white base. If he dissed his pastor…well…you don't diss Pastor in the black community. So we'll see how that shakes out. Me? I think the appearance on Bill Moyers was enough—but with his most recent comments, Wright didn't leave him an "out." Obama couldn't just brush him off. He had to give him walking papers.
Seems like in the last five years, old black men have risen off the Lazy Boy, wandered into the streets and started ranting wildly about $1,000-sneakers and chickens roosting in their backyards to the delight of editors everywhere. They are wacky and unpredictable, toting buckets of past-time pain, eager to chum a mainstream media only too happy to give them a podium.
You got Bill Cosbyat one extreme and Rev. Wright at the other. Pound cake larceny and homegrown biological warfare. Jesus Handbraking Christ. Enough already.
Jimi Izrael is a blogger for The Root.
Single Father, Author, Screenwriter, Award-Winning Journalist, NPR Moderator, Lecturer and College Professor. Habitual Line-Stepper