Obama speaks about his ex-pastor and race

PHOTO: Barack Obama

Barack Obama delivered a speech today about his relationship with ex-pastor Jeremiah Wright and the issue of race. You can read a transcript of the speech at Obama’s website.

There has been a media firestorm (overblown, in my opinion) about controversial remarks Jeremiah Wright has made over the years in his sermons. Among other things, Wright has blamed American foreign policy for 9/11 and has bitterly blamed whites for the condition of blacks. He famously said we shouldn’t bless America, but damn America.

While Wright’s rhetoric passed over the line of good taste, I don’t think there is any dangerous lunacy to the substance of the quotes in question.

“We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye. We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.”

I don’t think it’s anti-American to point out that war and violence will often beget more war and violence. Unfortunately, pointing to basic truths about the utility and consequences of our foreign policy is tantamount to blasphemy in our political culture. America is perfect and can do no wrong. End of story.

“The government gives [blacks] drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.”

While I don’t believe that the government is operating a conspiracy to give blacks drugs, I do believe that up until 50 years ago they were treated as less than human both directly and tacitly. I don’t find it shocking at all that someone would hold a grudge after living through systematic discrimination.

As promised here is the full video of the speech:

Here is the part of Obama’s speech that elegantly explains his relationship Wright:

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

Flickr photo by Mr. Wright


  1. Cameron

    It was super lame. I think when people re-read or hear the sound bytes again, they’ll be less and less impressed. He still doesn’t really answer why he chose Rev. Wright to be his spiritual advisor for so long — if Barack actually uses this man for moral guidance, I’m worried. I also don’t like how he’s making the election more racially charged by not just dealing with Rev. Wright in this speech, but expanding on the issue to make it black interests versus white interests, no matter how much he says that’s not the case.

  2. Ian

    I think Obama has said something along the lines of, “If the only things you knew about Wright were the speeches they are talking of in the news, you would be shocked.” He is probably right that it isn’t fair to judge the man over what he has said in 2 speeches. I don’t think its fair to judge Obama for something someone else said in 2001 or 2003. It isn’t like Wright was speaking as a representative for Obama then either. If this is the best people can come up with to smear Obama, you might as well just hand him the election.