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Monday, March 24, 2008

Dr. Wilmer J. Leon on Jeremiah Wright

The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright and the Audacity of Truth
By Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Saturday 22 March 2008

Over the past week or so, mainstream media have turned much of their attention to the fiery sermons of the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright. Dr. Wright is pastor to Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) and his family. He was also, until recently, pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ of Chicago.

Most of the discussion and commentary about Dr. Wright's sermons have come from a predominantly white media. The points of discussion have centered on what they consider to be the "vile, racist and un-American things" said by Dr. Wright. Very few, if any, of the discussions have focused on the historical basis and accuracy of what Dr. Wright actually said.

The major problem with the discussions is they have been largely one-sided. The media have used the imagery of Dr. Wright, clad in African garb, shouting in the cadence of an old-time fire and brimstone minister and playing to the camera as a scare tactic. Has this become the "Willie Hortonization" of Senator Barack Obama? The reporting and commentary on Dr. Wright's words have been presented from the perspective of people who either have no appreciation for the African-American historical experience or a personal agenda when it comes to presenting these issues.

Dr. Wright is under attack for saying such things as "... the government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three strikes law, and then wants us (African-Americans) to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no; not 'God Bless America,' God damn America ... for killing innocent people; God damn America for treating its citizens as less than human...." These are very strong words, delivered at what many are calling a possible turning point in American history with regard to America's willingness to elect an African-American candidate. While the mainstream media have found no merit in any of Dr. Wright's statements, let's examine their merit from a historical basis.

When people read the Constitution, the supreme law of the United States, they see the oldest governing constitution in the world. They see a great document that has articulated the precepts of life, liberty and happiness that all in this country try to follow. What is often overlooked are the parts of the Constitution that laid the foundation for hundreds of years of slavery and oppression for African-Americans; the constitutional framework for human beings to be treated as less than human. It's these sections of the Constitution that America has never truly atoned for and still refuses to make right.

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