Reverend Jeremiah Wright addressed an enthusiastic group scholars, spiritual leaders, and press at the National Press Club this Monday. I watched the whole thing and found myself engaged by the charismatic delivery and penetrating content of his speech. My first thought was about how much this speech was going to clarify and reconcile some of the misconceptions that mainstream media had purported about Reverend Wright – and he was going strong, all the way up until the question and answer section.. oh boy. During the Q&A the press baited the Reverend with several loaded questions designed to enhance controversy and alienate Obama. Unfortunately, Reverend Wright played right into their hands, going so far as to suggest that Obama only distanced himself from Wright as a political maneuver to satisfy his conservative white constituency. Even if this were the case, by snitching on him, Wright has forced Obama into a very compromising position. The Rev. couldn’t have done more damage to Barack Obama’s campaign if he had tried.
So as I’m watching, thinking to myself “why would Reverend Wright take these stances at such a crucial time in Obama’s campaign?” I recognize someone at the table right next to him. He was talking to her right before he was introduced and delivered his keynote speech. It was Reverend Dr. Barbara Reynolds – an avid Hillary Clinton supporter. All the sudden, it clicked! Obviously Wright and Reynolds’ connection as spiritual leaders surpasses their commitment to either the democratic or republican party. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if this entire media frenzy (the National Press Club meeting was coincidently coordinated by Reynolds) was actually a calculated offensive strategy of the Clinton campaign. And a successful one at that! If it hadn’t already, Senator Obama’s momentum has certainly now come to a complete stop. But can he really blame Wright for telling like it is? I’m torn. Torn between actually agreeing with pretty much everything I’ve heard from Reverend Wright and wanting him to preach on, and wanting him to sit his butt down until Obama seals the deal.
When asked by a reporter why he was choosing to speak out now, at such a critical time, he responded by saying that he was “playing the dozens” and that he would not sit still while people were trash talking his momma (or the black church). This seemed to be a general thesis, as he framed all of the negative press directed at him as an “attack on the Black church.” At the beginning of his speech, Wright stated “the reality of of the African American church will no longer be invisible.” This makes it seem as if he’s using the recent controversy surrounding his comments to shine light on a serious problem. However, I believe he’s going about it all wrong. You can’t move the Black religious tradition “from the status of invisible, to the status of invaluable” through the National Press Club! He should have known better than that. But at the end of the day, as Wright reiterated repeatedly, he only has to answer to God. Unfortunately for Obama.