In the post immediately below, I described candidate Barack Obama’s 2007 speech in Hampton, Virginia in which he told a group of black ministers that because of racism, America doesn’t care very much about black people. As I noted, Obama based this claim on dishonest statements about the response to Hurricane Katrina.
Jeremiah Wright also figured in Obama’s Hampton speech. In fact, Obama paid this tribute to Wright:
I’ve got to give a special shout out to my Pastor. The guy who puts up with me, counsels me, listens to my wife complain about me. He’s a friend and a great leader not just in Chicago but all across the country, so please everybody give an extraordinary welcome to my pastor Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., Trinity United Church of Christ.
Where’s he at? There he is. That’s him, that’s him right there. You wearing a suit today, right?
The tribute is at one with the substance of Obama’s speech. Wright had claimed, among other slanders of white America, that the HIV virus was developed by the government as a means of exterminating blacks. Though Obama surely doesn’t agree with this claim, his contention that the government was indifferent to the plight of Hurricane Katrina victims is also incendiary, and also false. It is Jeremiah Wright lite.
Obama’s shout-out to Rev. Wright was fitting, though not proper.
According to the Daily Caller, by the time of the Hampton speech, Wright had told The New York Times that he would no longer be speaking on the campaign’s behalf because his rhetoric was considered too militant. Too militant for white consumption, but not too militant to preclude a tribute to Wright before a black audience.
Plainly, Obama wanted blacks to know that he still regarded Wright as a national leader To drive home the point, Obama blew off criticism of Wright as based on the fact that “we talked about black people in church.” But Obama knew that the substance of that talk was politically problematic. That’s why Wright had lost his speaking role in the campaign.
As Obama made clear to his black audience, however, personally he didn’t regard Wright’s talk as substantively problematic. Rather, although he didn’t subscribe to all of the particulars, Obama agreed with Wright’s core claim that white racism is pervasive and that it drives public policy.
Indeed, this was the thesis of the Hampton speech. And it is a hidden premise of the Obama presidency.