Rev. Jeremiah Wright's Sermon in Context
When the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermons first came under fire, I didn't even want to bother arguing about them. I was raised in a black church. I knew how good preachers would use hyperbole and aggressive statements to make their point during sermons aimed at teaching bold lessons to parishioners.
But then, of all people, Bubba the Love Sponge hipped me to some postings on YouTube, where an enterprising videographer found larger clips of the most notorious sermons quoted by TV news outlets in the stories which kicked off the controversy about his speeches. And I was ashamed.
Because Rev. Wright deserved a better defender than I -- or, frankly Barack Obama -- have been during this nonsense. A look at these clips, which present much larger excerpts of Wright's speeches, shows that his seemingly damning statements came during passionate speeches about America's history of racial oppression and America's history of killing innocents while exacting military revenge against enemies.
One of Rev. Wright's most controversial comments -- the statements about "chickens coming home to roost" after 9/11 -- was his quote of a white ambassador speaking on Fox News Channel. Why didn't the TV news reporters tell us this?
It is true that Wright has also made some strident charges which aren't true. In a phrase within his GD America speech, he says the government injected black men with syphillis. Presumably, he is referring to the legendary Tuskegee Experiment, in which nearly 400 black men who already had syphillis were led to believe they were being treated for it when they were really being observed by government physicians noting the effects of the disease's advancement. (ironically, the story was broken in 1972 by Jean Heller, a former St. Pete Times reporter who was working for the Associated Press at the time)
He's also said the government has given drugs to black people, a possible reference to a widely discredited theory that the CIA helped establish the drug pipeline which first brought crack cocaine to Los Angeles, as a method of funding the Nicaraguan Contra rebels. This theory was the subject of a 1996 three-part series in the San Jose Mercury News and a book. But the newspaper backed off the story after it was published and the reporter, Gary Webb, eventually killed himself in 2004.
What is clear here, is that Wright is articulating the suspicions and cynicism of many black people about the motives of a government led mostly by white people. I think his characterizations can sometimes be simplistic and off base, but I don't think he's the raving racist some pundits have made him out to be.
Check these two excerpts of his speeches from YouTube and see if they don't make you think twice: