The thousands of words being spoken and shouted on television in an attempt to analyze Pastor Wright’s strange behavior seem to me to make a complex issue even cloudier.
The commentators don’t get it. Not the black ones or the white ones; not the young ones or the old ones.
What they are missing is the vital importance of Pastor Wright’s age. He is 67 years old. The schools he attended were segregated. For much of his early life, black people were required to sit at the back of the bus in many states, and in many communities across America, they could not drink from the same water fountains or use the same rest rooms as white people.
In some states it was against the law for a white person to marry a black person.
Picture this boy from Philadelphia’s “German Town” growing up in that environment. To make matters worse, he is not really black. Looking at him, my guess is that he is probably three-quarters white. Where I grew up in Jamaica, he would have been mocked as a “redibo” by other children.
Fast forward to the Sixties, when Barack Obama was born.
By then, the civil rights revolution was at its height. Rosa Parks had made her stand. Martin Luther King had dreamed his dream. By the time Obama went to school in the United States, integration was the law of the land. Indeed, as he matured, he was helped along the way by the nation’s new awareness of the need to foster the education of black students.
Looking at Obama, half black and half white, I see the product of a great revolution in America. He, of all people, would have no cause to invoke God’s curse on America. He has benefited immensely from the civil rights revolution in which Pastor Wright’s generation laid their lives on the line. His character was not formed in the same crucible as Pastor Wright’s.
These are bright “black” men of different generations, divided by a gaping chasm. Obama is conciliatory, post-racist, post-sexist, well educated and refined — ready to help lead America and the world into a gentler, more productive phase of history. Pastor Wright is a wounded warrior, still bleeding deep inside from injuries that you and I can only imagine.
Of course, Barack Obama is aghast at the apparent hate coming from his pastor’s mouth. But, if he is as wise as he seems to be, he cannot be unaware of the smoldering embers that have flared into such a searing flame.
It is entirely understandable that Obama is not only “outraged” but also “saddened” by his former pastor’s posturing.