By Vincent L. Hall
The courage that allowed African Americans to confront chattel slavery, the Black Codes, Jim Crow, and second-class citizenship were not emboldened by America’s “founding fathers.”
We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us. We didn’t seat a representative in the Continental Congress.
No, for us…for Black people in Maya Angelou’s “Yet to be United States,” our “Founding Fathers” wore robes and ecumenical vestments. Unfortunately, most of us have little knowledge of the part that preachers played in our race and our history.
Meet Jeremiah Wright!
Dr. Jeremiah Wright is a throwback to the petulant preachers and gospel gladiators whose righteous indignation set us free. The Right Reverend Wright stood flat-footed on one occasion and declared unapologetically that America is “the land of greed and the home of the slave.”
Now what’s interesting about that statement is that for most of the world, it rings as authentic as the Liberty Bell. America is known internationally as being greedy, and it will always be remembered for slavery. Quite like the Germans bear the burden of the Holocaust. Slavery and the Holocaust happened and can never be forgotten.
But Americans want to ignore history, race, and the ugly entanglement that the two have had with one another in this nation. We want to act like nothing ever happened. Preachers like Jeremiah Wright, never let the truth go untold and unnoted.
American history has been selectively crafted and summarily canonized. Some White folks have conveniently developed amnesia. They languish in various stages of nostalgic dementia. “Trumpism,” for example, is all about the “Yesteryears.”
Black preachers have always been the couriers of America’s truth. We pay them and put them in a position to tell that truth while remaining unfettered and unmolested by the status quo. You can’t go on Uncle Cholly’s plantation to expose racism and injustice without consequences. Still, the Black Preacher is on our payroll. We pay our ministers and expect them to advance the kind of social justice God requires, or quit!
We try to escape it, but social justice is implicit and ingrained in God’s Ten Commandments. Walking down that aisle and giving the preacher your hand ain’t enough. The old preacher used to look you dead in your eye and admonish you to “work out your soul salvation in fear and trembling.”
That wasn’t merely an invitation to join the church choir; that was a mandate to join the chorus of the righteous who fight and suffer for universal peace, justice, and liberation.
Thumb through your mental Rolodex and point to a movement that freed Black folk that was not rooted in the Black church. From the great Black preachers of the Methodism down to Jeremiah Wright, ministers who made a difference have been loud and proud to speak the truth they’ve been commissioned to share.
So, I know that to form any merely mortal depiction of the Obamas is heresy and sacrosanct in Black America. Even Obama decided not to blemish the spotless semblance of “First Negro President.”
Barack has continued to run from public embraces of a Jeremiah Wright. But…
Barry and Michelle sat in Jeremiah’s congregation. They listened to his messages of hope and parlayed the prophecy of his preaching. Barack Hussein Obama, without the vision and vigilance of a Jeremiah Wright, is just a tall, lanky Black man with a funny name.
Any attempts to deify Obama without the tutelage and encouragement of Wright is like praising the jockey while neglecting the horse that won the Kentucky Derby by four lengths. Ronald Joseph Morel has a name because he rode the back of Secretariat and not the other way around.
By now, you’re asking, “Who pissed in his Post Toasties?”
So let me admit; every time I see Barack Obama, part of my pride turns to pity. My love and appreciation for him are immense. Still, it could increase if he made a public attempt at suturing the sufferings of his once mentor and friend.
America is good about forgetting the subtle chapters of its ugly history, but not me. So if you see the Prez, tell him to go lay hands on Jeremiah, just like Jeremiah laid hands on him.