Jeremiah Wright has important things to say about race and religion in America. The test for America is whether it is willing to listen and incorporate Mr. Wrights insights into a larger conversation about these topics. Such a conversation would be much more informative than the worthless conversations about “bitterness” and so forth. The test for the media is whether it is willing to go beyond sound bites to give credence to the context of his remarks.
Last Friday, BIll Moyers devoted an entire hour to an interview with Jeremiah Wright. Initial reporting of this interview by the mainstream media focused exclusively on the last 5-7 minutes of the interview, which is the only time Wright mentioned Barack Obama. The media does an injustice to Wright, to Obama and to the country by excluding about 90% of Wrights comments which were insightful, and incredibly informative.
Wright was speaking about the Black Church as a different cultural phenomenon than the White Church. Not better and not worse but different. He placed the church within the context of slavery, jim crow and civil rights. What emerged from the interview was a strong rationale for why Obama would have joined the church and stayed with it for 20 years. The message is one of empowerment and pride. The key is not black separatism as Chris Matthews at MSNBC and Fox imply. It has everything to do with viewing christianity and the church through the lens of the African American experience.
Can the mainstream press deal with this perception? Can it deal with something outside its eurocentric comfort zone? These, i believe, are the real questions, and how the media handles them might well say more about Obama’s chances to win the presidency than we might care to admit.