Monday, May 5, 2008

A New Day

Tuesday is the big day in North Carolina. Democratic voters will decide between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Never before has this nation witnessed a primary election filled with so much drama, twist and intrigue. On the surface, the spectacle of these campaigns seems to be about the economy, immigration and foreign policy. There is much more at stake than what many assume.
The grappling over Reverend Jeremiah Wright has more to do with Obama proving to mainstream Americans that he isn’t overly enamored with a black agenda. Many have questioned his spin on the historical position taken by black politicians and their supporters. Obama has maintained distance from those hot button topics like Jena and refused to attend Tavis Smiley’s “State of the Black Union”. As critical as many have been related to this, Obama has to prove that he is willing to serve all of America-not simply a segment of the population.
My own disparaging comments regarding Obama had to do with his unwillingness to embrace a black political agenda that has ruled the day for so long that it is presupposed as normative. The black think tank has established that national black agenda. Tavis Smilley’s “Black Covenant” was designed as the blueprint for Black America, and is understood, by many, to document the common voice of the majority of black people in America. Smiley and others questioned Obama’s willingness to push that strategy.
What many missed, including me, was the paradigm shift unfolding before our eyes. Accountability to America required a separation from all interest groups-including Black America. That’s a tough pill to swallow when you’ve taken the old system for granted. Locally, we see the dynamics with the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People. Black politicians vie for the endorsement of the once powerful political action committee due to the assumption that their backing will assure victory.
What happened over the past week reflected a major shift in the way America, and, specifically, Black America regards the impact and significance of the role of the African American minister, the historical Black power base, and how the quest for unity has supplanted the desire to maintain an afrocentric perceptive. Put another way, black people are more concerned with the larger picture than before. The historical impact of the black political vision has taken a back seat to the desire to become more engaged in the American political dream.
The battle between Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama is reminiscent of the Biblical confrontation between prophets and kings. We are left believing this is about an old man’s ego juxtaposed against the ideas of a popular politician. This perspective leaves us reducing the debate to matters of individual philosophies while failing to see the shifting mindset among African Americans.
In part, this speaks to the tide of black faith. It reflects the dying influence of prophetic witness and the role of the black minister. It also speaks to the weakening influence of those organizations designed to tell Black people how to think and vote. On surface, this can be interpreted as a bad thing. Beyond the grieving that comes after considering the good ole days of black faith, this is a new day. Black people are calling for change, not only in the world of politics, but in the way we communicate what it means to be the people of God.
What does it mean? We are a universal family. It’s time to move past that which has historically divided and press forward with a faith consistent with the words we proclaim. It means this new breed of Black voters no longer accept the notion that everything in America can be reduced to the matter of race. It means that ministers like Jeremiah Wright are stuck in the quicksand of a painful past, while the country is moving forward with a new found hope in what we can be, what we will be, once we put to rest the burden of our memories.
As much as I hate to admit it, Jeremiah Wright wants to keep us looking back while Barack Obama is challenging us to see a new possibility. Black folks have to change the way they think, and black faith has to catch up to what the Spirit is saying in 2008.
Will the Church universal say Amen?


  1. I don't know about the church universal, but I'll give you an amen, brother.

    Wright, and others who see all non-blacks as the root of all evil, is telling us that white power is so overwhelming that it's almost impossible for any minority to succeed. The success of Obama's candidacy sends the very opposite message, which may be why Wright is so threatened by it. Obama, like so many other African-Americans in important positions, has already proven that a non-white heritage is not a barrier to success. Wright should be happy that many of the things he's fought for have come about. But, as pointed out in your message, he's still focused on the past at a time when many blacks are looking to the future.

    In addition, Obama has the more "Christian" message. We are all God's children.

  2. "The battle between Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama is reminiscent of the Biblical confrontation between prophets and kings.

    That has to be the most powerful commentary I have read on this controversy thus far. I think what appeals to me most about Obama, and I speak as a caucasian female, is that he embodies the America I've wanted and worked for. He's well-educated, successful, intelligent, diplomatic, and his ethnic heritage, while a factor, is not all that defines him. If I may be so bold, he is part of Dr. King's dream. So many of us judge him not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his fine character, and that is as it should be.

    Prophets and kings. Rasputin's influence felled the Romanov dynasty, and I think it's responsible of Obama to assure his electorate that he draws his influence from many sources, not the least of which is his own intellect and experience. I think if all candidates' advisors were microscopically examined as Rev. Wright has been, there would be a lot to answer for. I sincerely hope that voters can transcend this controversy and move forward.

  3. Once again the media, a field I am proud to say that I have worked in, has tried to define an agenda for us and tried to define how we should feel about a candidate....Do I agree with all that Rev. Wright said, the answer would be no, but do I understand the context in which it is being spoken, the answer would be a resounding yes....I refuse to let the media or any political pundits determine who our leaders should be and why.....I also know that the African American community is not some strictly monolothic group that only thinks or acts in one way...The time has definitely come for us to cross various bridges and unify with our various brothers of Progression, be they white, Native American, Hispanic, etc...The issues we face in this trying time deserve some concrete answers and some profound plans and ideas...Something I for one believe Obama has proven he has...I look forward to a great day from the state of North Carolina and even Indiana on tomorrow...I went to school in Milwaukee under the guidanceship while I was there of a man named Howard Fuller, a friend of my Parents Jim and Valeria Lee, and I have seen what great community organizing can do.....I saw that more than 20 years ago in Milwaukee...This same Howard Fuller in the 60's had done some great community organizing that crossed various boundaries here in Durham..with own community organizing and activism in Chicago, I believe this is the tradition that Obama comes from and I look forward to seeing the country move in a much more progressive and better direction as we head into a new and better day, that rejects the policies of hatred and division which were so evident during the Bush-Reagan Presidencies......