The Rev. Jeremiah Wright has been called a pastor’s pastor, a preaching master who’s like the opposite of March: comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion. But not even his ample preaching powers could induce a largely African American crowd to find fault with their President.
Wright gave a rousing keynote address Saturday at The Chronicle’s annual community service awards. His mix of humor, biblical insight and biting social commentary turned the North Hall of the Benton Convention Center into a church sanctuary and garnered Wright a standing ovation. Yet by comparison to the rest of his message, one could’ve heard a pin drop in the banquet hall filled with more than 700 people when Wright aimed his critiques at President Obama, a former member of Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ flock.
Perhaps it is because they feel he takes undue hits from right-wingers or that he is held to a higher standard than his predecessors because of his race, but black folks are reluctant to express or even endorse any sort of criticism of President Obama, even when a little may be warranted.
Wright drew the indifferent crowd reaction after expressing his disapproval of the unmanned drones that the Obama administration has used, seemingly with impunity, to target suspected terrorists in the Middle East. Wright is not alone in his criticism of the drone program. Ironically, Wright’s disapproval puts him in agreement with many of the Republicans who tried to use the president’s connection to Wright to derail his election and reelection chances. But liberals and moderates have also raised valid questions about the program.
The administration credits drones, in part, from preventing another Sept. 11-like terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Their use also keeps U.S. soldiers out of harm’s way, they argue. Critics, though, have a hard time swallowing the fact that the program allows the administration to play judge and jury, while the drone plays executioner.
There are other valid criticisms of the president. His agenda has lacked a specific, stated plan to address African American unemployment, even though the jobless rate among blacks has long been nearly twice that of whites. His second term administration also lacks gender diversity. Since Hillary Clinton left the Department of State earlier this year, a number of other female cabinet members have exited and have been replaced by men.
Certainly black folks frequently found fault in President George W. Bush and even President Clinton to a lesser extent. Shouldn’t President Obama receive equal treatment? No one wants to beat the president up (God knows, he gets enough of that), but healthy debate or even dissent is what makes our democracy strong.
Many African Americans consider the Obamas family, and we all know that black folks don’t air family business in the street. But tough love and honesty are often doled out in black families. They make us stronger, more introspective and ultimately better people.