Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Now America Knows What Many of Us Have Known All Our Lives

Yes, there it was for all to see, a phenomenon that has tormented, mystified, thrilled and comforted some of us our whole lives long:  Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the personification of a whole generation of old black men -- irritating, endlessly voluble, energizing, and, whether we liked it or not, ours.  

I realize it is difficult for people of other races or even other generations to quite grasp his appearances over the last three days.  They have been described as performance, scene stealing "monomania," and detrimental to Barack Obama, but what many who viewed his appearances or read his words will never know is that many of us grew up with similar disquisitions, and not just from the pulpit.  If we were in the garden the lecture was about the loss of commitment to farming or the inherent laziness of our generation. The few Black men who taught in our schools made sure we knew we were lucky to be there and bearers of a great responsibility.   From the pulpit the pastor could range from Jesus to President Johnson to Jim Crow and back again.  And the barber shop was the place where every idea could be tested, rehearsed, weighed in the balance of each man's inherent profundity.  

Megachurch prosperity-preaching televangelists and Condi Rice might lead one to believe that Rev. Wright's kind of preacher or African-American is an anachronism.  But there are Black men in our homes, back yards, classrooms and pulpits who believe, who know oppression still exists, that words have power, and can help bring about change, even when poured out upon us in torrents and streams that threaten to drown us.

 Yes, back in the day their carrying on could (and did) get on our nerves, just as it could  (continues to) fuel our imaginations and urge us on to greater depths of critical analysis and more earnest efforts to attain social change in service to all our people.

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