TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: Lester K Spence on the Obama-Wright Moment

6 PM Mountain Time

The recent controversy surrounding Barack Obama and Reverend Jeremiah Wright has opened up innumerable discussions outside and inside the American Afrikan community regarding who has a right to say what, and who has a right to consort with whom.

So far, US corporate press has done nothing but scale their already lofty positions on the mountain of hypocrisy. While Democratic contender Obama is held up to scrutiny and shaming for his Reverend’s comments—which when taken in context sound entirely logical—the comments of some supporters of Republican nominee John McCain are outrageous.

According to Mother Jones magazine: “Senator John McCain hailed as a spiritual adviser … Ohio megachurch pastor [Televangelist Rod Parsley] who has called upon Christians to wage a ‘war’ against the ‘false religion’ of Islam with the aim of destroying it.

(Thanks to Swamp Politics for the link on media hypocrisy.)

Of course, in a society that once claimed legal ownership over an entire segment of the human population, it shouldn’t be surprising that some descendents of the owning class still believe they have affinity rights over the descendents of the group that was once in the owned class.

Prominent Afrikan politicians and candidates in America are regularly asked to denounce fellow Afrikans; the corresponding law isn’t enforced against Euro-Americans. Whether such a law is appropriate for anyone is a separate debate—after all, the company we keep does speak to our values and may speak to our intentions—but unless such a rule is required of all, it is, by definition, discriminatory.

The man just off-centre of the controversy is Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., who since 1972 has preached at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ. He’s been a Marine, a cardiopulmonary technician, and an academic, having received his doctorate in Theology from the United Theological Seminary. He has also been the recipient of eight honorary doctorates.

The phrase ‘Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian’ was coined by Rev. Wright’s predecessor, and shortly after Wright’s ministry began, the phrase became the church’s motto. Under Wright’s stewardship, the church has grown from 87 members to over 6,000, and has included Oprah Winfrey among its parishioners. Wright has lectured at universities and seminaries across the United States and internationally, and is the author of four books.

Much of the furor around Reverend Wright’s comments is focused on two phrases: “the chickens are coming home to roost,” and “God damn America.” Hear and watch those comments in their original context:

Reverend Jeremiah Wright – video clip posted on AlterNet by Erikka

Commenting on this crisis—or opportunity—for Obama is Lester Kenyatta Spence, a 39-year old Detroit native who’s now an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. His focus is American Politics, Afrikan-American Politics, Urban Politics, Public Opinion, Political Behavior, and American Political Thought.

Spence's work has appeared widely, including in The Washington Post, The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, Black Voices, The American Journal of Political Science, Political Analysis, The WEB Dubois Review, The National Political Science Review, and Political Research Quarterly. He’s been a guest on C-Span, PBS, and talk-radio across the United States, and is a regular commentator on the US network National Public Radio.

An increasingly prominent public intellectual, Professor Spence brings far-ranging consciousness and academic vigour to wide-ranging topics such as Black Nationalism, pop culture and Black bourgeois attempts to co-opt hip hop culture and activism. Check out his blog Bloodied but Unbowed (which is now in the Top Links section at the left).

Obama’s response to his pastor’s commentary—and the various reactions to it across the US racial and political spectrum—reveal and obscure the complex associations of race and power in America.

Professor Spence spoke with me via telephone from his home in Baltimore on Sunday, March 23. Along the way, we discuss Martin Luther King, former King lieutenant Andrew Young, and corporate press’s demand that Obama denounce the unsolicited endorsement of Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan.


And now it’s time for another installment of our semi-regular feature on The Terrordome called The Pan-Afrikanist’s Library, in which I ask people from here and people from afar, jus’ folks and famous folks, about their favourite books by writers from any nation of the Afrikan Planet.

Today’s entry in the library is courtesy of Nene Khalema of South Africa. Khalema is completing his doctorate in Education, and he’s worked in Edmonton’s Afrikan communities for years, particularly as an advocate for educational reform. Currently he works with students of diverse immigrant backgrounds who face difficulties from lack of acculturation to post-traumatic stress disorder. Today, Nene Khalema speaks on Fools and Other Stories, a short fiction collection by South African writer Njabulo Ndebele.


louie said…
That's an interesting post. Here's a website that is useful for those who wish to overcomepost traumatic stress. has plenty of tips and guides which you can use to improve yur condition. Hope this helps ya.
Anonymous said…
There is a lot of media hypocrisy on this issue. For example, John McCain goes out of his way to court extremist Evangelicals and he doesn't get criticized for that, can you imagine if Barack Obama went to court new Black Panthers for example.
The sad part is that McCain was a moderate on this issue, he condemned Falewell as as an agent of intolerance but then when it came time for Republican primaries he embraced him. While I certainly don't agree with the knee jerk anti-Americanism of most Black nationalists, at least they aren't dangerous like the Evangelicals who I would argue are more truly anti-American than any Reverend Wright.
Brother OMi said…
good post

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