April 27, 2008
Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s controversial former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who spoke tonight to 12,000 people at the NAACP’s 53rd annual “Fight for Freedom Fund” dinner held at Cobo Hall in Detroit Michigan, said he is “descriptive,” and not divisive in describing American social ills. In part, he spoke in response to many recent criticisms and the firestorm of protest which erupted after a snippet of his ““God damn America” speech appeared on YouTube. Wright said that social and political change will come to America only when Americans see each other as Americans, as essentially the same, rather than focusing on differences. “Different does not mean deficient,” he said. “It simply means different.”
Wright, 66, who recently retired from pastoring Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, said during an interview which aired Friday on PBS that he’d received death threats and had endured “vitriolic hatred” recently because Americans “would rather cling to what they are taught” than re-examine the government’s oppression of minorities such as African-Americans, Native Americans and civilians swept up in wars overseas. Wright didn’t recant any of his controversial sermons, either in the PBS interview or in the NAACP speech tonight.
Rather, he said: “We are committed to changing the way we treat each other. Everybody in here who’s not an Indian do be an immigrant. Some of ya’ll came over on the decks of the ship and some of ya’ll came in the bowels and holds of the ship, but we’re all immigrants.” Referring to Barack Obama, the preacher said: “Please tell my stuck-on-stupid friends that Arabic is a language, it’s not a religion. Barack Hussein Obama. Barack Hussein Obama. Barack Hussein Obama. There are Arabic-speaking Christians, Arabic-speaking Jews, Arabic-speaking Muslims and Arabic-speaking atheists. Stop trying to scare folks by giving them an Arabic name as if it’s some sort of disease…Did you hear me, O’Reilly?”
Wright, never one to mince words, delivered a sermon on September 16, 2001, five days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which seems eerily prescient in hindsight. Here’s an excerpt from it:
“I heard Ambassador [Edward] Peck on an interview yesterday. Did anybody else see or hear him? He was on FOX News, this is a white man, and he was upsetting the FOX News commentators to no end. He pointed out — a white man, an ambassador — he pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he was silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true: He said America’s chickens are coming home to roost.” (Peck, a career diplomat, also argued against the March 2003 Iraq invasion, commenting at the time: “When you take out Saddam Hussein, the key question you have to ask then is, what happens after that? And we don’t have a clue. Nobody knows, but it’s probably going to be bad. And a lot of people are going to be very upset about that, because that really is not written into our role in this world, to decide who rules Iraq.”)
Wright continued in his sermon by saying: “We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, Arikara, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism.
“We took Africans away from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism.
“We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel.”
“We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenage and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard-working fathers.
“We bombed Qaddafi’s home, and killed his child. Blessed are they who bash your children’s head against the rock.
“We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to pay back for the attack on our embassy, killed hundreds of hard-working people, mothers and fathers who left home to go that day not knowing that they’d never get back home.”
“We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye.
“Kids playing in the playground. Mothers picking up children after school. Civilians, not soldiers, people just trying to make it day by day.
“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff that we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.”
“Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism. A white ambassador said that y’all, not a black militant. Not a reverend who preaches about racism. An ambassador whose eyes are wide open and who is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised. The ambassador said the people we have wounded don’t have the military capability we have. But they do have individuals who are willing to die and take thousands with them. And we need to come to grips with that.”
Learn more about how Americans are perceived in Iraq.
Photo credit: Kathleen Galligan/Detroit Free Press
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