A letter to Rev. Jeremiah Wright by JD McCallum:
Dear Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright,
I originally was going to write about people and their short memories.
Remember when Black Chicagoans were so proud to be “Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian.” If you had cojones and integrity, and weren’t part of the Machine, you were at Trinity.
I remember, Rev, that you were so popular that Trinity went from something like 80 to thousands of members in a number of years under your leadership. Truthfully, you did it by calling out government leaders, making correlations between Biblical times and present day.
You, Reverend Wright, were the most articulate voice of reason espousing what irked your people in the Chicagoland area. Bar none.
People might have thought Farrakhan extreme and Jesse too complacent but by and large, you were viewed as a balanced, if opinionated minister who was willing to back up your claims and allegories with history. Boy, you knew black folk, and you knew church folk. Used to call them out from the pulpit. You knew black Christians, with their cliques, songs and sanctified judgment, were a funny people. Love you today, tomorrow get upset if you embarrass them. Look at Bill Cosby. Look at Jesus. Man, black people loved Christ one week and called for his execution the next.
Getting ahead of myself. Never were you as on point as when addressing politics, Chicago style (to say “political corruption” would be redundant). I remember one sermon, entitled “Spiritual Amnesia,” where you reminded Chicago preachers their allegiance “was to God and not to government.” This came after several well known Black pastors endorsed Mayor Richard Daley, never the Black community’s ace boom coon, over a viable Black candidate. The kicker was that one of the preachers was the Black candidate’s pastor. His pastor for what, two decades?
Black folk elsewhere have it a bit more together than to fall for the same political okey-doke in 2009 they did back in the day, but you know what MLK said about Chicago Negroes. How everyone in the sanctuary laughed, clapped and shouted in agreement when you drew parallels between black folk living in oppressed Palestine 2000 years ago kowtowing to an oppressive power structure and those in the 1990s living under the reign of Pharaoh Richard Daley II. These same folk howled when you pointed out how desperate and sick an individual must be to sell out his own brother for the dubious honor of sitting with the power structure on a dubious perch of authority. Remember the African proverb about the snake?
Now the same people who used to laugh when you made fun of what was wrong in our city and with its political machine are shunning you. Hypocrites. The same Knee-grows who two years ago found it loathsome for intelligent folk of color to bend over backwards to be accepted by mainstream society are now saying, “Would you please SHUT UP? Wes gots us a president now!” Cats are going from Huey Newton to Stepin’ Fetchit at warp factor five with no end in sight.
The same people who were willing to enter into intelligent discourse about how to fix what ails our community now cringe when anyone with that mindset opens his mouth. I am not in favor of victimology, but a black president surrounded by and large by everyone but black people does not change reality for so many of us. Nobody knows this Reverend Wright or that of which he speaketh.
There’s a precedent for this, Rev. You know church people. Peter denied Jesus, too.
I originally was going to write about a minister who believed in Black people, valued our contributions to this country and its culture, championed higher education through its institutions and loved its women. Poor Rev. You got railroaded, I initially thought.
Then I remembered something.
I was at both Obama’s primary and Senate win celebrations in Chicago. Weren’t you there? Remember when Barrack Obama used to be a nobody in Chicago politics? He couldn’t even beat Bobby “Don’t Lynch Roland Let ‘em Be Senator” Rush for a congressional race. He was probably at Trinity weekly then, basking in your glow.
Then one day, he got tied in with the state’s political machine, which endeared him to the city’s even more powerful machine, which got him elected Senator and introduced to Chi’s big Dem money givers. At no point did you call him on that, the way you called out others. Now he’s at Trinity with you basking in his glow. You’re no longer Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, brilliant preacher dedicated pastor and black thinker. You’re Rev. Wright: Barack’s minister!
Admit it, you liked it. You liked it so much you forgot that which you preacheth … People are finicky … people are sometimey … people switch sides in a heartbeat … people’s loyalty … man, Rev. You forgot about Peter.
I was going to write and lecture Black people about the dangers of wanting to belong so badly, they catch themselves up and find themselves sitting in the dust as the train goes by.
Then I realized that lesson went further than I originally thought.
JD McCallum is a Chicago native and the author of the blog Ya’ll Know Better.