President Barack Obama’s former spiritual adviser spoke just a few miles from the White House on Sunday, and politics and controversy weren’t far from what Rev. Jeremiah Wright had to say.
“As we celebrate the foundations of our future, this is not a time to romanticize because we have the first African-descended president in the White House,” Wright said in a fiery sermon that lasted close to an hour. “You see what the tea party is trying to do.”
Speaking at Washington’s Florida Avenue Baptist Church, which marks its 100th anniversary this week, Wright urged parishioners to teach their children true African-American history and not to cede their educations to “our enemies” who teach “his story,” one that “distorts our story, disses our story.”
Children may “only know Oprah and Obama,” he said, so it’s up to elders to teach about Nat Turner, Emmett Till, Rosa Parks, Paul Robeson, Zora Neale Hurston and other Black voices.
“We need to tell our children … how we got from a Black congressman named Adam Clayton Powell to a Black president named Barack Hussein Obama,” he said to applause. “But we also need to tell them how we have Black politicians who steal money.”
Wright, who retired from Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ in the spring of 2008 amid controversy over his influence on Obama just as the Obamas left the church, briefly mentioned his politicized past. He quoted Frederick Douglass, who said in 1852: “ The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.”
Douglass’s words, he said, “sound curiously like a controversial preacher, preaching 150 years after Douglass.”
Wright also blasted people who he described as “biscuits” and “sheep dogs” — African Americans raised in the white world.
“Take that baby, him or her away, from the African mother, away from the African community, away from the African experience … and put them Africans over at the breasts of Yale, Harvard, University of Chicago … UCLA or UC-Berkeley,” he said. “Turn them into biscuits. Let them get that alien DNA all up inside their brain and they will turn on their own people in defense of the ones who are keeping their own people under oppression. Sheep dogs.”
“There’s White racist DNA running through the synapses of his or her brain tissue. They will kill their own kind, defend the enemies of their kind or anyone who is perceived to be the enemy of the milky White way of life.”
Though the Obamas severed their ties to Wright and his church in 2008, the preacher has remained an emblem for some conservatives of the extreme views they believe the president has.
“The world is about to see Jeremiah Wright and understand his influence on Barack Obama for the first time in a big, attention-arresting way,” said a proposal for super PAC-funded advertising attacking the Obama-Wright connection leaked this spring. But billionaire Joe Ricketts – for whom the proposal had been written – disavowed any interest in going forward with the ads. Mitt Romney also distanced himself.