This week Barack Obama was pressured to denounce Jeremiah Wright. But in the hundred years following the end of the Civil War more than five thousand African Americans were lynched and not a single president denounced the atrocities. Because of this history, black patriotism is complicated.
Black patriots love our country, even though it has often hated us. We love our country, even while we hold it accountable for its faults.
I understand why the Obama campaign felt they had to distance themselves from Wright’s post 9-11 comments. But I am worried that Obama has missed a chance to talk about the rich and complex tapestry of black religious life. Not all black people are Christian. Not all belong to large, urban churches. Even fewer worship with such an outspoken, unapologetically political minister. But Trinity UCC does represent an important segment of black religious tradition. It is not scary, racist or un-American. Quite the opposite, Rev. Wright is integral to the broad prophetic tradition that informs many black churches.
Before moving to Princeton, Harris-Lacewell was a professor at the University of Chicago. I’ve long appreciated her insights, even though I may not always agree. But I think she nails several important points in this article. I’d encourage you to read it in its entirety.