Those are three subjects some people used to say they avoided in
polite company. Now, they’re the center of a national debate that
escapes practically no one.

We have been thrust into a divisive issue by the campaign that promised unity.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is absolutely right, as he
said in his Philadelphia speech on Tuesday, that Americans are “hungry”
for his “message of unity.”

But his relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright — and not only
that, but his whole liberal-populist agenda — raises profound questions
whether he is capable of delivering on it.

By choosing — and sticking with — the Rev. Jeremiah Wright as his
spiritual adviser, Obama has damaged his ability to heal the nation’s
racial wounds. And his agenda offers nothing that will attract
Republicans and end political polarization.

Mort Kondracke is not a Republican mouthpiece, nor a ‘right-wing
conservative,’ and he represents a lot of moderate commentators and
journalists, black and white, who are doubtful Obama has put this whole
affair behind him.

Time does praise Obama’s speech as much as they would be expected to. It also raises a question.

But that doesn’t mean it will succeed in its more
prosaic mission of appealing to voters who have their doubts about
Obama and his preacher. It left unanswered a crucial question: What
attracted Obama to Wright in the first place?

Kondracke points to that alliance as the disturbing concern for many Americans.

In the 1960s, black Americans had a choice whether to
side with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X — the healer who
sought to fulfill America’s highest ideals through nonviolent struggle,
or the raging polarizer who tried to mobilize blacks out of resentment
of whites.

Jeremiah Wright — not just back then, but to this day — took the
Malcolm X route. And Barrack Obama chose the Rev. Wright as his pastor.

And Obama stuck with him. Whether Obama was in church the day that
Wright declared “Goddamn America” for systematically infecting blacks
with drugs and HIV, or when he said that America’s “chickens were
coming home to roost” on Sept. 11, 2001, surely Obama had to have heard
about it.

Surely, he heard about Wright’s pilgrimage to Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and his “lifetime achievement award” for Louis Farrakhan.

Now, Obama says, he rejects and abhors what Wright said and did. No
doubt, he does. But, he could cite no instance when he ever intervened
with Wright to protest his hateful nonsense. Reportedly, Oprah Winfrey
quietly left Wright’s church. Obama did not.

The Time account sees it this way:

Obama was searching for an identity and a community, and he found both at Trinity. And he found a spiritual guide in Wright.

Much of white America is unfamiliar with the milieu of the black
church. When clips from Wright’s sermons began circulating, many whites
heard divisive, angry, unpatriotic pronouncements on race, class and
country. Many blacks, on the other hand, heard something more familiar:
righteous anger about oppression and deliberate hyperbole in laying
blame, which are common in sermons delivered in black churches every
Sunday.

Therein lies the clash of two civilizations within a country that
thought we had healed much of that painful history and were in the
process still of moving on. Righteous anger still? These are common in
sermons…..still? Because if this kind of anger and deliberate hyperbole
and blaming are going on “in black churches every Sunday”, it’s a shock
to a lot of America today, including an increasing number of black
commentators on various network news shows I’ve been hearing over the
past several days, denouncing it.

Obama represented the hope of moving on, the promise of “Change” and
the prospect of unity. What has now changed the most is the subject. It
is about race, and we are feeling more divided than we knew we were in
a long time. 

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....