Reverend Jeremiah Wright is back.
This week the news broke that Reverend Wright, of 2008 campaign infamy, would be the keynote speaker at a breakfast sponsored by the Chicago Teachers Union to commemorate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.
But if you thought Reverend Wright’s very public disagreements with President Obama during the 2008 campaign was just water under the bridge, you would be wrong. Yet no matter how hard conservative media tried to tie President Obama to his former pastor, it just won’t stick.
Voters decided in 2008, that the connection to Reverend Wright was not a disqualifier and the controversy faded into the distant memory of anyone who doesn’t spend all of their time in the bowels of the right-wing blogosphere.
Reverend Wright is now clearly not a fan of President Obama and didn’t hesitate to criticize his administration’s use of drones. In his remarks Wednesday, Reverend Wright said, “”King said, “I have a dream,” Obama says, “I have a drone.””
And then Reverend Wright continued hitting the president’s administration on their civil liberties record saying, “Every Tuesday morning, there’s a kill list that the president decides who they’re going to kill this week.”
Reverend Wright’s most famous quote is, “The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people,” he said in a 2003 sermon. “God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.”
If you hear it from the right-wing echo chamber, President Obama is a socialist communist dictator who has imposed his Kenyan anti-colonialist worldview on innocent Americans after being brainwashed by his radical left-wing pastor. Of course none of these words mean what the right wing thing they mean, and the media figures spewing these smears at the president know how to exploit the ignorance of the audience. To hear Reverend Wright criticize the president from the left must be confusing for a right winger who thought the reverend and the president were BFFs.
The decision to cut ties with the reverend seems like destiny from up above. The president’s now historic Philadelphia speech on race relations to dampen the controversy over Reverend Wright’s “God damn America” quote put him in a unique role as the leader of an imagined post-racial America. In his second term, the president was finally freed up to speak eloquently about race and injustice. His remarks on Trayvon Martin are among his most poignant and honest. Had he not split with Reverend Wright when he did, the president may not have been able to fill this unique space at a time where the country seems so resistant to finally confronting its ugly racial history.
Perhaps the return of Reverend Wright is a moment to contrast the radical reverend and the progressive, but measured black president and their two differing approaches to fighting injustice. Reverend Wright will forever be a footnote in the 2008 presidential campaign but this week’s Obama bashing makes it clear that any connection to the first black president ended before President Obama entered the White House.
Follow Zerlina Maxwell on Twitter at @ZerlinaMaxwell.