Monday, October 23, 2017
Repeating History: They Wanted King to Shut Up Too
By Jasmyne A. Cannick (Columnist)
Published May 5, 2008

I refuse to live my life tip toeing around as to avoid making people feel uncomfortable when it comes to race, class, and America’s memory problem when it comes to Blacks.

As I said before, the white man’s burden is not the Black man’s responsibility.

There’s a reason why in school, we were taught about Martin Luther King and not so much about Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey.

Some Black people speak the truth in a manner that frightens others who just can’t handle it and see it as threatening and will do anything to silence it in an effort to preserve the status quo to keep doing business as usual. Almost similar to the reality perceived by humans in the film the “Matrix,” where a simulated reality was created in order to pacify and subdue the human population while their bodies' heat and electrical activity are used as an energy source. Yes, our denial and downright fear about race and class in America has been and is currently being used to the advantage to others

And to be honest some Black folks can’t handle the truth either. We like to call that Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary’s theory that explains the etiology of many of the adaptive survival behaviors in African-American Communities throughout the United states and the Diaspora.

You see you got your kumbaya hand holding folks who talk a good game in front of the cameras and then you got those folks that just speak the truth, no holds barred 24/7.

Enter Dr. Jeremiah Wright.

Black America, in particular Senator Barack Obama supporters, are fearful that while even though they agree with much of what he’s said, that he’s going to somehow ruin it for Obama.

This caused me to ask myself as an Obama supporter, what’s more important—this country finally addressing its issues with race and class or getting Obama the Democratic nomination?

The reality of the situation is that Obama could be elected President of these United States tomorrow, but there would be no guarantee that America’s race and class issues would get any better. In fact, I could see it getting worse, as some Americans are operating under the belief that by voting for Obama America has somehow transcended race issues. The lies we tell ourselves.

While I want to see Obama ascend to the Democratic nomination and eventually the presidency, his candidacy doesn’t supercede the quest for racial justice for African-Americans. America’s race and class issues have gone on for far too long unresolved and allowed to fester and brew making the way for the feelings that many Blacks harbor today towards the government and whites. Make no mistake. All of the recent stories of blackface on college campuses, nooses in the workplace, and justice denied as in the Sean Bell case, aren’t new phenomenon’s. Similar incidents have been going on for years without media attention and in some cases the attention of famed Black activists, it’s only because race has once again been moved to the front burner that you hear and see more of it in your daily newscast.

Back in the day significant members of the Black church including the National Baptist Convention led by Dr. J.H. Jackson in the 50’s vehemently opposed the Civil Rights Movement and didn’t want progressive ministers like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to rock the boat and have any confrontations with the government. Today we are seeing a repeat of the past with calls for Dr. Wright to “shut up” before he messes it up for Obama.

I want Obama to be president just as much as the people calling for Dr. Wright’s silence, but I draw the line at somehow suggesting that Dr. Wright’s speaking the truth is less important. America needs to hear the truth, both white America and Black America. And while I think Obama would make a fine president, I am not pinning all of my hopes on him to fix America’s issues with race and class. Only we the people can do that, and we do that by speaking up and speaking out about. It’s always the right time to speak about race and America’s politics.

Obama did exactly what I expected him to do last week. Probably on the advice of his campaign advisors, he distanced himself even further from Wright after a string of public appearance by his former pastor. Did it upset me to see him pandering to the voters by denouncing a man that dared to speak the truth on race? You bet it did. But I understand why he had to do it, I don’t agree with it, but I understand it. Is that going to make me take down my Obama signs out of my window and my custom made “Obama Mama” clinger on my car, not a chance. I’m disappointed, not crazy.

Because of the criticism that Dr. King faced from his own people his activism, he created the Southern Christian Leadership Conference along with Los Angeles ministers Reverend James Lawson and the late Dr. Thomas Kilgore, pushing forward with his fight for equality, a fight that today has greatly benefited those that opposed him in the beginning.

To that end, I am happy that Dr. Wright hasn’t censored himself and caved in to calls for him to disappear somewhere. We need voices like Dr. Wright’s.

Let’s be real, while there are a plethora of Black activists, there are very few that dare to really rock the boat. Even fewer that would risk losing their corporate sponsorships by saying “God damn America.”

To me, Dr. Wright represents the type of voice that we need, and quite frankly have been lacking, speaking up for Blacks. You know, the kind of voice that hasn’t been bought off with lavish corporate sponsorships of annual conferences and birthday parties. The voice of reason that has nothing to lose by speaking freely and openly about America’s denial of their issues with race as it relates to Blacks.

Dr. Wright embodies the late Shirley Chisholm’s slogan, unbought and unbossed. No amount of negative publicity is going to make him distance himself from his people or deny what he knows to be true.

My man, Dr. Wright!

And while all of America’s attention via the media has been on Dr. Wright’s comments, what about right-wing conservative Pat Buchanan’s A Brief for Whitey?

And I quote, “First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known. Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.

I don’t think that it’s a mistake that Buchanan’s comments went relatively overlooked by the mainstream media while Wright’s comments were repeatedly over sensationalized.

Pat Buchanan’s comments are exactly the reason why Black people need to address the atrocities committed against us and not leave it to others to rewrite our history. If we don't, we get ludicrous statements like the one above which we all know is about as far from reality as Senator Hillary Clinton dodging sniper fire in Bosnia.

But because he felt comfortable enough in his “whiteness” to say it is what really bothers me and just further illustrates how our struggle for liberation and equality continues to be minimized to the benefit of the very people who are responsible for our current state.

We are at a point in a time where our actions are going to dictate whether it’s business as usual as it relates to race and class, or if we are going to address head on, the good, the bad, and the ugly. The way I see it, Obama being the good, Pat Buchanan the bad, and Dr. Wright the ugly—each of them has had a roll to play. Obama gave us hope for the future, Pat Buchanan gave us reality, while Dr. Wright gave us the truth.

We’ve got to stop allowing the mainstream media or unverifiable reports of Senator Clinton surging ahead in polls to dictate our consciousness, or change the perceptions of the realities we know to be true. That’s how they keep us distracted, how we keep ourselves down and the last time I checked, no suckers lived here.

Instead of trying to silence the truth, we should be embracing it while using it to change reality into the hope for the future that we see in Obama.

Come tomorrow, no matter who wins or loses in Indiana and North Carolina, it won’t be because of Dr. Wright. It’ll be because of ourselves and what we choose to buy into…or not.

Speak on Dr. Wright, speak on!

At 30, Jasmyne Cannick is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the worlds of pop culture, race, class, sexuality, and politics as it relates to the African-American community. A regular contributor to NPR’s ‘News and Notes,’ she was chosen as one Essence Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World. She can be reached at or

Categories: Opinion

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