Patriotism and race–Obama disowns Wright

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Prof. Dwight Hopkins, a member of Chicago’s Trinity Church, discusses media coverage and the feelings of church members towards Rev. Wright’s comments.

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Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: Thank you for joining us again, Rev. Hopkins.

PROF. DWIGHT HOPKINS, DIVINITY SCHOOL, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: Thank you for having me.

JAY: The members of the church, the members of, sort of you could say, progressive African-American politics, agree with a lot of what Rev. Wright says. Maybe they don’t think the government spread HIV, maybe they don’t like some of the stuff his sort of compromising remarks about Farrakhan, but other than that, they more or less believe in his vision of what America is and what American history is.

HOPKINS: My own view is that the media in the US, North America, needs to report the facts, and those facts should be both in reference to what’s happening domestically and also what’s happening internationally. So in a sense I think that a lot of what Rev. Wright is saying factually happened. You know, he talks about the history of foreign policy; he’s talked about the history of how certain governments in the United States have related to African-Americans and Native Americans and working people. And so, you know, he provides a lot of data. Of course there are some questions about the form that he presents it in. But the main thing, I think, if the media in the United States were to have a fair representation of the facts on all side, then I think we’d be closer to a true conversation on race and a conversation on what does it mean to be an American citizen, actually.

JAY: There’s an interesting moment on Fox yesterday. O’Reilly’s interviewing Karl Rove, no less.

HOPKINS: He made a calculation, Barack Obama did, that by being in this church, his political fortunes would be improved in the south side of Chicago. That calculation came true. His presence in the church and his alliance with Wright and these other characters, far-left characters in Chicago, was the reason that he became a state senator in Illinois and then a US senator.

JAY: But was this a tactical alliance in terms of Obama’s political career? And if so, what do you think of that?

HOPKINS: Well, I think that Obama was attracted to Trinity 20 years ago because Trinity represented certain values that he already had as a community organizer. The other thing I think was attractive for Obama, that is, Trinity being attractive to Obama, is that it has a strong affirmation of African and African-American culture. And I think, you know, his books have shown that there was always sort of, you know, a search for his own cultural roots. "Dreams for My Father" indicated that. And Trinity fulfilled that. And I would also say I’m not a trained psychologist, but I could imagine 20 years ago, not necessarily now, that, you know, Rev. Wright could have provided a pastoral—not a spiritual, but pastoral father figure as well. So on various levels I could see Obama being attracted to Trinity. Let me just add this quickly. If a politician in Chicago were to run for office, he or she would not be a member of Trinity. If you notice, I won’t name the Black churches, but most of the Black politicians in Chicago belong to other churches, because those churches are safer for a political future. So I really dispute that he uses Trinity. That’s not the way to get elected if you want to—in Chicago, if you’re Black and a politician, you wouldn’t necessarily join Trinity.

JAY: Because Trinity’s identified as too progressive, some would argue.

HOPKINS: Right. Wright has preached sermons against the mayor. There’s a whole campaign against Wal-Mart and how it’s treating workers in Chicago and globally. There’s a whole campaign around the Darfur issue. Jeremiah Wright was one of the first to put out the "free South Africa" signs in ’73-4. So I think the first black politician that’s been in Trinity is Senator Obama, to tell you the truth.

JAY: Are people angry at Rev. Wright for restarting this controversy again? And do they see it as being more personally motivated than some real defense of the church?

HOPKINS: It probably depends on whom we would talk to. I think those who really see their focus on how to get Obama elected, the way they see reality is in political terms, both tactically and strategically. And, obviously, if we take that perspective, one has to follow this from a political analysis. I think there are others who see it more as a Black church leader, and they interpret what’s going on that way. And then I think there’s a bunch of people in the middle who are sort of swaying right now. I mean, this is a very sensitive period right now.

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Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.