This email has been sent out by the Dallas South blog to members of the NABJforum and others. It addresses the Minister Louis Farrakhan interview in Trumpet, the formerly-owned magazine by the Trinity United Church of Christ, whose former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was Barack Obama’s spiritual leader.
Trinity is THE church for 7,000 members of Chicago’s black middle class. Obama has been a parishioner there for 20 years. Trinity United Church of Christ has a pro-African American missionary statement that became controversial once Obama became a political candidate. Although Trinity no longer publishes Trumpet–the magazine is now published outside the confines of the church–the publication has also become controversial thanks to NBC’s Tim Russert and linked to both the candidate and his place of worship.
February 29th, 2008
We all know that Tim Russert attempted to “swift boat” Senator
Barack Obama (and Clinton for that matter) in last Tuesday’s debate.
Russert decided to take the debate off the issues and turn it into a
muckraking session. Russert asked Obama about comments made by Minister Louis Farrakhan as well as comments about Min. Farrakhan that he attributed to Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.
I received an email this morning with information from the Managing
Editor of Trumpet Newsmagazine. Her message clarifies the bad information that’s been out there as well as the bad information Russert gave during the debate.
To whom it may concern:
I write to bring some journalistic clarity to what has become a
widespread inaccuracy. My name is Rhoda McKinney Jones, managing editor of the Trumpet Newsmagazine, and the author of the Minister Louis Farrakhan article in our November/December issue. Over the last few weeks, I have watched in disbelief as seasoned journalists and
not-so-well-intentioned bloggers have attributed to Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., pastor emeritus of Trinity United Church of Christ, the last three words of my first person, introductory piece on Minister Farrakhan. Those words are now familiar to you, especially after Tuesday night’s debate and Tim
Russert’s use of them — “truly epitomized greatness.” Dr. Wright, never said, wrote or uttered those words. Those words are mine and mine alone.
Whether one agrees with my assessment is not the issue or the reason I
was prompted to correct the record. As a well-trained journalist, I
know the most basic fact checking would have revealed the truth. Next
time, when attempting to sully a presidential candidate by discrediting his
church and its renowned, religious leader, let’s get the facts straight.
Rhoda McKinney Jones
Graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and
I made my own comments on Trinity and an earlier mindless attack on it about a year ago.
Erik Rush, a right-wing religion blogger, who happens to be black, criticized Trinity’s mission statement and made a feeble attempt to turn the church into a cult. The equally light-weight commentators on Fox Cable News took up Rush’s confusion. This is the op-ed page column in the Chicago Sun-Times I wrote about it on March 25, 2007. Excepts from the column are quoted in Snopes.com to combat the urban legend that Obama is a Muslim as well as on the candidate’s website, Barackobama.com.
Speaking of urban legends, the United States denomination, The United Church of Christ, is being investigated by the IRS--not Trinity, Obama's Chicago church.
Ethnic identity isn’t black and white
March 25, 2007
BY MONROE ANDERSON
For the past two decades, Barack Obama has been a faithful member of the congregation at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ. Trinity is no run-of-the-mill black church. It’s social activism and political awareness on pure, natural holy water. Trinity’s progressive pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, preaches the black theology of liberation. And he practices what he preaches. Back when apartheid was the law of the land in South Africa, when Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner and when American corporations, institutions and the U.S. government all gave their blessings to those evil doings, the dashiki-wearing minister planted a “Free South Africa” sign on the church’s lawn. Obama’s spiritual mentor has routinely been on the right side of morality, championing liberal causes from gay rights to opposition of the war in Iraq.
Shortly after Sen. Obama launched his run for the presidency last month, Erik Rush, a right-wing Christian blogger who happens to be African American, discovered what had been hiding in plain sight: The motto for Trinity United is “Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian.”
Trinity’s motto, as well as its mission to eradicate what W.E.B. DuBois called “the problem of the color line” and “the strange meaning of being black here,” so incensed Rush that he wrote a blistering blog about it. It was unnerving for him to learn that the South Side church had adopted a “Black Value System” and that its 8,000 black members are committed to the “Black Community,” the “Black Family” and “the Black Work Ethic.” In his blog, Rush ignores -- or is just ignorant about -- the nearly 200-year-long tradition of the black church’s struggle to free and elevate its people while slyly substituting the words white for black and then disingenuously concluding that “like the Nation of Islam, a white separatist church or the Branch Davidians, Trinity United more resembles a cult than a church.”
No doubt that concept came as news to the thousands of well-heeled, professional and middle-class black Chicagoans who are members of the church. And no doubt media mogul Oprah Winfrey and rap star Common, who have both attended Trinity, were surprised to discover they were cultists. But quicker than you could say “holy fit,” the cable conservatives were clucking and complaining to the high heavens. Tucker Carlson, MSNBC’s very own Fox News-type right-wing host, opined that, “This stuff sounds separatist to me.”
Sean Hannity, the conservative half of Fox News’ lightweight talk show, “Hannity and Colmes,” sounded as if this country was going to hypocritical hell. If a white presidential candidate’s church had a similar statement and “you substitute the word white for black, there would be an outrage in this country,” Hannity preached. “There would be cries of racism in this country.”
True and Catch-22. If a white church plainly and proudly pronounced its whiteness, Hannity, Carlson and company would be right. But if it was the Holy Trinity Polish Church on Chicago’s North Side, proclaiming its Polishness, who’d care? This is how African Americans find ourselves in a trick bag. We’re defined racially even when we’re acting like any other of this nation’s ethnic groups. Issues knee-jerkily become black and white when in reality they may be African American and Irish American. Or Serbian American and African American. Remove black and substitute another American ethnic group so that Trinity’s Concept No. 6 reads: “Adherence to the Mexican Work Ethic.” Does that still sound separatist? Or racist? Of course not. But, if you’re insincerely espousing color blindness, while holding the race card up your sleeve, you know you can easily trump African-American ethnic pride every time.
Obama’s political advisers know this as well. That’s why, at the last minute, Obama disinvited Wright to speak last month when he officially announced his presidential candidacy. Wright says that Obama now realizes that his political handlers gave him bad advice and that all is well between him and the senator.
I say this is just one more sad example of how ethnic identity gets color-coded for African Americans. And I believe it’s just one more sign that there are those who would place Obama in political purgatory -- painting him not good enough to be black and not right enough to be white.