Transcript of Jeremiah Wright's speech to NAACP
Wright spoke at NAACP event about race, religion and society
Wright: "I describe the conditions in this country"
Wright: "Conditions divide, not my descriptions"
Wright hopeful becasue many are "changing how we see others who are different"
This is the transcript of a speech given by Sen. Barack Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, at an NAACP dinner on Sunday night.
(CNN) -- The NAACP has an incomparable record. It has the longest list of achievements in the history of this country as being the undisputed champion in the fight against discrimination, racial prejudice, and unjust public policies, which have caused people made in the image of God to be treated as less than human or treated as second-class citizens.
In its early days, the NAACP and the black church in the United States of America were seemingly joined at the hip in the fight against injustice and the fight for equality on behalf of all people of color.
Many local chapters of the NAACP were started in black churches. Hundreds of black churches. The NAACP's fight for justice and freedom, however, is not limited to the concerns of the black church, historically or contemporaneously. And when the truth is told, as Paula
Giddings does so powerfully in her book "When and Where I Enter," there were times when the NAACP had to drag some timid black preachers along kicking and screaming as in the Montgomery bus boycott designed by the NAACP, not the SCLC.
Throughout its 99-year history, the NAACP has been built by people of all races, all nationalities, and all faiths on one primary premise, which is that all men and women are created equal. The nation's oldest civil rights organization has changed America's history. Despite violence, intimidation, and hostile government policies, the NAACP and its grassroots membership have persevered.
Now, somebody please tell the Oakland county executive that that sentence starting with the words "despite violence, intimidation, and hostile government policies" is a direct quote from the NAACP's profile in courage. It didn't come from Jeremiah Wright.
Otherwise, he will attribute the quote to me and continue to say that I and am one of the most divisive people he has ever of heard speak. When he has never heard me speak. And just to help him out, I am not one of the most divisive. Tell him the word is descriptive.
I describe the conditions in this country. Conditions divide, not my descriptions. Somebody say "Amen." If you can't say "Amen," you're too mad, just say "Ouch."
The NAACP is nonpartisan. The NAACP is not beholden to, controlled by, or partial to any one faith tradition. The NAACP says proudly that it is a compound of people of all races, all nationalities and all faiths.
And it is for that reason that I am especially grateful to Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony and the Detroit branch of the NAACP for honoring me by having me address their 2008 theme "A Change is Going to Come."
One of your cities' political analysts says in print that first just my appearance here in Detroit will be polarizing. Well, I'm not here for political reasons. I am not a politician. I know that fact will surprise many of you because many in the corporate-owned media have made it seem as if I had announced that I'm running to for the Oval Office. I am not running for the Oval Office. I've been running for Jesus a long, long time, and I'm not tired yet.
I am sorry your local political analysts and your neighboring county executives think my being here is polarizing and my sermons are divisive, but I'm not here to address an analyst's opinion or a county executive's point of view. I am here to address your 2008 theme, and I stand here as one representative of the African American religious tradition which works in concert with other faith traditions, believing as we work together that a change is going to come.
On that point, about other faith traditions, in addition to Pastor Anthony, Pastor Nicholas Hood, Pastor Charles Adams, Pastor William Revelli, Pastor James Perkins, Pastor Wilma Rudolph, Pastor Holly who is suffering from a stroke, Father Michael Flager, Father Jeremy Tobin, Pastor Dee Dee Coleman, Dr. Georgia Hill and Rev. Lonnie Peek. I would also like to thank Sister Melanie Maron, the former executive director of the Chicago chapter of the American Jewish Committee and the current executive director of the Washington, D.C., chapter of the American Jewish committee. I would like to thank my good friend and Jewish author Tim Wise for his support, and I would like to offer a special "shookran" to Imam Muhammad Ali Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights for his courage, his conviction and his support.
The support of the Jewish community, the Muslim community, and the Christian community, Protestant and Catholic, is in concert with the credo of the NAACP and a definite sign that a change is definitely going to come. An additional special thank you is offered to Soledad O'Brien for CNN's outstanding "Black in America" and my long-term friend Roland Martin.
I believe that a change is going to come because many of us are committing to changing how we see others who are different.
In the past, we were taught to see others who are different as somehow being deficient. Christians saw Jews as being deficient. Catholics saw Protestants as being deficient. Presbyterians saw Pentecostals as being deficient.
Folks who like to holler in worship saw folk who like to be quiet as deficient. And vice versa.
Whites saw black as being deficient. It was none other than Rudyard Kipling who saw the "White Man's Burden" as a mandate to lift brown, black, yellow people up to the level of white people as if whites were the norm and black, brown and yellow people were abnormal subspecies on a lower level or deficient.
Europeans saw Africans as deficient. Lovers of George Friedrich Handel and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart saw lovers of B.B. King and Frankie Beverly and Maze as deficient. Lovers of Marian Anderson saw lovers of Lady Day and Anita Baker as deficient. Lovers of European cantatas -- Comfort ye in the glory, the glory of the Lord -- Lovers of European cantatas saw lovers of common meter -- I love the Lord, He heard my cry -- they saw them as deficient.
In the past, we were taught to see others who are different as being deficient. We established arbitrary norms and then determined that anybody not like us was abnormal. But a change is coming because we no longer see others who are different as being deficient. We just see them as different. Over the past 50 years, thanks to the scholarship of dozens of expert in many different disciplines, we have come to see just how skewed, prejudiced and dangerous our miseducation has been.
Miseducation. Miseducation incidentally is not a Jeremiah Wright term. It's a word coined by Dr. Carter G. Woodson over 80 years ago. Sounds like he talked a hate speech, doesn't it? Now, analyze that. Two brilliant scholars and two beautiful sisters, both of whom hail from Detroit in the fields of education and linguistics, Dr. Janice Hale right here at Wayne State University, founder of the Institute for the study of the African-American child. and Dr. Geneva Smitherman formerly of Wayne State University now at Michigan State University in Lansing. Hail in education and Smitherman in linguistics. Both demonstrated 40 years ago that different does not mean deficient. Somebody is going to miss that.
Turn to your neighbor and say different does not mean deficient. It simply means different. In fact, Dr. Janice Hale was the first writer whom I read who used that phrase. Different does not mean deficient. Different is not synonymous with deficient. It was in Dr. Hale's first book, "Black Children their Roots, Culture and Learning Style." Is Dr. Hale here tonight? We owe her a debt of gratitude. Dr. Hale showed us that in comparing African-American children and European-American children in the field of education, we were comparing apples and rocks.
And in so doing, we kept coming up with meaningless labels like EMH, educable mentally handicapped, TMH, trainable mentally handicapped, ADD, attention deficit disorder.
And we were coming up with more meaningless solutions like reading, writing and Ritalin. Dr. Hale's research led her to stop comparing African-American children with European-American children and she started comparing the pedagogical methodologies of African-American children to African children and European-American children to European children. And bingo, she discovered that the two different worlds have two different ways of learning. European and European-American children have a left brained cognitive object oriented learning style and the entire educational learning system in the United States of America. Back in the early '70s, when Dr. Hale did her research was based on left brained cognitive object oriented learning style. Let me help you with fifty cent words.
Left brain is logical and analytical. Object oriented means the student learns from an object. From the solitude of the cradle with objects being hung over his or her head to help them determine colors and shape to the solitude in a carol in a PhD program stuffed off somewhere in a corner in absolute quietness to absorb from the object. From a block to a book, an object. That is one way of learning, but it is only one way of learning.
African and African-American children have a different way of learning.
They are right brained, subject oriented in their learning style. Right brain that means creative and intuitive. Subject oriented means they learn from a subject, not an object. They learn from a person. Some of you are old enough, I see your hair color, to remember when the NAACP won that tremendous desegregation case back in 1954 and when the schools were desegregated. They were never integrated. When they were desegregated in Philadelphia, several of the white teachers in my school freaked out. Why? Because black kids wouldn't stay in their place. Over there behind the desk, black kids climbed up all on them.
Because they learn from a subject, not from an object. Tell me a story. They have a different way of learning. Those same children who have difficulty reading from an object and who are labeled EMH, DMH and ADD. Those children can say every word from every song on every hip hop radio station half of who's words the average adult here tonight cannot understand. Why? Because they come from a right-brained creative oral culture like the (greos) in Africa who can go for two or three days as oral repositories of a people's history and like the oral tradition which passed down the first five book in our Jewish bible, our Christian Bible, our Hebrew bible long before there was a written Hebrew script or alphabet. And repeat incredulously long passages like Psalm 119 using mnemonic devices using eight line stanzas. Each stanza starting with a different letter of the alphabet. That is a different way of learning. It's not deficient, it is just different. Somebody say different. I believe that a change is going to come because many of us are committed to changing how we see other people who are different.
What Dr. Janice Hale did in the field of education, Dr. Geneva Smitherman did in the field of linguistics. Almost 25 years ago now, Dr. Smitherman's book published by Wayne State University talking and testifying the language of black America taught us the same thing. Different does not mean deficient. Linguists have known since the mid 20th century that number one, nobody in Detroit, with the exception of citizens born and raised in the United Kingdom, nobody in Detroit speaks English. We all speak different varieties of American. If you don't believe me, go to the United Kingdom. As soon as you open your mouth in the United Kingdom, they'll say oh you're from America. Because they hear you speak in American. Linguists knew that nobody in here speaks English, but only black children 50 years ago were singled out as speaking bad English.
In the 1961, it's been all over the Internet now, John Kennedy could stand at the inauguration in January and say, "ask not what your country can do for you, it's rather what you can do for your country." How do you spell is? Nobody ever said to John Kennedy that's not English "is". Only to a black child would they say you speak bad English. Kennedy got killed. Johnson stepped up to the podium and love feel, we just left love feel. And Johnson, said my fellow Americans. How do you spell fellow? How do you spell American? Nobody says to Johnson you speak bad English.
Ed Kennedy, today, those of you in the Congress, you know Kilpatrick. You know, Ed Kennedy today cannot pronounce cluster consonants. Very few people from Boston can. They pronounce park like it's p-o-c-k. Where did you "pock" the car? They pronounce f-o-r-t like it's f-o-u-g-h-t. We fought a good battle. And nobody says to a Kennedy you speak bad English. Only to a black child was that said. Linguists knew that 50 years ago and they also knew number two that every language, including the language of Jesus, Aramaic, was made up of five subsets, pragmatic, grammar, syntax, semantics and phonics and that African speakers of English and African speakers of French and African speakers of Portuguese and African speakers of Spanish in the new world had created languages, not dialect all with five different subsets.
Languages, not Creole or Patois, languages. And Dr. Smitherman compiled the findings of an interdisciplinary research along with her own brilliant findings to show us that the language of black Americans was different, not deficient. She combined the findings of early childhood education, linguistics, socio-linguistics and the pedagogy of the oppressed to demonstrate most powerfully that different does not mean deficient. It simply means what? Different. I believe a change is going to come because many of us are committed to changing the way we see others who are different.
What Dr. Janice Hale did in the field of education and what Dr. Geneva Smitherman did in the field of linguistics, Dr. (Eldon) did in the field of ethnomusicology, the field of music. He showed us 40 years ago what Wintley [Phipps] is teaching you for the first time 40 years later. African music is different from European piano music. It is not deficient, it is different. In most school systems today, the way most of us over 40 years of age were taught is still being taught. We were taught a European paradigm as if Europe had the only music that there was in the world. As a matter of fact, if you just say the term, classical music.
Today, most here, use of that term will automatically refer to Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and already cited Mozart and Handel. European musicians. From grammar school to graduate school, we are taught in four, four time. That the dominant beat is on one and three. Our band directors, our choir directors, our orchestra director start us off how?
And One, two, three, four. One, two, three. Now, that's the European dominant beat. For African and African-Americans, it is not one and three, it is two and four. I don't have to teach you. Listen to black people clap to this song. Glory, glory hallelujah, you are clapping on beats two and four. If you got some white friends, they'll be clapping like this. You say they can't clap. Yes, they can. They clap in a different way. It's the same fact holds true with six eight time. Europeans stress one, two, three, four, five, six. One, two, three, four, five, six. Dum dum, dum, dum, dum. The stress is on one and four. Not for black people. When you got six eight time, blacks stress two three and five six.
Listen to this -- blessed assurance, Jesus is mine two, three for, five, six - oh, why are you clapping on the wrong beat? Africans have a different meter and Africans have a different tonality. European music is diatonic, seven tones. Do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do. That's Italian. Europe. In west Africa and south Africa, it is not diatonic, seven tones, it is pentatonic with five tones. Wintley [Phipps] points out that if you want to know black music, just look at the black keys on the piano. Do, re, fa, so, la. Just those five tunes. Those are the only five notes you'll hear and somebody knows the trouble I've seen.
It only uses five notes the same with the river it also uses five notes. That's all. I believe a change is coming. It's not deficient, it's just different.
Many of us are committed to changing how we see others who are different. When you look at and listen to - I'm in Michigan. OK. Here in Michigan, look at and listen to the University of Michigan and Michigan State University bands at halftime. Their bands hit the field with excellent European precision. Da, da, da, da, da, ta, ra, ra.
Now go to a Florida A&M and Gramling Band. It's different. And you can't put that in no book. I believe change is going to come because many of us are committed to changing how we see others who are different. One is not superior to the other. One is not normal with the other being abnormal. One is not deficient because it doesn't follow the same methodology of the other. It is just different. Different does not mean deficient. Tell your neighbor one more time.
Now, what is true in the field of education, linguistics, ethnomusicology, marching bands, psychology and culture is also true in the field of homiletics, hermeneutics, biblical studies, black sacred music and black worship. We just do it different and some of our haters can't get their heads around that. I come from a religious tradition that does not divorce the world we live in from the world we are heading to. I come from a religious tradition that does not separate the kingdom of heaven that we pray for from the devious kingdoms of humans that keep people in bondage on earth.
I come from a religious tradition that did not hold slaves, but preached against slavery and worked to end slavery. I come from a religious tradition that fought against Lansing like the NAACP, fought against discrimination like the NAACP and fought against skin privilege, fought against apartheid, fought again unfair labor practices, fought against segregation, fought against Plessy versus Ferguson.
I come from a religious tradition that fought for desegregation like NAACP. Fought for equality, fought for human dignity, fought for civil rights, fought for equal protection into the law and fought for the right of every citizen to have quality education regardless of the color of their skin. I also come from a religious tradition that say if you feel excited about something, be excited about it. Don't stand there he has hate speech. Listen to how bombastic he is. Isn't he bombastic? He's stirring up hate.
You love somebody? Yes. Oh how I love Jesus because he first loved me. No. No. No. If you feel it - I come from a religious tradition where we shout in the sanctuary and march on the picket line. I come from a religious tradition where we give God the glory and we give the devil the blues. The black religious tradition is different. We do it a different way. 40 years ago, Dr. Anthony (inaudible) quoted in '68 the Kerner report stated that they were two different Americas. And for
40 years one of those Americas has acted as if they were the only America. But all of that now is in the past. I believe a change is coming. Because many of us are going to change how we see others who are different. I've got to hurry on. I'm taking too much of your time. So let me give you the outline of the rest of this message. You can either fill in the blanks for yourselves or you could wait for my book that will be out later this year.
I believe addressing your theme. I believe a change is going to come because many of us here tonight, at least 11,900 out of 12,000. Many of us are committed to changing how we see others who are different. Number one, many of us are committed to changing how we see ourselves. Number two, not inferior or superior to, just different from others. Embracing our own histories. Embracing our own cultures. Embracing our own languages as we embrace others who are also made in the image of god. That has been the credo of the NAACP for 99 years. When we see ourselves as members of the human race, I believe a change is on the way. When we see ourselves as people of faith who shared this planet with people of other faiths, I believe a change is on the way.
Many of us are committed to changing how we see others who are different. Number one, many of us are committed to changing how we see ourselves, not stepchildren, number two but God's children. Many of us are committed to changing, number three, the way we treat each other. The way black men treat black women. The way black parents treat black children. The way black youth treat black elders and the way black elders treat black youth. We are committed to changing the way we treat each other. The way the so called haves and have mores, to use Bush's speech writers term. Don't you all think he made that up? The way the have and have mores treat the have notes. The way the educated treat the uneducated. The way those with degrees treat those who never made it through high school. The way those of us who never got caught treat those of us who are incarcerated. Making rehabilitation a priority over incarceration.
We are committed to changing the way we treat each other. The way we treat the latest immigrants because everybody in here who's not an Indian do be an immigrant. Some of you all came on a decks of ship and some of us came on the bows and hauls of the ship, but we all are immigrants. The way we treat non Christians and folks who don't believe what we believe, we're committed to changing the way we treat each other. The way Sunis treat Shiites, the way Orthodox Jews treat reformed Jews. The way church folk treat other church folk. The way speakers of English treat speakers of Arabic -- Maasalam al hal.
Please run and tell my stuck on stupid friends that Arabic is a language, it's not a religion. Barack Hussein Obama. Barack Hussein Obama. Barack Hussein Obama. They are Arabic-speaking Christians, Arabic-speaking Jews and Arabic speaking atheists. Arabic is a language, it's not a religion. Stop trying to scare folks by giving them an Arabic name as if it's some sort of a disease.
Same people thought that the Irish had a disease. When the Irish came here. Did you hear my me O'Malley? O'Reilly? They thought you were - well they might have been might, the way we treat each other, many of us are committed to changing the way we treat each other. The way Christians treat you. The way straights treat gays. We are committed to changing the way we treat each other. And we are committing number four to changing the way we mistreat each other. We can do better, you all. There is a higher standard, you all. We know that and we are stretching to reach that standard. I believe a change is going to come because many of us are committed to changing how we see others who are different.
Many of us are committed to changing how we see ourselves. Many of us are committed to changing the way we treat each other. Many of us are committed to changing the way we mistreat each other. And many of us finally are committed to changing this world that we live in so our children and our grandchildren will have a world in which to live in to grow in, to learn in, to love in and to pass on to their children. We are committed to changing this world that's God's world, in the first place. Not ours. And I believe we can do it. It's going to take hard work, but we can do it.
It's going to take people of all faiths including the nation of Islam, but we can do it. It's going to take people of all races, but we can do it. It's going to take Republicans and Democrats, but we can do it. It's going to take the wisdom of the old and the energy of the young, but we can do it. It's going to take politicians and preachers, the government and NGOs, but we can do it. It's going to take educators and legislatures, but we can do it. If I were in a Christian Church, I would say we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. If I were in a Jewish synagogue, I would say is anything too hard for Elohim. If I were in a Muslim mosque, I would say Sha Allah we can do it. If I were pushing one particular candidate, I would say yes, we can.
But, since this is a nonpartisan gathering and since this is neither a mosque, a synagogue or a sanctuary, just let me say, we can do it. We can make it if we try. We can make the change if we try. We will make a change if we try. A change is going to come. Can you feel it? Can you see it? Can you imagine it? Then come on, let's claim it. Give yourselves a standing ovation while the transformation that's about to jump off. A change is going to come.