To many white people, unused to the more passionate rhetoric of many African-American preachers, Wright's words after 9/11, such as, "Some of America's chickens are coming home to roost," and his passionate condemnation of America's racism at home and in its foreign policy, such as "not God bless America, but God damn America," sound crudely, rabidly anti-American. To black audiences, it just isn't radical. It's part of the discourse by which one shows that one is reliably left-wing enough to be black. Or rather, politically black. Failing to assent to such rhetoric is why Shelby Steele, for example, who is darker than Barak Obama, is not really — meaning not politically — black.
So, looking to burnish his Christian credentials to mitigate his Islamic middle name, and to make the challenge of black Americans his own — Barack came of age well after America's racial racial struggles of the 1960s and 1970s — it was natural for Barack to gravitate to a predominately black church that practiced a social gospel, sponsoring and doing service to the community in which it was set. As to the preaching of his pastor, the consensus of the community was and is that his preaching is not particularly radical. It is not that African Americans are anti-American. It's just that African-Americans experience America differently than Americans whose ancestors came to this country voluntarily.
In my lifetime, this perspective was most famously and succinctly given voice by a Muslim lay person, Malcom X.
Sitting at the table doesn't make you a diner, unless you eat some of what's on that plate. Being here in America doesn't make you an American. Being born here in America doesn't make you an American. — Malcom X, 1965
What was on that plate was freedom and opportunity, but to America's white heartland, this sort of rhetoric sounds ambivalent about America at best, and anti-American at worst. And they can't be expected to turn out to vote for someone whom they suspect might be reluctant to do what it takes to further the American agenda when the chips are down. That's what the heartland will wonder as they contemplate that Barack Obama was a member of Jeremiah Wright's church for 20 years, that he gave it over US $20,000, and that Jeremiah Wright was part of an advisory committee for Obama's campaign until last week.
Indeed, even to me, Barack Obama has some explaining to do. But all this should be old news. Who dug this up, and why is it coming out now? Let's see... it can't be the McCain campaign, because the timing is all wrong. The McCain campaign would want to save this for the general election, after the Democrats had already committed themselves to Obama. On the other hand, the timing is perfect for an act of desperation by the Clinton campaign, because Hillary is running a little behind Barak, and with just enough uncommitted delegates left to swing the Democratic presidential nomination to her, now would be the time to use this story to raise Democratic voters' concern that, if nominated, Barack may not be able to win the general election.
Many African-American voters will think, as I do, that this is a manipulation by the Hillary and Bill Clinton machine, to whom they gave crucial support for many years, and many will feel betrayed. In other words, it's hard to tell just who will be hurt more by this, Hillary or Barack. But I'll bet that the Clintons have counted up the number of black vs white Democratic voters in the remaining primaries.
But what spooks me about the timing is that this is the day we Christians remember Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, with a crowd cheering him and throwing palm fronds under the donkey's feet — making the equivalent of the modern-day "red carpet." Only a few days later they were shouting, "Give us Barabbas!" and leaving Jesus to the Romans.
I doubt that Barack Obama is un-American, even if he has become desensitized to rhetoric that is. Whether polls of likely Democratic primary voters will show them abandoning Obama this week, and whether his campaign can resurrect itself, remains to be seen.
Note Added: See also A Black Theology of Liberation, by James H. Cone. It will give you a better idea of where Wright has been coming from.