No one gasped Wednesday night at St. James United Methodist Church as the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. spoke. No one in the packed multiracial audience got up in disgust and walked out.
But people did laugh a lot, applaud a great deal and gave the controversial pastor emeritus of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago a standing ovation after his hour-long lecture titled “Another World is Possible.”
Wright made headlines in 2008 for sermons viewed as critical of America when he was presidential candidate Barack Obama’s longtime minister. Obama denounced Wright, left the church and went on to win the presidency. Wright shrugged it off as politics, and he was right.
Wright, who was in the Kansas City area to deliver the St. Paul School of Theology Cleaver Program in Religion and Public Life, explained Wednesday night that the culture in which we live has Eurocentric roots of imperialism. It continues to create a “distorted sense in which we view others,” he said.
It causes Americans to see all others who are not like them as deficient. A “racist theology created the world in which we see others as inferior,” he said.
“We are normal, and they are abnormal,” Wright said. History books, literature, the media and pop culture view colonists as good and Native Americans as savages.
White people are held up as superior, and people of color are put down as inferior. “Skin color determines whether one is civilized or not,” Wright said.
That thinking is baked into the Constitution. He told the audience that people instead should view others and their contributions to humanity from a “polycentric perspective,” seeking points of commonality.
“I would like to suggest that another world is possible,” Wright said. It is one in which the literature, history, struggles and accomplishments of all people are viewed as equally significant.
Wright said we also have to accept that different people learn differently. It’s not wrong on inferior, just different, he said.
Intelligence tests now only show how much of the dominant, white, Eurocentric culture students have assimilated. They don’t test actual intelligence.
“We need to listen with minds that seek to understand,” Wright said.