Is President Obama a black nationalist? This goes to the heart of his presidency - and partly explains why Mr. Obama is losing the broad middle of America. On Easter, Mr. Obama and his family attended Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington. The liberal press corps made much of the fact that the church was founded in 1863 by freed slaves. Yet the church’s pastor, the Rev. Wallace Charles Smith, is a race-baiting black nationalist. He is a more polished version of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a longtime pastor of Mr. Obama’s.
Mr. Smith lacks the bombast of Mr. Wright but peddles the same philosophy of racialism, grievance-mongering and black victimology. In one of his recent sermons, Mr. Smith argued that institutionalized racism continues. “Anytime a swimming club can deny membership to students simply because they are African-American or Hispanic is an indication that Barack’s presidency does not solve the question of justice in this nation,” he said. Really? Where and at what institutions are blacks and Hispanics denied access to swimming pools? This is a figment of Mr. Smith’s imagination.
He further stressed that segregation was not really eradicated; rather, it has simply morphed into a more subtle system of racial oppression through conservative talk radio and widespread opposition to affirmative action.
“Now Jim Crow wears blue pinstripes and goes to law school and carries fancy briefs and cases,” Mr. Smith said. “And he doesn’t have to wear white robes anymore because now he can wear the protective cover of talk radio or can get a regular news program on Fox.”
He even compared Rush Limbaugh to the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens’ Council. In other words, conservatives - Mr. Obama’s critics - are incorrigibly racist and seek to perpetuate a watered-down form of apartheid. For Mr. Smith and many others on the left, disagreeing with racial quotas is not only wrong, but evil - a manifestation of deep-seated intolerance and bigotry.
The opposite is true: Conservatives are the true heirs of the civil rights movement. They believe in a colorblind society and equality under the law. This is why affirmative action is so pernicious. It has created a racial spoils system whereby groups are systematically pitted against one another: Ethnic revanchism - the obsession with identity - is rampant. Merit no longer is the primary basis for many hiring decisions, university admissions or government contracts. Race, gender and (increasingly) sexual orientation are the new standards.
Moreover, no other nation in history has done more to alleviate the injustices of its past or create a more open, fair and tolerant society for minorities than America - especially regarding black Americans. Our president and attorney general are black; both of President George W. Bush’s secretaries of state were black; blacks occupy numerous key positions in Fortune 500 companies; blacks dominate much of the sports and entertainment industries; and many of America’s leading cultural icons are black - including Bill Cosby, Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey and Beyonce.
Yet, none of this matters to Mr. Smith and other black nationalists, such as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and the infamous Mr. Wright. This is because black nationalism is an outgrowth of 1960s chic radicalism. It is racialism disguised as progressive politics. It combines socialism with xenophobic tribalism. For racialists like Mr. Smith, reality must not be allowed to puncture their central myth: The white man is the devil.
Slavery was abolished nearly 150 years ago. But Mr. Smith gives the impression that blacks were enslaved only yesterday. During his Easter sermon, he pointed with pride to his 4-week-old grandson, whose gurgling, according to Mr. Smith, was actually “talking.” And what was the little piker saying? “I am here … they tried to write me off as three-fifths of a person in the Constitution, but I am here right now … and is saying I am not going to let anybody stop me from being what God wants me to be,” Mr. Smith said.
Leave aside that I never knew infants could talk (apparently, miracles really do happen under the progressive messiah, Mr. Obama). Mr. Limbaugh, Fox News, the GOP - not one of them seeks to restore slavery or the three-fifths clause in the Constitution, or deny any black child a shot at the American dream. To suggest otherwise is kooky.
It is shocking that Mr. Obama - our commander in chief who is supposed to embody our highest ideals - chose this church to celebrate Easter. He sat in the pews nodding in approval as Mr. Smith peddled his racialist vitriol.
A disturbing pattern is emerging. For 20 years, Mr. Obama sat in the church of an anti-American pastor who constantly railed against “white greed” and “white oppression.” The president’s hand-picked attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., has called America “a nation of cowards” when it comes to race. His Justice Department has refused to prosecute members of the New Black Panthers for blatant voter intimidation. Mr. Obama has openly embraced Mr. Sharpton, an odious race-baiter. It is clear by his actions and affiliations that Mr. Obama has black nationalist sympathies.
The result is that he appears increasingly strange to many voters; his racial socialist politics are alien to the American tradition. They belong more to the Third World. This explains why Middle America is turning its back on Mr. Obama. When Americans voted for him in 2008, they thought they were getting a liberal pragmatist, a modern-day Franklin D. Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy. Instead, they got a Rev. Jeremiah Wright in blue pinstripes who attended law school.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute.