CHICAGO — He’s been keeping such a low profile since nearly derailing Barack Obama’s campaign for president in 2008 — is it possible that the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright has mellowed?
During a five-day seminar Wright taught last week at the University of Chicago, he was back at it, claiming that whites and Jews are controlling the flow of worldwide information and oppressing blacks in Israel and America.
“White folk done took this country,” Wright said. “You’re in their home, and they’re gonna let you know it.” [LA replies: Would that they would.]
The course, advertised as focusing on politics and public policy in South Africa and America, was taught in a small, ground-floor room at the Chicago Theological Seminary on the university campus, where Wright’s voice echoed out an open window.
The class was composed of about 15 to 20 students, mainly older African-American women who would arrive early and giddily linger during lunch breaks and after class, looking for the reverend’s attention. (The course cost a little over $1,000 if taken for college credit and $300 if taken without.)
The absence of young people was telling: The lectures seemed ossified, relics of a pre-civil-rights America — a point that Obama himself made during his famous speech on race in March 2008, prompted by the incendiary comments (“God damn America!”) made by his former pastor and mentor.
“Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect,” Obama said.
Yet during this course — which was described as asking, “What is the response and public witness of persons of faith to ongoing developments in both countries?” — Wright made many statements about what he believes are the true aims of whites and Jews.
“You are not now, nor have you ever been, nor will you ever be a brother to white folk,” he said. “And if you do not realize that, you are in serious trouble.”
He cited the writings of Bill Jones — author of the book “Is God a White Racist?” — as proof that white people cannot be trusted. “Bill said, ‘They just killed four of their own at Kent State. They’ll step on you like a cockroach and keep on movin’, cause you not a brother to them.’ “
Wright referred to Italians as “Mamma Luigi” and “pizzeria.” He said the educational system in America is designed by whites to miseducate blacks “not by benign neglect but by malignant intent.”
He said Ethiopian Jews are despised by white Jews: “And now the Knesset [Israeli parliament] is meeting with European Jews, voting on whether or not these African Jews can get into [Israel].”
The civil-rights movement, Wright said, was never about racial equality: “It was always about becoming white … to master what [they] do.” Martin Luther King, he said, was misguided for advocating nonviolence among his people, “born in the oven of America.”
“We probably have more African-Americans who’ve been brainwashed than we have South Africans who’ve been brainwashed,” he said, and seemed to allude to President Obama twice: “Unfortunately, I got in trouble with a fella for saying this … All your commentaries are written by oppressors.” At the mention of Nation of Islam head Louis Farrakhan — whom Obama disavowed during the campaign — black leaders “go cuttin’ and duckin’,” he said.
In March, Wright told The Washington Post that he expects to speak to Obama again, when “he is out of the White House.” Last June, he told a Virginia newspaper that the only reason he and the president were not speaking at the moment is that “them Jews ain’t going to let him talk to me.”
From 1972 until May 2008, Wright served as pastor of Trinity United Church of Chicago, located in a rough area of the city’s South Side. Today, he is “pastor emeritus” and identified as such on the rugs that line the doorways at Trinity.
Until very recently, Wright lived with his wife and children in a nearby two-story house, in a more affluent subdivision surrounded by roadblocks; the line between rich and poor is literal. His former neighbors all say he kept to himself.
A few months ago, Wright and his family moved into a brand-new million-dollar home located near a golf course and made of stone with a recessed doorway surrounded by pillars. It’s the only house on a cul-de-sac. Records show it was sold by Trinity United Church to a company called ATG Trust and paid for in cash.
Since leaving Trinity, Wright has traveled the country, preaching and lecturing. He said he’s been working “all year long” with Trinity’s preschool program and called US Education Secretary Arne Duncan a disaster. Duncan, a former college basketball star, was given the job only because Obama enjoys his “good jump shot in the back yard,” Wright said.
Wright gives interviews intermittently but declined to speak to The Post. He recently headlined a two-day “men’s empowerment revival” in Florida but in mixed company is careful not to say anything racist or inflammatory.
The most he had to say about the African-American experience that day was “God is working on your behalf.”