When candidate Barack Obama stood before the cameras on March 18, 2008, to explain his relationship to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Dwight N. Hopkins said he realized something had changed in America.
“He was talking to us like we were adults. I am from a generation that always wanted to have an adult conversation about race,” said Hopkins, an ordained Baptist minister and theology professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
“He rose to the occasion when he said we have to deal with the issue of race,” he said.
Hopkins comes to Franklin & Marshall College to discuss “Race, Religion and the Presidential Election” on Thursday, Feb. 19, at 7:30 p.m. in the Bonchek Lecture Hall in the Barshinger Life Sciences and Philosophy Building.
His talk will examine the role of the black church and black theology in the 2008 presidential election. Obama was a member of Trinity United Church of Christ for more than two decades. The statements of Wright, pastor of Trinity UCC, about race and racism in America caused Obama considerable criticism during the campaign.
“Obama came from a black church and black-liberation theology,” said Hopkins, who knew Obama as a colleague when he taught law at the University of Chicago. Hopkins is also a friend of Wright and has defended him during the campaign, saying that many of the reverend’s perceived inflammatory statements were taken out of context.
“One form of black-liberation theology was rolled out in those 30-second sound bites of Reverend Wright. If Obama or Reverend Wright were able to talk about a more holistic version of black-liberation theology, I think the Obamas would still be members of Trinity UCC,” Hopkins said.
In spite of Obama’s inability to communicate fully his beliefs, Hopkins said, “his election changed the conversation” in America.
“It didn’t mean America has overcome racism. What it did say was the United States had the internal resources to improve race relations. And really that was what the civil rights movement was all about,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins is the author of Being Human: Race, Culture, and Religion and Shoes That Fit Our Feet: Sources for a Constructive Black Theology.
He also is the international communications coordinator of the International Association of Black Religions and Spiritualities, a 14-country network funded by the Ford Foundation.