My friend didn't waste any time calling me after the Rev. Joseph Lowery finished his benediction at Barack Obama's inauguration Tuesday.
She was upset because she felt that the longtime civil rights leader had taken a shot at white people in the final words of his speech. In a riff many in the black community are familiar with, the Rev. Lowery ended his comments with this: "Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around ... when yellow will be mellow ... when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right."
My longtime friend, who is white, said jokingly that she had freed all her slaves at least 10 years ago. She believed that the Rev. Lowery's remarks were inappropriate for the occasion, especially one for a new president who embraces racial unity.
It seems others agree as some online chats have criticized the reverend's remarks. Here's a rant e-mailed to the Chronicle: "The dig at White People by “Rev” Lowry at Obama’s Inauguration was uncalled for. If not for the White vote, Obama would have just been another Jesse Jackson."
I've heard the riff the Rev. Lowery used on a number of occasions by various speakers, primarily as a reminder to the audience -- most of times black but sometimes white -- that there still is work to be done before we achieve racial equality in this country. The line invariably draws smiles and chuckles from the audience, just like it did on Tuesday.
However, I must admit that I was somewhat taken aback when the Rev. Lowery used it Tuesday, and believe that it was out of place for this occasion. What do you think?