Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms is the current face of Atlanta’s decaying 44 year-old regime of corporate sponsored Black leadership. Endorsed by current Mayor Kasim Reed, the personification of Cosbyesque Pound Cake Conservatism, Keisha Lance Bottoms — young, gifted, and Black, fits the mold of telegenic, well-spoken tokens Atlantans always vote for.
Kasim and Keisha’s scheming to put her in the Mayor’s office would be an excellent successor to House of Cards or Scandal. I’m sure Shonda Rhimes could whip something up on the fly. Kasim brought the full weight of his Machiavellian brilliance to bear in destroying Keisha’s progressive rival Vincent Fort, and establishment threat Ceasar Mitchell. He managed all this while presiding over a massive bid rigging scandal, complete with indictments.
Atlanta’s Hillary Clinton, former Republican Mary Norwood, is the indefatigable obstacle standing between Keisha and the prize she’s had her eye on for years.
The second rise of Mary Norwood, and two other serious White contenders, foreshadows the loss of Georgia’s crown jewel of Black power and influence, and is exhibit A in why shitting on the Black poor for forty years, criminalizing homelessness and poverty, destroying public housing, and conspiring with the forces of gentrification is ultimately self-defeating. If you want to be HNIC, you should make damn sure there are plenty of Negroes to be in charge of.
Atlanta Mayors Young, Campbell, and Reed
The Black leadership class in the Black mecca of Atlanta, the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr, was never as electrifying, thoughtful, and progressive as he was. The current malignancy, which masquerades as legitimate Black leadership, was formed from the embers of the civil rights movement following the assassination of Dr. King.
Once upon a time, Black politicians fought for “the least of these,” in keeping with the example of Dr. King’s poor people’s campaign, and his solidarity marches with Black working-class sanitation workers in Memphis before his death.
Atlanta sanitation workers, like those Dr. King died defending, fought for collective bargaining rights, and fair wages. Their strikes and demands caused swift reprisals from then Mayor Sam Massell, the city’s last White mayor. He fired Black sanitation workers and brought in scabs.
Maynard Jackson, then a City Councilman, cynically used his defense of the sanitation workers to create a name for himself, and marshal the Black community to defeat Massell for re-election. As Atlanta’s first Black mayor, Jackson betrayed the same sanitation workers, broke their strike, rebuffed their demands for fair pay, and hid behind the vocal support of Martin Luther King Sr, all while forging an incestuous relationship with the corporate power structure that got him reelected, and endures to this day.
Four decades of collusion with the corporate power structure has led us to this moment of gentrification, displacement, divestment, disillusionment, and quite frankly, delusion.
Black leadership in Atlanta has come to resemble the ostentatious greed & bullshit prosperity pimps that sell champagne wishes & caviar dreams to the desperate masses at the Black megachurches the area is known for.
Preserving Black power in Atlanta isn’t worth the cost if the price of a ticket is Keisha Lance Bottoms. A professional handkerchief head like her has about as much to offer Black people as the Wizard of Oz, or in our case, the Wiz.
We should ease on down the road that Black leadership depravity has paved, and vote for the White lady. She couldn’t possibly be any worse.
On the cusp of a landmark “victory” on health care reform, President Obama dramatically addressed a boisterous throng of well-wishers convinced that his industry written reforms constituted positive change. The President glowed and fed off the positive energy in the air. He seemed revitalized and renewed as the crowd roared its approval. The president’s earnest entreaties are beguiling and difficult to resist. The recession weary public desperately wants to believe that “change we can believe in” is at last on the way. It isn’t.
The average black person I meet is trapped in a post inaugural cocoon of black pride. Any constructive criticism of the President provokes a defensive scorn, as if you called their upstanding, god fearing, churchgoing grandmama a trifling whore. The relationship between the Obamas and the black community is not political but familial. They meet every benchmark of acceptability and are like the new bougie couple that just joined the church that everybody wants to get to know. We see ourselves in them. Unfortunately, we’ve become so lost in the reflection of ourselves that we failed to notice that the black community is drowning in an ocean of narcissistic b.s. and benign neglect.
The Stockholm syndrome is so profound that if the Congressional Black Caucus had determined to sink Health Care Reform without a public option, blackfolks would have eaten them alive. Some folk seem to think that God put them here on earth to be Obama’s pep squad. The President may be black, but he is also a politician like all those that came before him who told us what we wanted to hear and then broke their backs to do the bidding of their corporate paymasters.
The absence of a real urban agenda, what some refer to as a “black agenda,” is a festering wound that will never heal without progressive policy solutions that address the corporate theft of predatory lending, support for mass transit, massive infrastructure improvement, job training programs, de-escalation of both the prison and military industrial complexes and support for public education. The president has done some good work on the education piece with a reform of student loans, but much more needs to be done.
Don’t get me wrong, the stimulus was a tremendous help in stabilizing the economy, but we are in such a deep hole that we need much more. Everybody knows that there ain’t no damn jobs out here. State budgets are still tight and teacher layoffs, public school closings, and the loss of thousands of state and local government jobs is still a daily reality. The president damn near had to fight the civil war all over again with some ignorant Republican from Kentucky just to extend unemployment benefits for a short time.
The Health Care Reform proposal making its way through congress will do nothing to stop state governments from making draconian choices like South Carolina. I pray it will provide something commensurate in the way of relief for the victims of state sanctioned indifference. Health Reform still leaves out 24 million people from coverage because health care, despite the histrionics of the socialist obsessed right-wing, is still not a right.
The gluttonous plutocracy that masquerades as American Democracy is alive and well. If we truly want the victory over our corporate overlords, we need to stop putting our trust in personalities and parties and stick with our principles.
I’m tired of sharecropping on Blue Cross Blue Shield’s corporate plantation.
I’m tired of weak politicians that don’t have the courage of their convictions.
I’m tired of the lies, misinformation, ignorance, and racial fears that stupid people cling to for dear life. Some folk would opt to place their lives in the hands of corporate predators hungry for excessive profits rather than trust Barack Obama or a public option no different than the Medicare they trust already.
I’m tired of people dying unnecessarily.
I’m tired of being sick and tired. My patience is damn near gone.
I’m tired of trusting Negroes who believe that everything will be alright as long as a Democrat is in the White House.
But most of all I am tired of politicians with two faces telling the public that they support the public option at the same time that they’re a cutting deal in a Capitol Hill backroom to kill the very thing they say their for.
Congressman Artur Davis, Mrs. Peggy Wallace Kennedy
Artur Davis is a facinating politician in many respects. The power of his intellect and sharp political skills set him apart from most pol’s. The sky should be the limit for Artur. In Alabama, congress is the limit for Artur. If not for the Voting Rights Act, he would not be a member of congress from Alabama.
In America, it should be a no brainer that any child born anywhere should be able to reach for the highest political rung in state government and not be deterred, discouraged or attacked on the basis of race. Unfortunately, that is not the America we live in despite the fantasies of some whites that we live in a post-racial utopia. It does not matter how many blackfolks buy into the white fantasy that Artur can win this year. It isn’t true. This diary seeks to explore the reasons for this bitter reality.
A black man might be president, but he would not be if America was a cultural mirror of the state of Alabama. Only one in ten white voters, according to NBC political director Chuck Todd, voted for Barack Obama. Extreme racial polarization is a fact of life in the Deep South that smart people can’t get around.
The President of the United States is a biracial man of color who is the product of an interracial marriage. He was raised almost exclusively by his white kinfolks. Most rural whites in the Deep South cannot process these facts and are profoundly threatened by his presidency.
They displace their discomfort with his race by questioning his citizenship and asking to see his birth certificate. They are willing to question his professed and demonstrated Christian faith and believe any smear about him being a Muslim terrorist because the father he never knew was a Muslim. They then voted for a Republican Senator universally known to have been born outside the continental United States in the Panama Canal Zone because “at least he is American,” which is nothing more than a euphemism for being White.
The President of the United States is the most nonthreatening black politician in American history. He is decidedly centrist in word and deed to the chagrin of most of us on the progressive left. To most rural whites, though, he is a Socialist, Marxist, Communist Antichrist hell bent on creating a segregated, racist society in which only non-whites rule and whites are subjugated. That is a nifty piece of racist projection most psychologists would love to get their hands on and take apart.
Because of this ridiculous racial paranoia, there will be no ability to see a similar black man any differently.
Congressman Artur Davis and President Barack Obama
Race is still a bar to achievement and advancement in the United States in some fields of endeavor. Our inability to talk about race or be honest about our racial fears is part and parcel of the infrastructure, which reinforces the bar to achievement and advancement.
Alabama is stuck in both a time warp and in a black hole of its own making with regard to race. There can be no change unless people are willing to smash the taboo of cross racial cooperation.
Meaningful cross racial dialogue and genuine fellowship is rare anywhere in the Deep South but more likely to occur in urban areas with a large University presence. On the other hand, if folks live in larger communities, they are still largely segregated. Nobody wants to go to school with us or live in our neighborhoods. If we are fortunate enough to live in communities where both white and black do go to school together, the interaction is largely superficial.
When time comes to choose a college, the choices are still segregated. We live separate lives and pretend that it is normal. It isn’t. We (blackfolks) are usually the ones that have to stick our necks out to make change. It is rarely the other way around.
I think it is wonderful that most of the people on this board look favorably on Artur Davis and the egalitarian ideal his candidacy represents, but the hard work and foundation for an eventual win by a black candidate for Governor has not been done in any state of the Deep South–Georgia included. Anybody who believes he can win in this backwards and hostile cultural environment is deluding themselves.
Nobody in the grip of a rural Tea Bagger’s poisonous racial paranoia is capable of building community with the blackfolks they see everyday that mirror them in every demographic respect.
They might know your people, might have known your extended kinfolk back to the Civil War, but it still don’t mean that they’ll vote for your daddy to become the first black sheriff. I have a hard time understanding why Artur has to come along like a Negro in a buddy movie and be their black friend when most rural whites have only superficial relationships with the blackfolks they see everyday. There is no sense of community where stereotypically everybody knows and is kin to everybody. Ultimately, this is why Artur cannot be elected Governor this year.
Dr. King spoke of a desire to “..foster and create the ‘beloved community’ in America where brotherhood is a reality…Our ultimate goal is genuine intergroup and interpersonal living–integration.” That does not exist in Alabama or anywhere in the Deep South. It doesn’t even exist up north but most of the time northerners are not so blinded by race that they will vote against politicians of color they are philosophically compatible with because they are not white.
We are still living separate lives despite dramatically less racial polarization in the north. The South is less physically segregated than the North but it is more functionally segregated on the ground. This has to change. Only hard work done by committed blacks and whites will change it. Most of the onus is on whites though, and becuase it is I doubt seriously that it will happen anytime before I turn 50 in 2021.
It is Sunday morning and my black arse needs to be in somebody’s church, but I am busy searching for a new car for my Mama. I thought I would take a break and tell you what’s on my heart. Today is the Sabbath, the Lord’s Day. While some of y’all are where you should be “rejoicing and being glad,” my soul is restless. In times like these, we need a savior. I’m afraid it isn’t Barack Obama. I fall back on what I learned at the feet of my grandmother. In Alice Walker’s The Color Purple,there is a powerful scene with Shug Avery and Celie in the juke joint on a Sunday morning. Shug is singing and the sound of gospel comes wafting down from the church. It sweeps everybody in the club up in the spirit. Instantly, Shug stops and starts singing and marching her way toward the church:
Speak, Lord. Won’t you speak to me?
I was so blind, I was so lost until you spoke to me
Oh, speak, Lord. Speak, Lord. And hear my mind,
Oh, with your word, heal my soul
Oh, speak, Lord. Speak to me. Speak, my Lord.
I love you, Lord. Save my soul.
Can’t sleep at night and you wonder why
Maybe God is trying to tell you something
Crying all night long, something’s gone wrong
Maybe God is trying to tell you something.
I don’t know where we’d be as people without The Black Church. The cultural heritage and spiritual power of that institution has sustained us since the beginning. I don’t know about you, but I can never stray too far. As far as I am concerned, everything that is good and true has its genesis there.
It occurs to me that we need the Lord to speak to us this morning. When he speaks, hopefully we will be able to discern what he says. What I am hearing is that instead of putting all our trust in President Obama and worshiping at the altar of corporate Neoliberalism, we need to put our trust in the Lord and pray that the president hears the Lord’s still, small voice. We’ve come this far by faith, people. Trusting in his Holy Word. And he’s never failed us yet. When the President announces to the world that he is ready to throw the moneychangers out of the temple, stops indefinite detention, prosecutes torturers, withdraws from Afghanistan and Iraq, and embraces health care as a right for all, then we’ll know that he has heard the Lord and been convicted by the spirit because he did what was right.
“The delusion of power also appears to provide an escape for middle-class Negroes from the world of reality which pierces through the world of make-believe of the black bourgeoisie.The positions of power which they occupy in the Negro world often enable them to act autocratically towards other Negroes, especially when they have the support of the white community.In such cases the delusion of power may provide an escape from their frustrations.It is generally, however, when middle-class Negroes hold positions enabling them to participate in the white community that they seek in the delusion of power an escape from their frustrations.
Although their position may be only a “token” of the integration of the Negro into American life, they will speak and act as if they were part of the power structure of American society.Negro advisors who are called into counsel by whites to give advice about Negroes are especially likely to find an escape from their feelings of inferiority in the delusion of power.”
-E. Franklin Frazier, Black Bourgeoisie
I am Skeptical Brotha, your blog host. Welcome to Barack Obama’s FantasyIsland.
The passing of actor Ricardo Montalban last month has reminded me of the power of fantasy and delusion.Portraying the fictional Mr. Roark, the owner of a mystical FantasyIsland where people paid munificent sums to live out their fantasies, Montalban became an icon of the seventies and eighties and for me, the personification of an era fixated on the make-believe of Ronald Reagan’s right-wing conservatism.Tall, elegant and regal, Ricardo Montalban possessed a rich baritone and perfect diction.In the late seventies, the Mexican-born actor was the “happy darkie” white America needed to facilitate their fantasies.Today, we have a tall, elegant and regal African American President with a rich baritone and perfect diction to fulfill that function.
The historic election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States has fueled some troubling delusions about the nature of power in this country and the role of African people in running it.It ain’t what some of y’all think it is.
Montalban said of the iconic series FantasyIsland:
What is appealing is the idea of attaining the unattainable and learning from it. Once you obtain a fantasy it becomes a reality, and that reality is not as exciting as your fantasy. Through the fantasies you learn to appreciate your own realities.
Blackfolks have been stumblin’ around for the last two months as if we landed on Mr. Roark’s FantasyIsland.Metaphorically speaking, we’ve attained the seemingly unattainable fantasy of electing a Black President. Now, we’re about to enter the stage where the reality of Obama’s election won’t be as exciting as our collective fantasies. It is up to us to use this surreal event to appreciate the racist, imperialist reality of the world we still live in.
Let me be clear. We ain’t running nothing up in here. We ain’t now and won’t be after the inauguration. Don’t get caught up in the delusion of power that Frazier wrote about or get any wild ideas about the real status of the Negro in American society. The white corporate power structure ain’t relinquished control of a damn thing, shug.
The View co-host, Sherri Shepherd, moved me to tears after the election when she retold how she would be able to tell her son that because of Barack Obama, there were no longer any limitations on the aspirations of black men in this country.We could do and be anything we wanted.Sherri tapped into the powerful flood of emotions that flowed as I wept with millions of people watching Barack Obama solemnly claim the Presidency.
What Sherri said was raw—her pain jumped out of the screen.What she said felt real, but after the emotions subsided and I allowed myself the space to critically think and evaluate what I’d seen and heard over the course of the campaign, I knew immediately that it wasn’t true no matter how I longed for it to be. We can be many things, more than ever before, but I am still waiting on whether a Negro can be a progressive president.
Sherri’s claim is synonymous with the historic battle of African people in this country to be freed from the stigma of slavery and subjugation.It is what we’ve always demanded and what we’ve historically been denied.Barack Obama’s “victory” changed nothing in that respect.The battle for equality and economic justice continues.
The Price of Admission
Barack Obama writes in Dreams of My Father about the advice given by a black mentor and father figure:
“You’re just like the rest of these young cats out here.All you know is that college is the next thing you’re supposed to do.And the people who are old enough to know better, who fought all those years for your right to go to college—they’re just so happy to see you in there that they won’t tell you the truth.The real price of admission.”
“And what’s that?”
“Leaving your race at the door,” he said.“Leaving your people behind.”“…Understand something, boy.You’re not going to college to get educated.You’re going to get trained.
They’ll train you to want what you don’t need. They’ll train you to manipulate words so they don’t mean anything anymore. They’ll train you to forget what it is that you already know.They’ll train you so good, you’ll start believing what they tell you about equal opportunity and the American way and all that sh*t.They’ll give you a corner office and invite you to fancy dinners, and tell you you’re a credit to your race. Until you want to actually start running things, and they’ll yank on your chain and let you know that you may be a well-trained, well-paid nigger, but you’re a nigger just the same.”
Barack Obama understood from the beginning what the price of admission was for the U.S. Senate and the Presidency.He paid in full.What was the price?It was the unconditional acceptance of ruling class demands and an uncritical embrace of neoliberalism and globalization. The price of this bourgeoisie fantasy, if we knew what it really was, would be a price that most blackfolks would be unwilling to pay.
Barack Obama cannot embody the aspirations of the African Diaspora because he is the president of the United States.As such, he is a tool of the corporate power structure that controls our country and the top spokesman for the ruthless neo-colonialism that oppresses the majority of African people through despotic institutions like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organization.
It’s time to grow up and wake up, black people.Deep down, we all know damn good and well what the deal is.It is time to snap out of the fantasy.
Africa Action, the oldest black-run lobby in D.C. that’s half-way decent in fighting for the rights of the entire African Diaspora succinctly summarizes the real obstacles to black self-determination:
Africa‘s massive external debt burden is the single biggest obstacle to the continent’s development and to the fight against HIV/AIDS. The over $200 billion that African countries owe to foreign creditors represents a crippling load that undermines economic and social progress. The All-Africa Conference of Churches has called this debt “a new form of slavery, as vicious as the slave trade”.
The albatross of illegitimate debt diverts money directly from spending on health care, education and other important needs. While most people in Africa live on less than $2 per day, African countries are forced to spend almost $14 billion each year servicing old, illegitimate debts to rich country governments and their institutions, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Over the past two decades, African countries have paid out more in debt service to foreign creditors than they have received in development assistance or in new loans.
Much of Africa‘s foreign debt is illegitimate in nature, having been incurred by unrepresentative and despotic regimes, mainly during the era of Cold War patronage. Loans were made to corrupt leaders who used the money for their own personal gain, often with the full knowledge and support of lenders. These loans did not benefit Africa‘s people. More generally, many Africans question the notion of an African “debt” to the U.S. and European countries after centuries of exploitation. They ask, “Who really owes whom?”
Yet, despite the social and economic costs of this massive outflow of resources from the world’s poorest region, the wealthy creditors of Africa‘s debts continue to insist these debts be repaid.…The U.S. is the single largest shareholder in the World Bank and IMF, the institutions to which most of Africa‘s debts are owed. As such, it holds major influence over the international response to Africa‘s debt crisis.
Barack Obama campaigned on doing nothing meaningful to alleviating Africa’s crushing debt.His official position commits him to the IMF/WORLD BANK shell game of exclusionary rules and mealy-mouthed guarantees that continue to bleed the continent dry, leaving it impoverished, and beset with skyrocketing infant mortality rates, declining life expectancy and writhing under the weight of pandemic levels of AIDS, TB, and Malaria.
Moreover, because of African indebtedness, the IMF/World Bank imposes onerous structural adjustment programs on indebted countries that:
“…Are designed to reduce consumption in developing countries and to redirect resources to manufacturing exports for the repayment of debt. This has caused overproduction of primary products and a precipitous fall in their prices. It has also led to the devastation of traditional agriculture and to the emergence of hordes of landless farmers in virtually every country in which the World Bank and IMF operate.
Food security has declined dramatically in all Third World regions, but in Africa in particular. Growing dependence on food imports, which is the lot of sub-Saharan Africa, places these countries in an extremely vulnerable position. They simply do not have the foreign exchange to import enough food, given the fall in export prices and the need to repay debt.
Basic conditionalities of the IMF-World Bank include drastic cuts in social expenditures, especially in health and education. According to the UN Economic Commission for Africa, expenditures on health in IMF-World Bank programmed countries declined by 50 percent during the 1980s, and spending on education declined by 25 percent. Similar trends are evident in all other Southern regions.
IMF-World Bank programs come with other requirements. Governments are generally forced to remove subsidies to the poor on basic foodstuffs and services such as rice and maize, water and electricity. Tax systems are made more repressive, and real wage rates are allowed to fall sharply.
..But the greatest failure of these programs is to be seen in their impact on the people. Using figures provided by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Economic Commission for Africa, it has been estimated that at least six million children under five years of age have died each year since 1982 in Africa, Asia and Latin America because of the anti-people, even genocidal, focus of IMF World Bank SAPs.
The fanatical insistence on a “post-racial” reality is fuc*ing ludicrous.It represents a willful ignorance that cannot be defended when any cursory examination of empirical data on globalization and income inequality is undertaken. The election of Barack Obama changes nothing for the black victims of globalization and neoliberalism. Moreover, it is a disingenuous act of token integration by the power structure. The browning of America inevitably means that some coloredfolks need to front for the power structure to camouflage the predatory nature of American imperialism and give the illusion of inclusion.
You could see the change his assumption of power wrought after he solemnly addressed the nation on Election night. His establishment cabinet, the continued no strings attached Wall Street Bailout and his unconscionable, silent complicity in the face of Israeli aggression against the Palestinians in Gaza. The first Negro has completely nailed his part as America’s stern father figure dispensing status quo medicine.No matter what he does and no matter how many times he betrays the African Diaspora, blackfolks will make excuses for his departures from progressive principle and will highlight the admirable aspects of his character as a devoted husband and father that a desperate black community seems to need to repair the brokenness endured in a country weaned on white supremacy and the deliberate destruction of the black family.
Mary Mitchell, a black columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, is a prime example.In her first appearance on the establishment’s top televised salon, Meet the Press, she said:
You have someone who did what he was supposed to do. He got a good education, he married his sweetheart, he’s a father for his children. That’s the kind of image the African-American community needs right now.
I hate to think that we’re so desperate for the validation of whitefolks and for appropriate black role models that we’d accept anything an establishment Negro President does at the behest of his corporate puppet masters.
DON’T HATE THE PLAYA; HATE THE GAME
It is difficult to muster the energy to demonize or dislike Barack Obama after being inundated by endless streams of positive, empty propaganda spoon fed by a compliant corporate press. However, as blackfolks, we need to stand ready to rebuke the President we claim to love so much when he inevitably falls off the wagon of progressive principle.Our shared African heritage and the uniqueness of this moment in time do not constitute valid reasons to give Obama a pass.Despite the laughable and despicable efforts of the right-wing to portray our President as a “terrorist” and “secret Muslim,” Barack Obama is an establishment politician that sold out a long time ago and that makes him a “safe Negro” in the minds of the imperial power structure.
What I am saying is not meant to turn you against the President, dislike him in any way or fail to honor and celebrate this remarkable achievement. Hate is so counterproductive. What I’m saying today is meant to get you to think critically, evaluate what his Administration does objectively, and demand that Barack actually becomes the progressive president he fooled you into believing he would be. In short, don’t hate the playa; hate the game.
From the Urban Dictionary:
Do not fault the successful participant in a flawed system; try instead to discern and rebuke that aspect of its organization, which allows or encourages the behavior that has provoked your displeasure.
One day in the distant future, the first African American President will pass away after living a long life, just as Ricardo Montalban did, and hopefully, the President be remembered for the progressive, concrete achievements of his era and not for some ridiculous bourgeois fantasy concocted by a crooked corporate power structure to disguise it’s racist imperialism.
I’m sorry I took too long, but as Gene Robinson of the Washington Post has said, this is a “Goosebumps moment.” As I write and listen once more to the victory speech, the tears are coming and I feel as emotional as a pregnant woman does. I will be in church on Sunday morning and nobody will be able to hold me down because I will be a shouting fool.
I needed this as my grandparents needed Martin and Malcolm. I needed this because I need to believe in something again. I needed this because my spirit has been shattered, my joy has been stolen, and my hope in my country destroyed. God has moved and his hand is clearly on Barack Obama. Iowa, 95% white, has sent the nation and the world a message that in the words of one of Sam Cooke’s signature tunes,”A Change gon’ Come.” And come it has.
“They said this day would never come.They said our sights were set too high.They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. But on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do.”
“You have done what the state of New Hampshire can do in five days. You have done what America can do in this New Year 2008.In lines that stretched around schools and churches, in small towns and big cities, you came together as Democrats, Republicans and Independents to stand up and say that we are one nation, one people, and our time for a change has come.”
I still have Goosebumps.I could shout right here in this internet cafe.I don’t know about you, but after the almost divine intervention of Oprah, I could feel this tectonic shift in American politics coming.
Basking in the glow of this historical moment, one I’ve dreamed of for 25 years, I’ve overcome my bitter and sarcastic cynicism, and I have decided to endorse Barack Obama for President of the United States.
I am not taking back the substance of my criticisms because they represent my unvarnished feelings.Today, however, I feel like Patti Labelle and have “a new attitude.”Looking back over last year, I skillfully erected a wall of opposition to Barack Obama as strong as anything in the biblical Jericho because of his various missteps and obvious pandering to the corporate power structure.It got to the point where I could not even hear the brotha speak without picking out how he was telegraphing his mainstream intentions to the establishment and I just tuned him out.He didn’t move me until last night but Michelle and Oprah did, I must admit.
Michelle Obama cracked the walls of my ideological Jericho with her forthright manner in general and her South Carolina speech in particular. I cannot say enough about how attractive, articulate and persuasive a spokesperson she is on behalf of her husband.In February, after hearing him in person for the first time, I made it clear how necessary it was for Barack to give blackfolks, “A Word From The Lord.”He did and I guarantee that Black America will respond by abandoning Hillary Clinton en masse.
For me, however, Michelle Obama had already beat him to the punch with her address to a Orangeburg, South Carolina gathering. Sistah girl nailed it.
Michelle is able to communicate from the heart in a way that is both uplifting and empowering to me.Her spiel serves the dual purpose of communicating to whitefolks her safe middle class bonifides and her commitment to black empowerment. The frank recounting of the reservations she expressed about a presidential bid tells us that the sistah is grounded by the love of her upbringing, and will use those values as a guidepost for the road ahead.For Michelle, the personal is political which is demonstrated by her faith in a loving God and her wholesome commitment to strengthening families, especially the black family.I can think of no other woman I’d rather see become First Lady.
Michelle’s statuesque beauty, effortless style, bottomless grace, quiet intellect and amazing humility are exactly the qualities that America’s trailblazing black First Lady must exhibit and that her husband ought to have at his side.
Oprah, on the other hand, is another matter entirely.Being in South Carolina with that massive crowd was almost a religious experience.The walls of my ideological Jericho came down with a mighty shout.I’ve been wrestling with how to tell y’all because I knew when I left the stadium that I would support Obama.
I traveled to South Carolina alone and adopted the lady in line next to me as my play mom for the day.I asked Ms. Johnson how many of her girlfriends supported Hillary. Ms. Johnson told me, “I don’t know nobody supporting Hillary.”I shoulda known then that Obama had ended Hillary’s chances of the nomination.Taking nothing away from the formidable imperial guard surrounding Hillary, Iam quite comfortable predicting that Hillary will lose New Hampshire and the nomination to Obama.
Trailblazers like Oprah were way ahead of people like me.Never a true skeptic although she remained aloof from politics, Oprah, a billionaire as a result of her finger on the pulse of this country, knew a winner when she saw one.
Pondering the import of Oprah Winfrey’s whirlwind tour on behalf of Barack Obama has left me seeing the world in a new way and has me viewing Obama’s groundbreaking candidacy through the prism of Oprah Winfrey’s experience.Oprah’s humble yet passionate articulation of Obama’s cause brought the right touch of star power and street cred.Skeptical pundits have been forever silenced by Oprah’s power to help Obama draw weekend crowds of 66,000 in three states.
Both Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, as Maya Angelou would agree, are phenomenal women, phenomenally.Just like Michelle Obama, I’ve had trouble reconciling Barack Obama the man and Barack Obama the phenomenon.Together, Michelle and Oprah helped put it into the proper perspective for me.Let me break it down, it’s all about the O, and I don’t mean Overstock.com.
Examining the arc of her remarkable life from Mississippi, Tennessee and Illinois, I am struck by how similar it tracks the same path as another daughter of Mississippi: Ida B. Wells-Barnett.I’ve always believed that although a prominent heroine of black history, Mrs. Wells-Barnett never fully received her due as a result of the bitter Victorian sexism of her time. Mrs. Wells-Barnett more than earned her place in the pantheon of black historical legends like Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. DuBois.
Born into slavery in 1862, orphaned at 14 by a yellow fever epidemic and left to raise five younger siblings, Ida B. Wells rose from the grinding poverty of HollySprings, Mississippi to the highest echelon of black society.A teacher, journalist, anti-lynching activist, feminist, suffragist and Republican politician (we were republicans then), her significant contributions to our struggle against white supremacy and Jim Crow segregation cannot be exaggerated.
Crusader in Defense of the Black Body
Well educated for a child of slaves, she was educated at Mississippi’s RustCollege and Tennessee’s FiskUniversity, both HBCU’s.By twenty, she moved with her siblings to Tennessee and settled in Memphis.By twenty-two, Wells-Barnett was leading campaigns against segregation in public accommodations.By twenty-four, she was writing editorials and investigative pieces to fight against lynching and white supremacy.She became a crusader in defense of the Black Body and a defender of our lives against the relentlessly racist oppression imposed by Jim Crow.
Crusader in Defense of the Black Spirit
Kosciusko, Mississippi born Oprah Winfrey, a trailblazing journalist, businesswoman, media personality, philanthropist, and child advocate, picked up Ida’s torch and has become a crusader in defense of the black spirit.Nashville’s first Black news anchor, she has used her life to fight a crusade against child sexual abuse, racism, poverty, and neglect.Single-handedly, the victim of rape and sexual molestation at the hands of cousin, uncle and her mother’s boyfriend, she is responsible for federal legislation that she authored to create a national registry of sex offenders to track predators against our children.
A philanthropist of legendary scale, she has given millions to black colleges and universities, is spending more money on rebuilding housing for hurricane Katrina victims than the damn federal government-over $17,000,000 million, despite billions appropriated and not spent by Washington, and is channeling millions of dollars for educational programs and HIV/AIDS programs in this country and worldwide.
An actress of legendary prowess, she came to national attention in her portrayal of Sophia in Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple.”The character Sophia is asked by the wife of the town’s Mayor if she would like to be her maid.Sophia’s reply, “Hell No” is so robust, vehement, and unexpected that it ends up causing a dust-up in which she has to defend herself from a racist physical assault for “sassing” Miss Millie and her white male defenders.Sophia ends up rotting in Jail for years before being re-united with her family and the “kind-hearted” bitch for which she initially refused to work-as her maid.
Domestic servitude in the kitchens of white women is part and parcel of the history of black women in this country and touches upon a raw nerve that exists for black women of multiple generations-even now.Black women’s unjustified allegiance to Hillary Clinton tap dances on that nerve. My maternal grandmother, now in her 8th decade, is a woman of remarkable intestinal fortitude, humor, wisdom, and unassailable dignity.She is the rock upon which our family has relied for nearly 60 years.As a young mother of three and wife of an abusive husband, she found herself having to abandon the marriage and flee to the safety of family a good distance away.Work as a domestic in the homes of white women was what was available to her and she took it and used it to put herself through nursing school.
Mama told me how she was asked by the south Florida matron she worked for if she knew what “elbow grease” was.The woman wanted Mama to get down on her hands and knees and scrub the floor with a toothbrush like a house slave on the plantation.That vignette has always stayed with me and is like a festering boil that never heals.My grandmama’s story reveals the texture, depth, and authenticity of black women’s struggle in this country. It is something that Hillary Clinton, blinded by her sense of royal entitlement, will never understand and something that the grandson of a British colonial servant does.
Reminding us of the “Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” on the tour with the Obama’s, Oprah echoed Jane Pittman when she famously asked each of the children, “Are you the one, Are you the one that will save us.”He won’t single-handedly save us, but I sincerely believe that he is the one for this moment.
His election as president, should it occur, will not overnight result in a diminution of the world’s oppressive racial order, but it will be a step in the right direction for change.I could never get the image out of my head that Michelle conjured up of her husband taking the oath of office.I don’t think he can single-handedly end white supremacy and the grip of capitalist patriarchy, but I think that he may serve as an inspiration to the child or children who can.
Obama truly got game. He can unite this racially divided country in the spirit of brotherhood as nobody can, and for this reason, he will have my unswerving support.
Going along with the trend that Mike Huckabee started, Barack Obama released a Christmas ad to the voters in the early states. In my minds eye, after nearly a year of campaigning, I’ve envisioned the process of cutting this ad in the following parody.
1st script, first take
Michelle: We’re the Huxtables…
Director: CUT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Michelle:We’re the Obamas, coming to you once again to shamelessly pander……..
Michelle: We’d like to take a moment to thank you and your family for the curiosity and blank stares displayed on your pasty white faces as you’ve marveled over how my Black, Ivy League educated husband can so articulately express himself in a way that is so raceless and non-threatening.
Barack:In this commercialized holiday season, we’re reminded of the conspicuous consumption and right-wing laisse faire capitalism that unites us as a people. It is more powerful and enduring than anything any one candidate will say or do and it damn sure won’t change if you vote for me. So from our bougie Huxtableesque family to yours, I’m the great white liberal hope, Barack Obama and I approved this family friendly propaganda.
Malia: Merry Christmas
Sasha: Mama, who y’all talking too?
Michelle says through clenched teeth: Say your line, baby.
Sasha: Mama, you didn’t answer my question.
Malia:Daddy, are we done? Can we go home now?
Barack through a frozen smile: No, Malia. Sasha, say your line.
Sasha:Y’all been frontin for these white folks for a year and I am tired.When is this gonna be over?
Michelle: We’d like to take a moment to thank you and your family for the warmth and friendship that you’ve shown ours, for sharing your hospitality, and your stories.
Barack: In this holiday season, we’re reminded that the things that unite us as a people are more powerful and enduring than anything that sets us apart and we all have a stake in each other, in something larger than ourselves.So from our family to yours, I’m Barack Obama and I approve this message.
“Despite their solid achievements and the satisfactions which they derived from their way of life, there was always an atmosphere of unreality surrounding the isolated life of the small black middle class.…urbanization and the increasing occupational differentiation of the Negro population undermined the privileged position of the old middle class.But more important still, the compensations which ancestry, puritanical morals, and especially education, provided in a hostile white world were inadequate in the life of the new black bourgeoisie.”
“Having become less isolated and thus more exposed to the contempt and hostility of the white world, but at the same time cherishing the values of the white world, the new black bourgeoisie with more money at their disposal, have sought compensation in the things that money can buy.Moreover, their larger incomes have enabled them to propagate false notions about their place in American life and to create a world of make-believe.”
– E. Franklin Frazier, in “Black Bourgeoisie”
Because of the illusory affluence of conspicuous consumption and the presence of the largest black middle class in history, some of us have bought into the lie of American democracy and have become captivated with the idea that we can somehow elect a black president. We have bought into the rhetoric of hope and the audacity of bourgeois hubris.
Sistah Obama was right when she said “If Barack doesn’t win Iowa, it’s just a dream.”It is a dream because Political Scientist Michael Parenti describes the Presidency as nothing more than a bait and switch game intended to pull the wool over the eyes of the public while slavishly serving the powerful.We have studiously avoided seeing that Barack Obama has signaled his intention to serve the powerful in everyway he can.
Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is a black middle class fantasy, an idealistic delusion of epic proportions that those outside of the black community have hijacked to achieve their own malevolent ends. Most Americans will never grasp the significance of our nation’s role as an imperial power that enforces a bloody and repressive economic and political hegemony upon the world’s colored peoples.They have been uniformly brainwashed by patriotic propaganda advanced by a greedy and self-interested corporate media and indoctrinated by historical revisionists that omit America’s history of genocide, slavery and discrimination.
The President is the guardian of our undemocratic system and the character of the presidency perverts any good intention.Parenti writes, “If presidents tend to speak one way and act another, it is due less to some inborn flaw shared by the varied personalities who occupy the office than to the nature of the office itself.Like any officeholder, the president plays a dual role in that he must satisfy the major interests of corporate America and at the same time make a show of serving the people. He differs from other politicians in that the demands and expectations of his office are greater and therefore the contradictions deeper.…Like other politicians, perhaps more so, the president is caught between the demands of democracy and the powers of plutocracy.”
No matter what set of progressive policies our president claims fealty to, his responsibility to the capitalist power structure will always be greater and his response to the entreaties of its emissaries shall forever be swifter. Placing Barack’s narrow behind in the oval office won’t change this dynamic of power.
The futility of this delusional presidential exercise is borne out by poll numbers, which reveal that the majority of African Americans are still with Hillary. During the period of sky-high poll numbers and uncritical acclaim, Obama’s poll numbers with the black community were in the toilet.Now that the newness has worn off the Safe Negro and whitefolks adoration and worship has cooled, blackfolks have started to take a second look.He ain’t never gonna get off that racial seesaw and it will eventually become his undoing as a candidate.
We have the means through which to control a great deal that happens to and within our communities but haven’t because of a lack of vision. That will not change because Barack Obama stepped onto the scene.The relative weakness of our political leadership and the precariousness of our economic strength keep the enormous power of the world’s wealthiest black middle class in check.
In this respect, little has changed since Dr. Frasier wrote, “Since the black bourgeoisie is composed chiefly of white collar workers and since its small business enterprises are insignificant in the American economy, the black bourgeoisie wields no political power as a class in American society.Nor does the black bourgeoisie exercise any significant power within the Negro community as an employer of labor.Its power within the Negro community stems from the fact that middle-class Negroes hold strategic positions in segregated institutions and create and propagate the ideologies current in the Negro community.”
“In the political life of the American society the Negro political leaders, who have always had a middle-class outlook, follow an opportunistic policy.They attempt to accommodate the demands of Negroes for better economic and social conditions to their personal interests which are tied up with the political machines, which in turn are geared to the interests of the white propertied classes.”
Ultimately, it is the white power structure, not us, that will benefit from the next presidency, whichever candidate is selected. In the unlikely event that I am wrong and an Obama presidency materializes, those whose mission it is to turn back the clock on social progress will have all the ammunition they need to destroy forever the possibility of progressive change.His election will be hailed from coast to coast as a triumph over racism and our legacy of discrimination when it will be anything but.
It’s time to wake up from our middle class fantasies and realize the ideological cul-de sac American politics is and do something about the unequal power relationships that disadvantage us socially, economically, and politically.