“Victory”

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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.

Many on the left in the progressive blogosphere believe that “change we can believe in” was killed in the crib. The corporate infanticide of change was facilitated by a conspiracy between the Administration and the insurance lobby that gutted the public option, instituted weak cost controls, enforced a mandate to buy private insurance and left the anti-trust exemption, which allows insurance companies to engage in the most egregious price gouging, largely intact.  The reality leaves me drained and dispirited.

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.

Here in the Carolinas, Republicans  in the South Carolina House of Representatives voted to the eliminate  state support for the entire budget for HIV/AIDS  prevention and assistance. That also includes the AIDS drugs assistance program that provides a lifeline to HIV positive people who cannot afford their anti-retroviral medications.  Republicans are the same people that spread the death panels red herring they claimed was embedded in Obama’s health care reform bill that would “pull the plug on grandma.”

The political calculus implied by this heartless proposal is that the people in the program are not Republicans and that helping them extend the quality and duration of their lives is unnecessary and too expensive.  Given the disproportionate numbers of HIV infections in black South Carolinians (8 times that of Whites), the racial animus behind this move is crystal clear. South Carolina has the eighth highest rate of new  HIV infections in the country and the Republicans in the South Carolina legislature would rather pretend that this isn’t a problem as HIV ravages the black community unchecked.

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.

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A few thoughts on the Tavis Smiley controversy

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I’ve seen some interesting commentary on Tavis Smiley deciding to bring back a black discussion forum on Obama’s. CPL over at Jack and Jill Politics and also Shanti over at WEE SEE YOU. Here is my take:

Given the remorseless hate, vitriolic racism and disingenuous histrionics that rain down on President Obama from the right, it is hard not to give in to the impulse to rally around the flag and reflexively defend his every action. Some on the left, especially the gay community, seem to think that projecting their hostility and frustration onto their Negro president, instead of fellow whites that have rejected every marriage referendum, will magically produce the civil rights they long for.

The same could be said of the “fauxgressives”—yawl’s word, frustrated by the health care stalemate. White fear, stoked by misinformation, is killing the progress that could be made in a progressive direction by this president. He has made some mistakes along the way. For example, he’s allowed himself to believe that he could work toward consensus with the insurance industry and bad actors on the right, but what really seems to be driving the debate about all things progressive are the ridiculous fears of some whitefolks that President Obama is somehow out to get them.

Support is collapsing for health care reform in some Democratic quarters on Capital Hill because some members of congress don’t have the intestinal fortitude to push back against the smears and are reluctant to confront the ignorance, racism and fear enveloping their constituents back home. They would rather cut and run or just plain cave in and validate the fear.

It is easy to be lulled into a sense of false security that an urbane, sophisticated, and intelligent President will come out on top no matter what happens, or that the compromises he inevitably makes will preserve the progressive change that people overwhelmingly voted for—that would be wrong. President Obama will only be as good as the pressure we apply. Holding the President accountable, as Tavis suggests, doesn’t mean that we don’t love and admire him and Michelle; it is that our love for them is not a substitute for progressive policy and will not sustain black and brown communities under siege by recession and centuries of racism and economic injustice.

While it is true that Barack Obama has done some great things, like the stimulus package, we need him to do some truly astounding things because times are so damn bad. In order for him to be the president we need him to be we can’t be afraid of criticizing him when it is warranted. Agreeing to a bailout of Wall Street with no strings attached was not the best move, lets be honest. Failing to stem the foreclosure crisis which is hitting black and brown communities particularly hard is yet another. Nobody has to like Tavis Smiley, you don’t even have to agree with him, but you should at least listen when he makes a valid point about a black agenda.

Let’s not mimic some whitefolks and project our anger and frustration over a lack of progressive progress onto those that don’t deserve it. We really ain’t mad at each other or Tavis Smiley for pointing out the lack of a black agenda. We’re mad at those on the right attempting to stymie what little progressive progress this president is willing to fight for. And, if we’re honest with ourselves, we are a little peeved with Obama for not fighting harder.

Come on, People

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Reading some of the discordant grumbling in the black blogosphere about the gratuitous “haterade” on our beloved President is both amusing and disconcerting.  It is as if some of y’all have been oblivious to the feel good fiction spoon fed to a naïve public in the course of the last campaign.  Disappearing Acts is not only Terri McMillan’s best novel; it could also be the title of any serious examination of the President’s record on issues important to progressives of any stripe, especially the working class and people of color.

Cornel West, in response to a question from Rolling Stone about joining the Obama Admin said:

That’s not my calling. Yeah, brother, you find me in a crack house before you find me in the White House. I’ll go into the crack house before I ever go that far inside.

I respect Cornel for his candor, however clumsily he stated it.  Remarks like that can get a brotha’s feelings hurt in the blogosphere.   I am quite sho’ his Princeton email box got blown up by overly sensitive Negroes who equate the interests of the black community with the corporate financed agenda of Barack Obama.

There are many things I could say concern me about the direction of this Administration so far:  indefinite detention, dramatic escalation of the Afghan War, dropping cluster bombs on Afghan civilians, preventing the victims of Bush-Cheney torture from suing for redress, failing to prosecute CIA torture and those who ordered it, but I’ll just stick to the economy for simplicity’s sake.

Granted, it ain’t been but four months, and he will be president for more than three and half more years, but our Commander-In-Chief has been gettin’ busy and doing the nasty.  Not with some empty headed ho, but with the Gucci wearing corporate whores that comprise the Administration’s high-ranking financial officials and their coterie of advisors.

This Administration has thrown away trillions down a bottomless rat hole to bail out the white investor class and the financial institutions that they control. These are the people whose speculative greed and racist indifference destroyed our economy.  Ain’t y’all been paying attention?   The civil rights establishment that you gleefully malign has filed landmark class action lawsuits against the sub-prime lending industry that deliberately targeted Negroes, Latinos and anybody else deemed ignorant enough to believe that deceptively marketed exploding adjustable rate mortgages were created to help the colored working class achieve the American Dream of homeownership. What they were really meant to do is generate windfall profits for the white investor class that they could pass down generation after generation.

Our Commander-In-Chief has not directed his Justice Department to join the NAACP in the class actions against some of his more generous campaign contributors.  This goes to the heart of the reparations argument being advanced by the Black Intelligentsia—people like Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson.  Black Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree, who ain’t got nothin’ but love for Barack, has written extensively and persuasively on this topic.   The President told us over a year ago in the You Tube debate that he opposed reparations.

Honest white progressives like Krugman and Stiglitz and Warren have been eloquent about what this Administration is not doing to hold crooked speculators accountable for their unconscionably racist greed.  Real reform of the banking system is not in the works.

CPL, rikyrah, I love y’all with all my heart and soul, but attacking Cornel for some insignificant off handed comment is totally off base and changes the debate to who is hatin’ on Obama instead of what he is surreptitiously doing policy wise that the black community should hate.   We should be mindful of something that Maya Angelou said.  When people tell you who they are, believe them.   The President’s adherence to an insensitive white corporate agenda will not change.  Come on, People.  Let’s act like intelligent grownfolks and not like adolescents in the throws of puppy love.

Barack Obama’s Fantasy Island

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“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 Fantasy Island.

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 Fantasy Island 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 Fantasy Island:

 

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 Fantasy Island. 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.