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Obama Insults Half A Race

By Glen Ford

21 June, 2008
Black Agenda Report

The Democratic presidential nominee-apparent seldom speaks directly to Black people, but when he does it is usually to denounce individuals once close to him or to criticize The Race in general for some moral failing. Thus it was no surprise that Barack Obama used the occasion of Father's Day to give Black males the back of his hand, no doubt to the delight of millions of potential white supporters. Black males have "abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men," said Obama, citing statistics on female-headed households. "You and I know how true this is in the African-American community."

Even the New York Times could see through Obama's transparent bid for white approval at Black people's expense. Reporter Julie Bosman noted that Obama "laid out his case in stark terms that would be difficult for a white candidate to make" - terms (such as boy?) that "his campaign hopes [will] resonate among white social conservatives in a race where these voters may be up for grabs."

In effect, Obama is following an established American electoral tradition of running against Black people. He claims to be teaming up with Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh to promote legislation to combat a "national epidemic of absentee fathers." However, Obama's church rant was anything but "race-neutral" - it was targeted directly at Black males. By selecting the politically conservative (in Black terms) Apostolic Church of God as the venue for his blanket Black male denunciation, Obama also reminded whites that he is no longer a member of Trinity United Church of Christ, formerly pastored by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, also located on Chicago's South Side.

To make himself acceptable to whites, Obama finds it necessary to shout out how unacceptable he finds the conduct of other Blacks. As could have been expected, corporate headline editors had a field day: "Obama Tells Black Fathers to Act Like Men" (AFP), "Obama Calls on Black Men to Be Better Fathers" (U.S. News & World Report), "Black Fathers Missing From Too Many Lives" (The Age), "Obama Calls for More Responsibility From Black Fathers" (NYT). Words like these are music to the ears of those who blame African American "pathology" for the ills of the ghetto and the nation as a whole, especially the "Reagan Democrats" Obama so shamelessly woos.

Can one imagine Obama or any other presidential aspirant repeatedly hectoring any other ethnic group on moral issues? Singling out Jews for excessive materialism? The Irish for excessive drinking? Of course not; that would be unfair and politically suicidal. But there are large regions of the white body politic in which it is not only acceptable, but damn near required, that politicians demonstrate their impatience with the alleged moral shortcomings of Black people. Barack Obama trolls for votes in those foul waters, at the cost of Black people's dignity.

Obama's two young daughters were seated in the church, upfront, to hear their father call other Black men "boys" with no sense of responsibility. Ironically, a key Black rationale for supporting Obama is that he is a great "role model" for Black children. Imagine that: an ethnic role model, whose ostensible purpose is to make The Race proud, yet who with great fanfare periodically sneers at the supposedly debased morality of his own people. That's close to the definition of sick.

Black-Basher, Power Worshipper

Obama goes race-specific-negative on Black people whenever it is useful in attracting white electoral support. Otherwise, he is studiously "race neutral" - a cynical device he deploys to avoid recognizing the pervasiveness of racial wrongs against African Americans. The candidate periodically offers loud and specific criticisms of Blacks, but prescribes no programs - not one - to address specific Black grievances. He feels quite secure with this cruel and crooked campaign posture, confident that no significant complaint will emanate from African American quarters - they are loyal, no matter what. And for that reason, they need not be respected.

The Black burden is even heavier than that. African Americans are expected to circle the wagons at the merest hint of racist threats to the candidate. Any slight to Obama, real or imagined, must be met with massive Black response, while Obama's disregard of Black priorities and sensibilities is endlessly forgivable. At the commonsensical level, the entire Obama-Black folks relationship is so bizarre as to seem insane. The candidate has been imposed on the African American polity by corporate forces in the Democratic Party, of which he is a loyal, Harvard-vetted operative. He constantly swears fealty to the white American civic religions of American Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny, both rooted in race supremacy. He has proven his devotion to this ghastly Euro-American mythology and worldview, through public denunciation of liberation theology and ritual separation from one of its major institutions. He bows to imperial power and its endless expansion, fully aware that, as Dr. Martin Luther King phrased it 40 years ago, the military will "draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube," draining all hope for creation of a just society.

Obama is no Prince of Peace - more like Damion, of The Omen. His peace-savaging declaration earlier this month that "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided" expressed a position that no U.S. government has ever taken, that no Arab government can accept and, as Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery has written, "has disappeared - quietly, almost secretly - from the arsenal of official [Israeli] slogans." Translation: Obama is more hyper-Zionist on Jerusalem than the Israelis themselves, more than successive American governments that have never formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital or as wholly Israeli. He is emphatically outside the possible parameters of peace in the most volatile region of the planet. Obama is not a peace candidate.

To point up how hawkish Obama has shown himself to be in his groveling before the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), no less than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was dispatched to Jerusalem this past weekend to caution the Israelis against building further housing for Jews in the western part of city, lest they have "a negative effect on the atmosphere for the negotiation" with Palestinians. Obama is to the Right of Rice, who had to journey to Israel to try to clean up the mess he made at the AIPAC meeting in Washington! Predictably, the Israelis rebuked Rice. After all, they can look forward to an even more pliant Obama administration.

Obama has expressed willingness to militarily violate the sovereignty of Pakistan - home of the A Q Khan nuclear proliferation racket and, along with Israel, among the wildest nuclear cards in the planetary deck - and to launch "surgical" strikes against Iran, a catastrophe of unimaginable dimensions.

Is he John McCain? No, and that's literally as much as can be said with any degree of certainty.

Phony ‘Movement'

Most of the commentary and pseudo-reporting about the campaign amounts to ramblings of the insane. Insanity is the logical product of a culture rooted in plunder, genocide and slavery. There are no guarantees that social structures marinated in such evil can ultimately be made habitable. Madness in, madness out. Only the most courageous, sustained popular struggle can even hope to distill civilization from its opposite. The Black Freedom Movement, embedded in the history of The Americas, could have been - and might yet become - the great engine of general liberation.

But no transformation is possible if the Great Diversion and Illusion of Obamamania chokes the sense and consciousness out of Black America - a true pathology that has already rendered folks previously considered among the "best and brightest" among African Americans deaf, dumb, blind and at the feet of their utterly false Messiah.

The general African American rush to touch Obama's garments is understandable - not rational, but explicable - as the product of 400 years of frustrated yearnings for "deliverance" by "our own" hands. Add two parts willful self-delusion plus eight parts corporate public manipulation (the "hope" mantra, which conjures up totally different visions in the minds of different consumers), and a full blown dream-savior appears.

Black "leadership," especially on the left side of the African American political spectrum (which, as a polity, is distinctly to the left of the white American spectrum), has shamefully packaged Obama as a progressive, knowing full well he is not. This is cowardice: the "leaders" fear having to tell Black folks the truth, which would require that they provide real and risky political direction that challenges Obama, the Man Who Would Like To Be Called Joshua (see Obama, Selma). Black leaders would have to disabuse the people of their illusions, and explain that Obama's/Joshua's destination for the multitudes is not Black self-determination, true racial justice and peace - about which he fundamentally differs from the Historical Black Political Consensus - but a one-day trip to the ballot box to benefit himself, followed by four years of even more malign neglect than he has shown Blacks heretofore in the campaign.

Having led no one anywhere recently, the Obama-backing "leaders" pretend that the candidate's popularity in the presidential race is the equivalent of a "movement." It is no such thing, and they and Obama know it. Obama's claim to be at the head of a movement is no surprise, part of his slick M.O., signifying nothing. The last thing any politician wants is to be bothered with movements. They are, at the very least, distractions to the smooth running of governments, which seek to be unencumbered by meddlesome popular demands. More to the point, Obama doesn't see any need for a specifically "Black" movement, since African Americans have already "come 90 percent of the way" to equality, as he proclaimed in Selma, last year.

He made clear in his Philadelphia "Race Speech" three months ago that Black-centered complaints are "divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems - two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all."

Obama wants to shut down what's left of the Black Freedom Movement. He's getting help from panicked and unprincipled Black Left misleaders who contort their former politics beyond recognition in order to attach themselves, mostly uninvited, to a corporate campaign that tries to masquerade in movement clothing. They meekly offer insubstantial but nevertheless unwelcome advice to unhearing campaign operatives on how to make the campaign appear more like a genuine people's mass political vehicle, as if Goldman Sachs and the other Wall Streeters who made Obama the early money frontrunner would tolerate interference in their behind-the-curtain rule.

McKinney Candidacy Plus People's Movement

There is a presidential candidate who is Black, a proven progressive, a person of courage and unchallenged integrity. Cynthia McKinney, running on a Power to the People platform for the Green Party nomination, wants to rebuild a real movement. Peace and racial and social justice cannot be achieved absent a popular movement, which in the United States must be led by African Americans. Presidential aspirant Barack Obama has never faced movement scrutiny, because Black "progressive" leaders rolled over like puppies (minus the cuteness) without initially presenting even strong policy suggestions, much less demands, to Obama's corporate campaign. Not satisfied with neutering themselves, they encouraged Black people as a body to become irrelevant. Now, they are objects of derision, fare game for Obama's piercing scowl.

A vote (and/or contribution) for Cynthia McKinney, the former congresswoman from Georgia, signals that you have not been fooled by the corporate handmaiden, Obama, and his "progressive" apologists. It means you are ready to build a movement in which periodic electoral politics is a secondary appendage to 24-7 mass struggle.

It means that you support a woman who genuinely loves people and would never defame half a race on Father's Day.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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