Obama: Black-Bashing Or Legit Critique?

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Like it or not Obama does have grassroots credentials, which is what allowed him to make history. And given the high cost of living due to the Iraq War, gas prices and the housing crisis, Obama is the best-winnable-choice this November. It's true that Obama avoided the racial question until it was forced on him by the Rev. Wright controversy.

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Obama's Father's Day speech has ruffled the feathers of some who feel his excoriation of absentee Black fathers who "have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men" was political pandering for white votes.


One particularly caustic column, written by Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report, condemns Obama for using "the occasion of Father's Day to give Black males the back of his hand." In the piece "Obama Insults Half a Nation" Ford argues that Obama's speech was meant to soothe and appeal white voters while denigrating Black men.


There's no question many politicians often feel the need to flog Blacks to gain favor with whites. This is a tactic that both major political parties have employed.


George Bush Sr. had his Willie Horton ads, and Bill Clinton had Sister Souljah.


And there are voices-like the highly esteemed professor, lawyer, activist and radio host Howard Jordan of the "Jordan Journals" on WBAI 99.5 FM-now asking if this was Obama's "Sister Souljah moment."


Jordan correctly pointed out that absentee fathers are an issue in many different communities.


I have no problem with taking any politician to task, Black or otherwise. From the very beginning, when it became clear that Obama could win the Democratic nomination, I warned against the blind euphoria many of us often feel when a "Black" person attains some position of symbolic prominence.


We have seen too many "Blacks" like Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice before.


Therefore, I am in agreement with a few of the points Ford makes.  He argues that Obama avoids "recognizing the pervasiveness of racial wrongs against African Americans."  This is true, to an extent.


Obama never explicitly talks about the structural racism that is at the root of many problems, relative to Blacks.


However, at times, Obama implicitly hints at them. For example, in the speech, Obama acknowledged that the Black community needs "more money for our schools, and more outstanding teachers in the classroom, and more afterschool programs for our children. Yes, we need more jobs and more job training and more opportunity in our communities."


Here he is talking about the need for the government to do more for the Black community, which in of itself is a tacit admission of the failures due to institutional racism. True, it's a tame admission, especially, for those of us who are on the "progressive" or radical side of the political spectrum.


But do you think Obama could win the White House if he overtly said that these problems are largely due to racism?


Ford asserts that Obama is part of a phony "movement," and states Cynthia McKinney would be a more progressive president. I agree with the latter point. I love sister McKinney. But she can't win in November, because the Green Party, like other third parties hasn't been able to make any significant end-roads on a grassroots level with the public, including Black people.


Like it or not Obama does have grassroots credentials, which is what allowed him to make history. And given the high cost of living due to the Iraq War, gas prices and the housing crisis, Obama is the best-winnable-choice this November.
It's true that Obama avoided the racial question until it was forced on him by the Rev. Wright controversy.


However, Obama is a politician and given the racial denial, that still exists, in this country he knew he wouldn't win the nomination if he didn't avoided the race question. In fact, he limped to victory; because of the racial stigma fostered by the corporate media provocateurs whipping-up of the Rev. Wright saga.


Was courting white votes the primary factor in Obama's speech? Possibly, and if it was that's objectionable. Yet, Obama's father's abandonment is something likely more relevant here. For the internal trauma, from that experience, probably still distresses him; and some of his more skewered comments like "You and I know how true this [absentee fathers] is in the African-American community" may have been distorted by resentment of his father's parental irresponsibility and neglect.  I can relate to that, having experienced a double dose of parental abandonment myself.


It's a stretch to claim, as Ford does, that Obama "periodically offers loud and specific criticisms of Blacks" to further his political aspirations. Outside of Obama's denunciation of Rev Wright what periodic "criticisms of Blacks" is he talking about? One of Ford weakest arguments is that Obama's speech was a "blanket Black male denunciation."
How is criticizing negligent fathers a "blanket" attack on all Black males? Black leaders, like Malcolm X, and Louis Farrakhan, often routinely critiqued and chastised the failings in the Black community.


Some will argue the difference with those leaders is that they also took white America to task for racism. Another difference: none of those leaders were running for the White House. Does this mean we should accept anything from a Black candidate running for president? No. Obama should be reined in and rebuked whenever he goes too far over the line.


But on this topic, some Black men do need to be admonished for their backward behavior. I agree many Black problems, including absentee fathers, don't usually happen in a vacuum devoid of the country's racism. There's no question white America isn't comfortable with Black males. However, that doesn't absolve those Black males, who need to step-up and father their kids.


Ironically, Ford's strongest point against Obama had nothing to do with Obama's Fathers' Day speech, but involves Obama's serious blunder before the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) when he declared Jerusalem will remain the “undivided” capital of Israel.


This notion has been roundly rejected by the International Community, since the Palestinian rights to Jerusalem is, nearly, universally understood.



 

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