Friday, July 27, 2012

For many in our communities, to acknowledge the crisis would also require acknowledgement that we have not received much relief in the form of general or specifically tailored policies from the Obama administration

July 26, 2012 - Issue 482

Cover Story
Obama & Me:
An African American Activist’s Search for Clarity

By Ajamu Baraka
BC Guest Commentator

As an African American, I have been confused, frustrated, enraged and
mystified by what is now referred to as the “Obama phenomenon”
among African Americans. And while this phenomenon is complex, I
am only going to comment on one aspect of the phenomenon - the
almost irrational defense of President Obama by significant majorities
in the African American community.

With the election of Barak Obama in 2008, African Americans and
progressives in the U.S. and throughout the world celebrated what
appeared to be the beginning of a new era in the U.S. and a possible
change in how the U.S. relates to the world. So the pride felt by many
African Americans with the election of the first “Black” President was
understandable. And with the rise of the Tea Party and the clearly
racist treatment he was receiving, it was also understandable that
most African Americans would want to protect this president.

But what is not understandable, at least not in rational terms, is the
complete lack of critical discussion and/or analysis in the African
American community of the Obama administrations’ policies. For
example, as African Americans approach the next election and have an
opportunity to reflect on the administration and the impact of its
policies on the health and prospects for the development of African
American communities, one would assume there would be serious
discussions taking place in our communities where we would examine
the administrations’ past policies and formulate new demands that
represent our community's concerns and positions in order for the
administration to receive our votes. But that is not happening. Even
though our communities are facing an economic calamity unlike
anything experienced since the depression era of the 1930s, not only
are those discussions nowhere to be found, but to even suggest the
need for a conversation like that is usually met with hostility.

This is the most disturbing aspect of the Obama phenomenon. This
strange and dangerous disconnection between what is really
happening in our communities - unemployment more than double the
national average, capital disinvestment, record foreclosures, collapsing
housing stock for the poor, dwindling government services, abusive
police and a racist judicial system responsible for locking up more than
a million African Americans - and our unwillingness to acknowledge the
crisis that we face!

The only explanation is that, for many in our communities, to
acknowledge the crisis would also require acknowledgement that we
have not received much relief in the form of general or specifically
tailored policies from the Obama administration. And many of our
people are reluctant to do that because it might play into the hands of
Obama’s enemies, so it is claimed. Instead, convenient explanations
are offered by African American politicians and opinion leaders
regarding how hard it is for Obama to pass legislation with the
opposition he receives from the Republicans, while we pretend not to
notice the administration pushing through legislation that benefit the
banks and corporations and signing executive orders to expand and
protect the rights of almost every constituency group out there but us.
I know that the majority of African Americans are going to give the
Obama administration and the Democrats their votes, partly in
response to the very real threat of the radical right represented by the
candidacy of Gov. Romney, partly because of the “lesser-of-two-evils”
argument and partly out of habit. But at least before that great day in
November when the vote is tabulated, I hope that across this country
African Americans along with our allies and friends would sit down
together and discuss in rational terms just what we are getting for our
votes from the Obama administration.

But specifically for those of us in the African American community, I
also hope that, when we finally get past the Obama phenomenon and
come back to our senses, one of the lessons learned is that we cannot
put our faith or future in the hands of any one person or party - that
we finally understand that it is only through our own efforts that we
define and defend our rights, build our future and create a better
world. Guest Commentator, Ajamu Baraka, is ahuman rights activist and veteran of the Black Liberation, anti-war, anti-apartheid and Central American solidarity movements in the United States. He is currently a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, where he is editing a book on human rights titled, “The Fight Must be for Human Rights: Voices from the Frontline.” The book is scheduled to be published in 2013. Click here to contact Mr. Baraka.