Monday, November 12, 2012

Will The Black Protest Movement Please Wake Up!

While electoral politics hasn't always benefited us, The Black community has risen by protest movements. The late Mayor Harold Washington's election spun out of a protest. Under President Obama however, the Black protest movement's been neutered. 

During this Depression /Recession, the Black community has suffered like no other. 
Between foreclosures ( home ownership was the largest source of Black wealth), violence, increased prison incarceration, and unemployment, (decreasing for America, yet rising to 14% for Black America), the Black community is on very tenuous ground.

Yet, during the debates, President Obama didn't once address the sufferings of the Black community, although he did address concerns of women and gays. During the last debate, he was asked about his biggest regret as President. Obama stated, although he pushed through the Dream Act, creating a safe haven for over 900,000 Hispanics who no longer have to fear deportation, he "deeply regretted" not going far enough with immigration reform.  Meanwhile during that debate, negotiations between Hispanic leaders and the Obama campaign over a Hispanic agenda with goals and time tables, backed by a major grassroots organizing effort in the Hispanic community were transpiring, that delivered major votes for Obama, including Republican Florida. 

President Obama didn't targeted the Black community, except for vastly overplaying a fear "shock doctrine"of plantation politics. Republicans were accused of stealing Black votes in mass. And Vice President Joe Biden told Black folks that Mitt Romney would "return Blacks to slavery".  The Black vote  jumped 15%, but unlike the Hispanic community, we got nothing and we were told not to even ask.    

During the first year of Obama's Presidency, the Black community was solely preoccupied with the symbolism of a Black President. Like poor Black women watching soap operas, Black people traded internet pictures of Obama and the first family in the white house like it was currency while the Black community deteriorated.  A few Black voices rose in the wilderness, lead by Dr. Cornel West ( who stumped for President Obama hard during the first presidential election)  and radio personality and producer Tavis Smiley. They raised the issue of Obama's neglect of the poor and especially Black people, which earned them vociferous attacks from the Black community, who labeled them "traitors" and sale-outs. Others like Glen Ford and Bruce Dixon of the Black Agenda Report, urged Black people to vote for the Green Party candidate, pointing out that Blacks had become complete pawns and captives of the Democratic party.

Finally, Blacks began to at least pay attention.  President Obama responded by using progressive Black critics to further distance himself from Black America in a failed attempt to get more blue collar white support. For instance, his infamous response that he was "not the President of Black America, but the President of America". And while engaging in these slash and burn tactics, he used patronage to co-opt  critics like Rev. Al Sharpton, ( famous for his protests)  who came to a meeting with President Obama as a critic and emerged with a national TV show on MSNBC that he then used to attack the President's Black critics, while telling Black people, that now was not the time to complain.

In year three of the Obama Presidency, Black America was wracked by a pandemic of Black on Black crime  in direct correlation with increased desperation and a decrease in social, educational, and economic opportunities. Meanwhile President Obama's continuation and expansion of President Bush's national security and militaristic foreign policy, especially in so called "Third World Nations". This caused Black Nationalist and Internationalist who had gave President Obama a pass on his neglect for America's Black community to also question if the  Black folks had been politically played by our beloved President. 

As the election neared, it became more difficult for President Obama's Black supporters to justify the devastation that they could not help but bare-witness to. So President Obama with his skilled political Chicago machine, drove a sharp wedge between white liberals and Progressive Blacks.

In terms of race, white liberals operate from the majestic holier-than-thou plateau, and are not use to having their motives challenged, especially by Blacks.  At work is a deep fissure of liberal noblesse-oblige towards Black people. They do not feel that they owe a duty towards Black people/society for their inherent white privilege, but feel that because they are liberal, they should receive special recognition and treatment from Black people, because they're "friend of the race ", which they see as a sacrifice 

I'm reminded of a historical heated exchange between James Baldwin and Robert Kennedy. Robert Kennedy asked Black leaders in the arts community to his New York apartment to discuss their views of race in America. Included were also Lorraine Hansberry, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, and Lena Horne. The meeting ended with Kennedy basically storming out of his own apartment outraged that James Baldwin appeared anti-American and wasn't respectful of what the Kennedy's had done for Black people.  White liberals felt the same way about people like Cornel West, Tavis Smiley and Glen Ford. Inherent in this view was that Obama had to be good for Black people because he was good for white liberals.  Obama gave tax cuts aimed directly at the middle and slightly upper middle class America. Yet a profound number of working class Blacks fell below the income level and Blacks with no income did not qualify as well. White liberals are also the primary beneficiaries of the growing non profit industrial complex and therefore became powerful and vocal advocates of President Obama using the mantra of abortion and gay marriage, to be protected at all costs. Those who wanted radical change were branded as enemies. I suspect that white liberals are fearful that the beginning of real change might be the beginning of the end of white privilege and I don't think they want to give it up.

President Obama has now been reelected, we shall see if the Black community fails to hold him accountable to our community who remains at the bottom of the well. Hopefully we have learned that in the final analysis we are alone.   

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