by Robert Oliver
Two curious banners hang on the building of the Los Angeles Sentinel, a major Black community newspaper. One banner says: “Neighbors, Community, and Friends: We must vote to re-elect President Barack Obama. Tell all your friends in the Red States too!” The other says: “Support our President.”
In Chicago, Dr. C. Frances Parks, hosts a Sunday-morning radio program called Interactions on Black-gospel station WBGX. Last spring, a guest on her show said, “We must retain Barack Obama.” There are some Blacks who believe that Obama was put in the White House because he is God’s “choice.” Dr. Boyce Watkins wrote: “What’s interesting is that not all African Americans are concerned about (Obama’s military attack on) Libya. In fact, there is a group within the black American population that loves President Obama no matter what he does. Some have referred to this group as ‘the loyalists.’ For members of this segment, Obama can do no wrong and their steadfast support of every decision is partly in response to their concerns about strong Republican opposition to the president. Most interesting is that black voters are likely to remain more loyal to President Obama in 2012 than other liberal groups who have begun criticizing the president’s policies.” (http://thyblackman.com/2011/03/29/27-of-african-americans-have-less-faith-in-obama-after-libya-attack/) Even one Black person tweeted on Twitter to me that he would be loyal to Obama, even if Obama betrayed him!
There is no question that the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States is historic. But does his presidency show any tangible benefits? After garnering 96% of the Black vote, what has he done to earn the Black vote again in 2012? Before the 2008 Presidential Election, a prominent Black activist in Connecticut said to a group of Black voters, “If Barack Obama wins, we win.” After 2 ½ years of an Obama presidency, what exactly did we Black people win? In 2008 before the presidential election, Black publisher and author William Owens, Jr. wrote the book Obama: Why Black America Should Have Doubts. Does he have reasons to write a sequel called Why Black America Should Still Have Doubts?
It seems that the consensus among Blacks who support President Barack Obama for the 2012 election is the following chain of reasoning:
“You do not understand the pressures that our president has to endure on a daily basis. You cannot expect him to be perfect. He is a public servant, not a perfect servant. Nor can you expect for him to clean up George W. Bush’s eight-year mess after only 2 1/2 years. Of course Obama made promises. But after he took office he saw some realities he was not privy to when he was a candidate. Therefore he was compelled to do things that would make him to appear to ‘break’ his promises. He is only dealing with political realities.
“Our president is different than Bush. Bush was an evil man. Obama is a man of color. People of color are naturally given to issues of justice for not only Black people, but for all people. Therefore Obama cares about justice. Bush did not care about peace. Bush was a war monger. People of color are naturally given to issues of peace. Therefore Obama is interested in peace because that is in his nature. That is why he got a Nobel Peace Prize. That is why we cannot criticize him for his actions against Libya while we must criticize the white Europeans for waging war on Libya. They are only interested in regaining their power in North Africa. He is sensitive to other people of color, not only in Libya, not only in the United States, but around the world. People of color always have been an oppressed people. Therefore Obama understands oppression and could never be insensitive to us. Even though it may look like Obama is waging war against an African nation, his intentions have always been humanitarian, for the good of the people there. But Bush always had malevolent intentions. Obama cannot have malevolent intentions. Why? Because being a Black man, a man of color, his morals are superior to Bush’s. Therefore what Obama does must be with the best intentions for the good of all. In his heart of hearts, he will always do the right thing on behalf of our oppressed brothers and sisters. We must give him our complete trust. The talk coming from certain Black celebrities of holding Obama ‘accountable’ only serves the white oppressor and the racist Republicans who never wanted him in office in the first place. That is also the talk of jealous high-profile Black playa haters.
“We must re-elect our president and let him finish the job we voted for him to do. Remember, there are racist Republicans who HATE the idea of a Black man in the White House, and we must do our very best to defeat them. We must show them that we people of color will not surrender to the forces of white supremacy and racism in the United States. And since the job of the presidency is a very stressful and sometimes lonely job, we must show our president that we back him 100% to give him encouragement. If it was not for those racist Republicans trying to stop him at every turn, the change we voted for would have come sooner. They are only trying to turn back the clock on civil rights, and Obama is doing his best to stop them in our behalf. And he also got more death threats than any other president!* He is only trying to continue the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. Where would we be without our president? If it were not for Obama, unemployment may have shot up to 15% or even 20%. Now it is a manageable 9.1% (May 2011) and we should applaud his efforts. He is doing his best to fix the economy when the GOP is trying their best to tear it down. We have to be patient. Also too, we must not expect him to be the president of ‘Black America.’ He is the president of all America. There is no way he can focus attention on any one community, much less the Black community. And it is unfair for us to expect him to.
“What will we say to our children if we say we did not support our first Black president to stay in office for another 4 years? This man gives hope that our children can be anything they want to be, even to be the leader of the most powerful nation in the world. Obama must remain a role model for our children. He is an inspiration to him and to us. Once we were in the slave house. Now we are in the White House. And we must stay in the White House. We must count the whites who oppose Obama as racists. We must count the Blacks who oppose Obama as sellout Uncle Toms. Any others who oppose Obama we must consider tools of the oppressors.
“Times are hard, but remember, our president is God’s anointed and appointed for a time such as this. God has a plan for this man, and we must allow our president to continue to work out God’s plan for us and the world. Even if he never did anything for Black people, we need to be satisfied that we as Black people made history. We are in the White House now.”
After the 2008 election, there was a black newspaper supplement called “From the Slave House to the White House.” Isn’t that quite a stretch? Isn’t it disingenuous to bestow Barack Obama a slave heritage he never had? If anything, he has slavemaster ancestry in his family (http://barefootblues.multiply.com/journal/item/61/Obamas_Ancestors_Were_Slave_Owners). Also too, as Obama’s heritage was from Kenya, there is no history of Africans from that area as being taken to America as slaves. (Some blacks have even said he is our “Nelson Mandela.” Mandela spent decades languishing as a political prisoner in South Africa under apartheid. However, Obama spent years in American colleges with no known arrest record. There is no comparison, isn’t there?)
On the evening of November 4, 2008, there was a vicarious feeling of “we” as winners among Blacks nationwide when Obama was elected. When heavyweight boxing champion Joe Lewis beat Germany’s Max Schmelling in the first round on June 22, 1938, blacks felt “we beat that white man.” Schmelling defeated Louis in a previous fight two years earlier. At that time racial segregation was legal. Blacks generally were not made to feel as if they were US citizens equal under the law. Schmelling represented the perverted superior racial attitudes of Nazi Germany. There many others, especially Jewish people, were not equal under the law. We were sensitive to Germany’s racism. Yet “we” defeated Hitler’s man. We were proud. We felt very good about that victory. And there was the feeling that we “won” the White House.
Blogger Gary Dauphin wrote in December 2008:
“Last night my man Wesley was texting this to everyone he knew: ‘Whitey may be on the moon, but we’re in the White House!’(http://www.ebogjonson.com/node?page=1)”
Blogger Britney Gray wrote:
“Barack Obama’s win gives me hope for my generation. I’ve figured a long time ago that the world is just going to get worse and worse as time progresses. But now I have hope that we’ve reached our bottom so we can only improve from this point on. My generation was a massive part of this win and I’m proud to say that I’ve made history. I’m tremendously grateful that this has occurred in my lifetime. There are so many who have fought and given their lives for all of us to reach this point. 200 years ago we were in the cotton fields, in the slave master’s house cooking his food, cleaning his house, nannying his children. We lived our entire wretched lives, breaking our backs, slaving toward someone else’s dream. We also died doing so. That was only 4 generations ago. Now we’re in the White House (http://www.brittneygray.com/2008_11_01_archive.html).
Immediately after the election in November 2008, did you hear about a black gang bragging to whites “We run things now” because Barack Obama is President of the United States? Just what do we run?
A black woman quit paying her rent after Obama became president. She said “We have a new president and things are going to change (http://www.downrange.tv/forum/index.php?topic=4868.0).
” A woman in Texas thinks that Obama is going to make black people all “rich.” (I wonder if that woman in Florida is still waiting for a check from the White House so that her mortgage gets paid. Look for cobwebs around her as she waits.)
Concerning the above statement “We must count the blacks who oppose Obama as sellout Uncle Toms,” Black commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson writes:
“The withering assault from assorted racists, kooks, cranks, zanies, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, tea baggers, and GOP ultra conservatives further guarantees that blacks fear if they utter the most bland and meek criticism it will give aid and comfort to the enemy, and earn a slap as a race traitor… (emphasis mine) But Blacks also sincerely want (President Obama) to succeed. That’s not solely out of a mix of race pride, the eternal thirst for positive black male role models, and his eloquence. They’re fervently convinced that he truly has their interests at heart, and even though he can’t spout a ‘black agenda” he’ll work hard, quietly, behind the scenes to improve conditions for the black poor and needy. Then there’s the horrific alternative of a GOP takeover. Blacks are in stark terror that a resurgent GOP will mean a sink back to greater impoverishment, political disempowerment, racial polarization and even racial violence.”
(“Why African-Americans Have Given President Obama a Pass,” Earl Ofari Hutchinson, The Grio, March 2, 2010, http://www.thegrio.com/opinion/why-african-americans-have-given-president-obama-a-pass.php)
Isn’t it unfortunate that Blacks who vote Democrat have been made to fear, if not to be terrified, of expressing open opposition to a nebulous Black Politburo’s “party line”? They do not want to be called “traitors” and “sellouts.” Not to oppose President Obama, “the first Black president,” is a part of that party line. Slavish conformity to that party line takes precedence over independent and critical thinking. In February 2008, “[P]opular black author and talk-show host Tavis Smiley disclosed death threats he’d received from those accusing him of blasphemy against their black prophet…Congressional Black Caucus member Stephanie Tubbs Jones lent credence to Smiley’s claim by suggesting that many black elected officials not swearing allegiance to Obama have also been the target of violent threats…The perceived racial apostasy apparently sparked not only thousands of angry emails labeling Smiley as a ‘hater, sellout, and traitor,’ but also the relentless harassment of his entire family.” (http://www.americanthinker.com/2008/02/black_hillary_supporters_may_b.html) This is a posting from DemocraticUnderground.com:
“Anyway…I remember listening to one of Tavis Smiley’s commentaries when he simply asked Black America to remember to hold Obama accountable. He was just making the point that after you fall in love with someone, remember to hold them accountable.
“And he said that when the Covenant with Black America was being established, this is what we said we wanted.
“Folks started calling in right away to trash Tavis. One woman said ‘Tavis just needs to leave us alone.’ (I’m assuming by ‘us’ she meant those of us in Black America). And then she said Tavis just needed to go off with his white woman somewhere. It was disgusting.” (http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=132×5463061)
Currently Professor Cornel West of Princeton University, a strong Obama campaigner in 2008, is also being horribly vilified for being openly critical of the President. Here is a posting from “truthseeking missle” on the liberal Daily Kos website: “With allies like Cornell West and his apostle Tavis Smiley, President Barack Obama may be able to sleep more comfortably in a den of birthers. Those Negroes have lost their damned minds. The vitriolic attack on the first African American President by folks who call him ‘Brother Barack’ is outright mind boggling. ‘The Obama Deception: Why Cornel West Went Ballistic’ by Chris Hedges, could easily have been dubbed ‘Cry of a Madman.’ It appears that Professor West is completely unhinged and throwing the toilet bowl at Obama in a public grown-up tantrum… West’s solution for getting attention is for him and Tavis Smiley to engage in ‘civil disobedience.’ He said, ‘Our last hope is to generate a democratic awakening among our fellow citizens…Tavis Smiley and I have talked about ways of civil disobedience beginning with ways for both of us to get arrested.’ Did I just speak of West’s childish petulance and pettiness? Of course it is Professor West’s right to engage in any form of protest he deems necessary. But, this level of insanity requires clinical intervention to save the professor from himself. Does Sarah Palin come to mind somehow? The diagnosis, some say, is: ‘Barack Derangement Syndrome’ and that puts him on equal footing with ‘Sister Sarah!’”
Dr. Boyce Watkins made an astute observation concerning the hateful attacks against West: “If a man is offered a piece of stale bread for dinner, he’s probably not going to want to eat it. If you were to then say, well, ‘stale bread is better than horse manure,’ this won’t make the stale bread taste any better. When given the choice between bad food and horrible food, some people would just rather not eat or try to eat someplace else.
“But this is what black America is being fed when they are told that they should passionately support the Democrats simply because the Republicans are going to be worse. The meal is being fed, in part, by elitist liberals like Melissa Harris Perry at Princeton University, a darker-skinned staple in the white liberal establishment and fully-indoctrinated member in the Barack Obama fan club. In a recent article (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/05/18/opinion/main20063860.shtml
) where Perry works diligently to dismiss the political and scholarly relevance of Dr. Cornel West (a huge mistake on her part, since West earned his stripes when Perry was still in high school), she reproduces the same rhetoric that Ivy Leaguers utilize to somehow convince rank-and-file black folks to start seeing things that simply don’t exist. The same political magic trick was used when the administration got a tiny militia of black Harvard Law Professors to campaign on behalf of Elana Kagan for the Supreme Court in spite of her undeniably racist hiring record – this is how Harvard and Yale folks take care of one another. Notice that our entire Supreme Court is full of Ivy League graduates; the elite protect their power by manipulating the minds of poor and working class Americans… So, perhaps those who are quick to implement the ‘stop snitching on Obama’ policy on Cornel West should stop trying to counter his argument by telling West to remain silent. Instead, he should be silenced with relevant and meaningful action on the part of the Obama Administration. Spinning, twisting and reshaping the conversation means nothing when black unemployment continues to rise, mass incarceration decimates our people and our children are not being educated. You can either get angry at someone for calling you fat, or you can take your fat butt to the gym. Unfortunately, it’s easier for Washington types and elitist liberals to use political double-speak than it is for them to point to concrete evidence that working and middle class black people (the bulk of whom experience rampant and unregulated discrimination in the workplace) have a reason to be excited about the next election. Whether they should reject President Obama vs. his Republican counterparts is debatable; but whether they should reject all of Washington is undeniable.” (http://newsone.com/newsone-original/boycewatkins/cornel-west-obama-tavis/
Smiley received vitriol for saying Obama was to be held accountable just as we have held other elected officials accountable. He received death threats because of his open criticism of the President and because he did not adhere to the party line when he said that Obama was not to get a “Black Pass.” The attitudes of attacking, of vilifying, and of threatening those who did not conform to a certain party line are reminiscent of authoritarian/totalitarian Nazi Germany and Communist Russia/East Germany where freedom of speech and freedom of thought were forbidden. Civil rights for Blacks – yes. Freedom of thought for Blacks – no. (Did not Elijah Muhammad say years ago: “Think for self”?)
An example of the extreme polemic from die-hard Obama supporters is from Black Twitter-er “Realbrother0003” who wrote me about Black commentator Glen Ford of BlackAgendaReport.com. Ford has been an outspoken critic of Barack Obama since 2005:
“Glen Ford appears to be another Black Sellout who is bitter and angry because hating his Race and Culture and worshiping White people as God didn’t work out too well for him. These Sellouts resent that President Obama and other successful Blacks actually were able to succeed in life without Selling Black people out.”
However there are Black people who openly and fearlessly express that their “hope” has turned into “nope.” Minister Tim Lee of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago wrote:
“As I reflect on the first two years of Obama’s administration, I am becoming more convinced that many of us in the Black community have been guilty of living vicariously through the achievements of Obama to the extent that we have superimposed his individual victory on our race as a whole. Though he is making progress on many of his promises, we are not benefiting in the way we thought.
“Don’t get me wrong; I understand that it took time to get America into this current state and getting us out won’t happen overnight. But how long will it take before that argument gets old? Has anyone considered the 1960s lingo of tokenism and how attaching a Black face to a system that doesn’t favor Black people is a method used to keep people passive when they would otherwise rebel? Think about it. Would those Black Americans who stand by President Obama so faithfully right now be waiting so patiently for change to come had John McCain won the
election? No! We would be in the streets…
“Too many of us are too focused on defending Obama. Let’s take our attention off of him and focus it on what’s best for the Black community — and for the nation. Sure, the color of the person in the White House is different, and there is a misguided assumption that the many White people who voted for him are evidence of some fundamental change in our nation’s attitude about race. But again: look at the masses — and if you see a change for the better, then perhaps our change has come.
“But has anything really changed for us?
“The statistics appear to be getting worse: Black-on-Black crime, Black-youth-on-Black youth violence, academic underachievement, unemployment, foreclosures, incarceration, image slander, drug abuse, fatherlessness, powerlessness, hopelessness … Things are changing, but not for the better.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m going to put on that old Sam Cooke classic (“A Change Gonna Come”) again and meditate on how I can be the change I expected to come from our president, Barack Obama. Not that he won’t make a change in the future, but I don’t know if we can afford to wait another two to six years to see that change.” (http://www.urbanfaith.com/2010/11/wheres-the-change.html)
A black woman on Twitter tweeted “A Change Gonna Come, it’s been a long time coming, and Im not so sure a change gonna come….”
In September 2010 in Texas, Velma Hart, a black veteran and an executive who is raising two children, in a town hall meeting hosted by CNBC told President Obama: “I am one of your middle-class Americans and, quite frankly, I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted of defending you. I’m exhausted of defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for. And I’m deeply disappointed with where we are right now. I have been told that I voted for a man who said he was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class. I am one of those people and I’m waiting sir. I’m waiting. I don’t feel it yet. And I thought, while it wouldn’t be in great measure, I would feel it in some small measure.”
According to CNBC: “She went on to explain that she and her husband have put their kids in private school and, next year, will deal with college bills. They thought these and other achievements meant they had strived past the point of struggle, but now they struggle consistently to make ends meet. ‘And quite frankly Mr. President,’ she concluded, ‘I need you to answer this honestly: Is this my new reality?’” (http://thelightnc.com/national-news/mwade/black-woman-tells-obama-%E2%80%98i%E2%80%99m-exhausted-of-defending-you%E2%80%99/)
Destiny Mathis, 26, of Hobart, Indiana actively campaigned for Barack Obama in 2008. She said to the London Daily Mail: “She said: ‘I campaigned for him hard. I got the shirts made, the Barack the Vote shirts made. We’ve done a lot.’” The rest of the article says: “It was about half way into the President’s term that things took a downward spiral for her. Her third baby was born prematurely with health problems and with limited daycare options she could no longer work.
Her partner also left around this time.
“With nowhere else to turn, she decided to write the President a letter. She told the Huffington Post: ‘I wrote him just expressing my concern about what’s going to happen in the next two years. I know he’s under a lot of stress, but I need to see more results.’
“She told him she was optimistic for change when she campaigned for him and that now she feels her future is bleak and unpromising. Despite this she also praised the President and his efforts.
“She wrote: ‘I do think people are coming down too hard on you and your administration. An eight-year mess cannot be fixed in only two years’ time. I am still behind you 100 per cent and so is my family. My dad is a disabled Vietnam Veteran and he tells my seven-year-old son, Silas, that he should strive to be just like you. I tell my two-year-old daughter Milan that she will be as strong as Mrs. Obama and not to be like me.’
“She finishes by saying: ‘May God Bless you Mister President and your beautiful family. I also ask that GOD continues to bless your presidency and administration.’
“To Ms. Mathis’ surprise, she received a handwritten response from the President shortly after.
He told her that she had a ‘positive spirit’, that she inspired him and promised her that things would get better for her and her family.
“But now, eight months later, things have not improved and she is being forced to sell the letter in the hope that she can avoid eviction.
“She said: ‘We need to move as soon as possible. We need a three bedroom. I’m not working, so no-one is giving me a chance.’
“Out of desperation, the 26-year-old contacted Gary Zimet, president of Moments in Time, who has sold eight handwritten letters from President Obama, along with the actual Schindler’s List and other pieces of American history.
“He said that the hand written letters on headed White House stationary are ‘extremely rare’ and he hopes to sell the letter for $11,000.
“Right now, Ms Mathis is hoping the letter sale will lead to a better future for her and her children Silas, Milan and Londyn and ultimately wants to go back to school to become a nurse.
“She said: ‘I am just a little bit weary of the promises that (Obama) has made. I really haven’t been seeing any kind of changes that affect me directly. We need the money so we can move into something that’s compatible with the kids and to help us out. We are really, really struggling. It’s hard for us right now. I really do trust that I’m making the right decision.’” (“Desperate mother-of-three sells handwritten letter from Obama to avoid being evicted,” Rachel Quigley, Daily Mail, June 15, 2001, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2003688/Mother-3-Destiny-Mathis-sells-Obamas-handwritten-letter-avoid-eviction.html#ixzz1PNWa7yku)
What has disappointed Black residents of Washington D.C. is Obama’s seeming indifference to the issue of DC voting rights and statehood. When Obama was elected, many black residents of DC was optimistic that their goal of full voting representation would come sooner as they felt they had an ally in the new President: “‘The expectations were very high that, since (Obama) had made human rights an important part of his platform, he would speak out for D.C.,’ said Philip Pannell, a former member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee and longtime advocate for statehood. ‘It seems that President Obama’s heart and his conscience are missing in action…’
Another black person who has bucked the Black party line is Malik Zulu Shabazz, Chairman of the New Black Panther Party. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he called Obama a “Black prince.” In the spring of 2011, he bluntly called Obama a “Buck Dancin’ Tom” and said the President “represents the white man.” What caused the change in Shabazz’s attitude? Could it be that he shared the sentiment of Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam who had a message for Obama? On a Chicago radio program concerning the president’s treatment of Libya, Farrakhan said: “Who the hell do you think you are?”
Many Blacks are quite dismayed that President Obama, a man with direct Kenyan heritage, as well as a Nobel Peace Prize winner, would make war upon Libya, an African nation. Yet I’m dismayed that the many voices against the wars of President George W. Bush are now muted, hypocritically, since President Obama initiated a war against a nation that posed no threat to the United States. This president also initiated this military action in violation of the 1973 War Powers Act which specifies that the President of the United States must get authorization of Congress to take military action against another country poses no threat to the United States. As opposed to George W. Bush who did get authorizations for attacking Afghanistan and Iraq, Barack Obama sought no authorization whatsoever. In an interview with the Boston Globe in December 2007, presidential candidate U.S Senator Barack Obama said “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.” (http://www.boston.com/news/politics/2008/specials/CandidateQA/ObamaQA/)
It seems Candidate Obama and President Obama do not see things eye-to-eye, don’t they?
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) said on the floor of the House of Representatives:
“Dropping 2,000-pound bombs and unleashing the massive firepower of our Air Force on the capital of a sovereign state is in fact an act of war, and no amount of legal acrobatics can make it otherwise. It is the arrogance of power which former senator from Arkansas J. William Fulbright saw shrouded in the deceit which carried us into the abyss of another war in Vietnam. My generation was determined that we would never see another Vietnam. It was the awareness of the unchecked power and arrogance of the executive which led Congress to pass the War Powers Act. Congress, through the War Powers Act, provided the executive, which is the President, with an exception to unilaterally respond only when the nation was in actual or imminent danger to repel sudden attacks. A president has no right to wrest that fundamental power from the Congress, and we have no right to cede it to him (emphasis mine). We, members of Congress, can no more absolve a president of his responsibility to obey this profound constitutional mandate than we can absolve ourselves of our failure to rise to the instant challenge to our Constitution that is before us today. We violate our sacred trust to the citizens of the United States and our oath to uphold the Constitution if we surrender this great responsibility and through our inaction acquiesce in another terrible war. We must courageously defend the oath we took to defend the Constitution of the United States or we forfeit our right to participate in representative government.” (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r112:H31MR1-0039
In a community meeting in Chicago which featured the White House Director of African American affairs (an office consisting of only the director and an intern), many Blacks wanted answers concerning the attacks on Libya. Then and there the meeting ended with their questions unanswered. (http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/National_News_2/article_7785.shtml)
However as Dr. Boyce Watkins mentioned above, there are people who believe Obama can do no wrong. A Black die-hard Obama supporter in New York told me concerning Libya “He don’t need no resolution,” meaning congressional authorization under the War Powers Act. There are even those who will not criticize Obama for his actions in Libya while Europeans, white Europeans specifically, who attack Libya are fair game for criticism. The following is a letter to the editor I wrote to a Chicago black newspaper:
“On Sunday, March 27, Rev. Al Sampson, prominent Chicago activist, appeared for a brief time on the Interactions radio program on WBGX. The subject was the current situation in Libya. In those five minutes in a telephone interview, Sampson basically repeated Minister Louis Farrakhan’s talking points such as the European colonial powers imposing their will on North Africa and the discovery of water under the Sahara Desert. Unfortunately he was not able to continue as the show was ending, but he was invited back on the show the next week. Last Sunday, he appeared in studio and talked for a half hour, but he never talked about Libya. Even when the host of the show tried to steer the conversation to Libya, Sampson kept diverting to another subject. My question is why he was eager to talk about Libya one Sunday, and the next Sunday he refused to talk about it? Maybe something that Sampson said at the beginning gives a clue. He said he did not want to say anything negative about President Obama That makes sense because Obama ordered a military attack on Libya and allied himself with the “Europeans.” Sampson cannot verbally attack the Europeans involved without attacking Obama, who still has popular support in Sampson’s community. Therefore he decided to keep his mouth shut. Instead fulfilling his obligation as a minster by telling the truth about what is going on in Libya, he decided to protect President Obama’s military agenda. You have to think, if George W. Bush was still in office, and if Bush made exactly the same decision on bombing Libya, do you think Al Sampson would have stayed quiet?” Don’t you think it is hypocritical to go after the Europeans, who Farrakhan calls a “coalition of demons,” for attacking Libya and not be critical of Obama for doing exactly the same thing, especially when Obama initiated the attacks before the “demonic” Europeans joined in?
Former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney in a phone conversation told me that if President George W. Bush had attacked Libya in the same way President Barack Obama did, there would be Whites and Blacks in the streets en masse protesting Bush. Why is it that the huge masses of people who protested the wars under President Bush are not protesting the Libyan war of President Obama? Could it be that they really not were anti-war but were anti-Warrior-in-Chief? Was there a taboo in protesting the first Black President Ms. McKinney, who has recently visited Libya and witnessed the devastation of the U.S./NATO attacks on civilian targets, also rejects President Obama’s Libyan “I-did-not-have-war-with-that-country” military doctrine which was designed to circumvent compliance with the 1973 War Powers Act.
Many blacks who voted for Obama felt he would be sensitive to Black American issues. In 2009, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D- CA), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) said of Obama after he was inaugurated: “His agenda is our agenda.” The significant question is was the CBC on the President’s agenda in the first place? This article was written in June 2011. Not one member of the CBC is working in Obama’s administration. I do not recall any member even being invited to work in the administration. However there was an article on USNews.com that said in February 2009: “Obama Faces Diversity Complaints: Too Many White Males”: “Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, has met with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel about the lack of diversity. ‘We are concerned about this and will continue to monitor it,’ said a caucus official.” (http://www.usnews.com/blogs/washington-whispers/2009/2/2/obama-faces-diversity-complaints-too-many-white-males.html?s_cid=s:washington-whispers:obama-faces-diversity-complaints-too-many-white-males). Lack of diversity in a “Black” White House? Obama wanted Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), a White woman, to be the Chair of the Democratic National Committee and now holds that position. I wondered why he did not nominate a more senior member of the CBC such as John Conyers (D-MI). He was elected to Congress two years before Wasserman-Shultz was even born!
Dr. Boyce Watkins commented: “We expected too much and thought that one man can change 400 years of nasty racial history. We put all of our hope into a political version of the Black Baby Jesus, posting Obama’s picture right next to Martin Luther King on our living room walls. We thought he could make life better for us in one swoop, only to find that he plays the game just like any other president. Obama is a great man, but not nearly as great as we’d like to believe. In fact, I bet he’s only human.” (http://www.bvonmoney.com/2010/09/21/woman-exhausted-by-defending-obama-should-we-all-be/)
A staunch advocate of the Black community for over 30 years and personal acquaintance of Barack Obama for 20 years, Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Parish in Chicago said in an interview with Professor Cornel West of Princeton University: “Where is the man that I voted for…I feel like I lost the man I voted for…Even though I think he’s a good man, he is not the man I knew as U.S. Senator. He is not the man I knew as State Senator…I see him now sitting in the chair of the Emperor and acting more like the Emperor than the man who wanted to change the whole empire (emphasis mine).” (http://youtu.be/xuoJ9-YLcn8)
Harry Alford, CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, who not only voted for Barack Obama (“The worst mistake I ever made in my life.”) but personally contributed $2000 to his presidential campaign and supported Obama’s 2009 $787 Billion stimulus legislation, says: “The Stimulus Bill ended up being a nearly $1 trillion spend fest and Black business got virtually none of the contracting. We were blocked out as they guided contracts to union shops. Ninety-nine percent of Black businesses are not union so when there is union exclusivity we are out in the cold. The Broadband Deployment grants totaled $7.4 billion. Despite notable Black firms applying for these grants not a penny went to them. Thus, our neighborhoods will continue to lag behind in Internet deployment and keep us at a disadvantage. During Fiscal Year 2010 there were 64,880 Black owned firms in the federal procurement data base. Only 3,990 received any type of contract activity. Thus only 5.4% of the Black business database amounted to 1.5% of the total dollars spent by the federal government – 94.6% were on the outside looking in…The President wants to build a high speed rail system. In order to skew it to union shops only he placed the management of this in the Federal Railroad Administration as opposed to the Federal Transit Administration which manages all other railway activity. Why? Because this way he could avoid the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program and keep Black business out of the contracting activity – again Union Only…The people of South Carolina were happy to receive the news that Boeing plans to build a new airplane plant there. There is a significant Black population in South Carolina and our businesses in that area were equally excited. Then, the federal government steps in to try and stop Boeing from bringing tens of thousands of jobs and supplier contracts. Why? The plant will not be unionized counter to the President’s philosophy. This is anti-entrepreneurial!” (http://www.bookerrising.net/2011/05/harry-alford-why-does-obama-hate-black.html)
It was recently reported that there are 1.9 million jobs less than when President Obama signed the $787 Billion “job-creating” stimulus (“spend fest”) package in February 2009, much less Black businesses getting virtually of that money. The stimulus ultimately was not successful, was it not? Considering that Obama promised that unemployment would not go above 8% while unemployment has been consistently over 8% (9.1% in May 2011) during his term, that indicates Obama’s plan was not successful, doesn’t it? As Black television commentator Roland Martin says, “The era of blaming Bush is over.”
Considering what many former Obama supporters have observed of the administration’s record, is it “From the “Slave House to the White House to the Dog House to the Out House?”
I urge Black Americans to reflect and ask themselves “Are you better off today than two years ago?” A friend, also a former Obama supporter, quoted to me a scripture: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” In other words, what you don’t know can hurt you. William Owens, Jr. writes in Obama: Why Black America Should Have Doubts:
“I urge you; don’t put your race before your principles, before the truth, before your family, and before your country…Obama’s handsome features, physical stature, and attempt at eloquence combine to make him a charismatic politician. You must admit this can be a deadly combination for us as Black Americans. In my view, we tend to have an addiction to ‘feeling good.’ We are easily satisfied with goose bumps that go no deeper than our first layer of skin. We are often afraid to look deeper—beyond the obvious—because then we would have to be responsible for our choices and refute the belief that a person who looks like us will automatically ‘take care of us.’ It is the Black mindset that presses upon us to say, ‘Give the brother a chance.’” (William Owens, Jr., Obama: Why America Should Have Its Doubts, (Las Vegas, NV: iTouch Publishers, 2008), p.11, 12)
Glen Ford of BlackAgendaReport.com wrote in personal correspondence to me: “[R]eflexive support for Obama has mangled the Black polity beyond recognition. [Black Obama supporters] are more loyal to him than to ourselves, our children, our principles and values.”
There are Blacks who say that it took Bush to make a “mess” in 8 years and Obama is just cleaning it up. However as of June 2011, how much of the mess does Bush own, and how much of the mess does Obama own?
There needs to be a forum where blacks from across the political spectrum can come and debate “Does Barack Obama Deserve the Black Vote for 2012?” There could be panelists such as Kevin Jackson, Tavis Smiley, Juan Williams, Frances Rice, Rev. Al Sharpton, Mary Michell, Laura S. Washington, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Hermene Hartman, Harry Alford, George Curry, Tom Joyner, Cynthia Tucker, Star Parker, Bob Parks, Danny Bakewell, Glen Ford, Thomas Sowell, Boyce Watkins, Congressman Danny K. Davis, Congressman Bobby Rush, Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, Rev. James David Manning, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Dick Gregory, John McWhorter, Michael Eric Dyson, Ted Hayes, William Owens, Jr., Walter Williams, Cornel West, Melissa Harris-Perry, Cynthia McKinney, Alan Keyes, Marc Lamont Hill, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., Mychal Massie, Erik Rush, M.D. Currington, Lloyd Marcus, and Tim Lee who wrote the article “Where’s The Change?” Even Whites who have supported Obama in the past such as Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) who has a substantial Black constituency and Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Parish, another substantial Black constituency, in Chicago can also weigh in.
This forum also needs discourse on a civil basis because of polemic in the past. Tavis Smiley wrote: “How can we have a conversation about this campaign or any other issue where we are divided in the community without the kind of name calling, the hater talk, the traitor talk; the sell out talk? …. How do we have a civil, loving dialogue when there is a divide in our community?”
Blacks should go into the next presidential election with more logic, with more facts, with more critical thinking and with less emotion, shouldn’t they? I was told about one Black woman who was under the impression that unemployment was going down because of Obama–when unemployment was actually rising!
Dr. Boyce Watkins: “I would rather see the African American community consider the evidence as it stands and make their own decision about whether or not the Obama Administration has enhanced their lives. If one can easily and logically argue that black folks are better off since 2008, then there is nothing to criticize. But if people of color are worse off than before, with no signs of improving, then there is little reason for working class black people to be excited about any president of any color.” (http://thyblackman.com/2011/05/20/dr-boyce-watkins-tulane-professor-professor-melissa-harris-perrys-personal-attacks-on-dr-cornel-west-show-that-she-may-be-hiding-something/)
*(Going back to the claim of more death threats against Obama than other presidents, in 2009 in a Congressional hearing: “U.S. Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan dismissed published reports that the level of death threats against President Obama are four times greater than typical levels against recent presidents – claiming the current volume of threats is comparable to that under George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
“‘It’s not [a] 400 percent [increase],’ Sullivan said during a heated exchange with Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), who suggested the service needed additional agents to protect the first African-American president.
“‘I’m not sure where that number comes from,’ he said, adding that the number of threats against Obama ‘are the same level as it has been [against] that last two presidents.’”) (http://www.politico.com/blogs/glennthrush/1209/Secret_Service_Threat_level_against_Obama_no_greater_than_under_Bush_Clinton.html)
Robert Oliver is a commentator, photojournalist, and former newspaper editor. He lives in Southern California. He can be contacted at interactionswest(at)gmail(dot)com.