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Liberal America, Wake Up!

The hollow symbolism of America’s first black president is no replacement for real substance.

Cutting Social Security is a very bad idea, and it’s the last thing one would expect an African-American president to consider, let alone actually propose! Yet where no other white, Democrat president has ever dared to go, is exactly where President Obama now chooses to be in his open advocacy for Social Security cuts.

Kudos to Obama for being America’s first (half) black president. However the hollow symbolism of that is no replacement for real substance, and the vanity of token triumphalism not only defies sanity, but also cuts through the veins of justice when minorities in power willfully harm people of color, the poor and others dispossessed.

Sure there are racists who criticize Obama just for the sake of it, however – as civil liberties attorney and columnist, Glenn Greenwald, often points out – there is a lot of criticism Obama rightfully deserves. It is immature and ignorant to forego that and instead hold on to some romantic, idealized version of what Obama is about, so as not to face what “Obama has wrought,” his becoming yet another minority celebrity in a growing list of African-American men and women who have betrayed the interests of minorities, a damned circle to which Harry Belafonte so rightly pointed out a decade ago Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell belong.

In spite of the fact that the majority of African-Americans are poor, working-class or fighting fiercely to hold on to their middle-class lives, enough have had, and now hold, formidable positions of power and wealth yet in the most disturbing and astonishing ways have used those powers to conjure cruel and unnecessary hardships for African-Americans and other people of color at home and abroad – as if to publicly and proudly declare just how much they loathe the skin they’re in.

A pillar in the black community, Reverend Kevin Johnson – who has been an ardent supporter of President Obama – wrote a censorious article about Obama’s illusory, nonsuccess for African-Americans, published April 13 in the Philadelphia Tribune, headlined “A President for Everyone, Except Black People.” Of all US presidents, Johnson notes, Clinton made the highest number of black cabinet appointments – a total of seven. Obama counts one African-American appointed to his cabinet, which is 75 percent fewer than Bush, who had four African-Americans in his cabinet. This, Johnson says, is just one reason why “Obama has not moved African-American leadership forward, but backwards.”

Johnson writes as well that, “The absence of African-Americans in a second term is not only disrespectful to the Black community – who voted 96 percent for President Obama in 2008 and 93 percent in 2012 – but also underscores a larger problem of economic and job opportunities for the Black community,” and goes on to say, “If we objectively look at Obama’s presidency, African-Americans are in a worse position than they were before he became president.

“At the close of January 2009, unemployment for African-Americans was 12.7 percent,” and now 4 years later, he writes, “the situation is worse, and unemployment is higher, at 13.8 percent.”

According to Johnson, Obama’s presidency “appears to be for everyone except Black people – his most loyal constituency.” Punishment seems to have come swiftly for his truth telling, as shortly after his honest critique of Obama was published, Johnson was disinvited as a speaker at Morehouse College’s upcoming graduation ceremonies May 19. This is quite significant for black Americans, as Morehouse is one of America’s most decorated Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and counts Samuel L. Jackson, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Spike Lee as alumni.

Obama, however, remains the keynote speaker at Morehouse this year, and, as Gary Younge comments at the Guardian UK:

Evidently, whatever they’ll be celebrating at this graduation at Morehouse, it won’t be critical thinking. And that’s a shame. Because that’s precisely what black America could do with more of – at a time when the quest for greater black representation has been almost completely divorced from improving the material conditions of black people as a whole.

From Obama’s decision to adopt Bush’s financial team as his own, his neglect of job creation, his absence on the foreclosure crisis, his counter-productive approach to public education, his continued assault on Iraq and Afghanistan, pursuit of drone wars that almost exclusively kill black and brown people, and now his attempt to cut Social Security, which will disproportionately hurt the poor, which means a lot of people of color, the elderly – especially women, those with terminal illnesses, and those with disabilities – it is clear that Obama has not worked to improve the lives of African-Americans and other minorities. He has not helped us, nor is he representative of America’s noble civil rights legacy – nor of its liberalism of every age and color.

England has now laid its first female prime minister, the late “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher, to rest. And now the world reflects on – and attempts to reconcile the memory of – a woman who did nothing for women, but plenty toward crushing the poor and working class while simultaneously ensuring more riches for the already wealthy. Obama has chosen this same path; using his seductive charm and power of persuasion to harm those he should be most committed to helping.

The income gap between blacks and whites continues to grow under Obama, overall nearly tripling in the last 26 years. Yet, as I wrote in “The New American Confederacy,” to a very large extent almost all Americans have been made less wealthy and more insecure by the current and prior administration.

To put it bluntly, and as Dr. Cornel West says: America has been niggerized.

West used the term “niggerized” in response to the swift and egregious erosion of civil liberties Bush put into play under the guise of national security, post-9/11: “When you’re niggerized, you’re unsafe, unprotected, subject to random violence, hated for who you are, and you become so scared, you defer to the powers that be, and you’re willing to consent to your own domination.”

The niggerization of America is an inescapable, self-evident truth – it is our new normal. Bush started it, and Obama continues it.

“We live now in revolutionary times” says Dr. West, “but the counter-revolution is winning!”

So much for democracy, the great society and post-racial politics.

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