Will Black People Be Forever Lost IN/AS Symbols ?
By: Dr. Tommy J. Curry
I listened to Bill Clinton say “this march and that speech changed America, they opened minds and melted hearts,” or Obama’s speech that held that “on the battlefield of justice men and women without rank, wealth, titles, or fame would liberate us all.” I listen to these sentiments and I become confused: how is it possible that in practically every sector of Black society that we can celebrate both the life of King and the symbolization of that life drowned out by the incessant repetition of judging people not by the color of their skin but the content of their character.
I am not puzzled by the misinterpretation of King, as much as I am by the willingness of Black people, the poor, and the marginalized to continue believing that a government which continually builds its prison and military industrial complex is interested in any notion of justice. Was this not the foundation of King’s point, that a racist imperial nation that exploited and militarily dominated the darker world could never be free, much less just? I am struck by the belief DuBois warns Blacks against in 1962 that “justice for Black America,” is held by their complacency in the oppression of themselves (economically, politically, socially) rather than actual freedom.
The symbolic nature of Black existence in America allows Obama who advocates imperialism and a conservative ethos of Black self-sustenance next to King whose unionism and boycotts had radical Black socialist leanings, if not a worlds-system approach to understanding the necessity of white domination and imperialism. And instead of pointing out the incongruity, the contradiction of the March on Washington 50 years later, Black academics are continuing to de-radicalize King so that Obama is the continuation of his dream. This is dangerous. It is dangerous when Black political aspirations become vacuous, and able to be filled in by any interpretation and fantasy academics, white liberals, and Black economic interest the imagination can muster. It is dangerous when Black people who are subject to the governmental repression of the police state, or disenfranchised by the Supreme Court, or unemployed under a Black president continue to believe that their interests, their hopes, the political future they aspire towards is encapsulated by the symbolic representation of a president, and celebrity policy and opinion makers that do not come from them or fundamentally care about their condition.
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