The Veil Between Obama and Black America – Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Veil Between Obama and Black America

    By: Ta-Nehisi Coates
    |  August 30, 2013

    President Barack Obama (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

    In a hard-hitting piece at The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates looks at President Obama’s relationship with the black community in terms of his remarks on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. He compares Obama’s speech to “The Conservation of Races” by W.E.B. Du Bois, a speech that Du Bois is said to have come to look back on with embarrassment.

    Much like Du Bois more than a century ago, Obama positioned himself as an airer of laundry, and speaker of bold, necessary truths:

    And then, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that during the course of 50 years, there were times when some of us claiming to push for change lost our way. The anguish of assassinations set off self-defeating riots. Legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse-making for criminal behavior. Racial politics could cut both ways, as the transformative message of unity and brotherhood was drowned out by the language of recrimination. And what had once been a call for equality of opportunity, the chance for all Americans to work hard and get ahead was too often framed as a mere desire for government support — as if we had no agency in our own liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child, and the bigotry of others was reason to give up on yourself.

    It goes without saying that the president is using a tank to bravely plow through an army of strawmen. George Will could not have done better. I have met a lot of trifling human beings who happened to be black, and from them, I have heard a lot of trifling excuses for not parenting. I have never met one who cited racism as an excuse for not parenting or for giving on oneself. I doubt that Barack Obama has either …

    Indeed, if we are — as the president asks us to be — honest with ourselves, we will see that we have elected a president who claims to oppose racial profiling one minute, and then flirts with inaugurating the country’s greatest racial profiler the next. If we are honest with ourselves we will see that we have a president who can condemn the riots as “self-defeating,” but can’t see his way clear to enforce the fair housing law that came out of them. If we are honest with ourselves we will see a president who believes in particular black morality, but eschews particular black policy.

    It is heartbreaking to see this. But it is also clarifying.

    Read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ entire piece at The Atlantic.

    TA-NEHISI COATES is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful StruggleMORE

    Obama Offered “The Tranquilizing Drug of Gradualism” – Dr. Wilmer Leon

     In His March on Washington Speech, Obama Offered “The Tranquilizing Drug of Gradualism”

    Dr. Wilmer Leon

     By Dr. Wilmer J. Leon, III

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    “We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. August 28, 1963

    During the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom there was a lot of discussion about the “then” vs. “now”.  Has the “Dream” been realized?  Are we in a post-racial America? How did the 50th anniversary March compare to the first?

    The answer to the first question is an emphatic “NO”. As I have written and lectured on a number of occasions, to refer to Dr. King’s message as a dream misses the point of the speech. Over the years Dr. King’s revolutionary message has been hijacked, compromised and relegated to being that of just a dreamer, not the lucid and radical ideas of a man seeking solutions to how a people can overcome oppression and racism. To cast King in the light of a dreamer allows people to be convinced that substantive change resulting from clear vision and direct action is not necessary.

    Are we in a post-racial America? No, and that’s a ridiculous question.  I havewritten to this point as well. America cannot be close to being post racial when a candidate for president has to run a deracialized campaign in order to make the masses comfortable with the obvious aesthetic. This is not a post-racial America when the unemployment rate in the African American community is more than double the national average and the wealth accumulation of the average European American family is 20 times that of the average African American family.

    How did the 50th anniversary March compare to the first? Comparisons are natural due to the fact that the two marches were convened to address many of the same issues. The fact that 50 years later, speakers still addressed issues such as unemployment, jobs, civil liberties, education, health care, support for social programs and protection against police brutality made for easy yet unfortunate comparisons. It is understandable that people will try to make qualitative and quantitative assessments between similar events.

    While there might be some obvious and natural similarities between the two marches they are also quite different. Their political contexts are very different.

    Leading up to the 1963 March, civil rights organizations such as CORE, SNCC, SCLC and the NAACP were engaged in non-v*****t direct action.  There was a three pronged strategy to bring pressure upon the executive branch and other branches of government to recognize and protect the civil rights of Negros of the day.  This pressure was being applied in the streets (sit-ins, boycotts, and marches), the courts (Brown v. Board of Education, etc.) and the legislature (civil rights laws, voting, and public accommodations). It was the struggle of a people to be included into the social, economic and legal mainstream of America.

    Due to the constant pressure that the Civil Rights Movement brought to bear upon the government which culminated with the 63’ March, President Kennedy reluctantly came to support what would become the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Torn between the moral reality of the Movement and practical Southern electoral politics, Kennedy in June of 63’gave a nationally televised address where he stated, “A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all.” He then asked Congress to enact a civil rights bill that would remove race from consideration “in American life or law.”

    After Kennedy’s assassination, President Johnson would support and sign the 1964 Civil Rights Act, along with the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the Fair Housing Act. In seizing the initiative, Johnson stated, “…rarely in any time does an issue lay bare the secret heart of America itself. The issue of equal rights for American Negroes is such an issue. And should we defeat every enemy, should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation… Wednesday I will send to Congress a law designed to eliminate illegal barriers to the right to vote.”

    It is important to understand what both Kennedy and Johnson said and did to bring about substantive change in American society. Today, due to complacency and the fallacy that those who dare criticize the president should turn in their “Black Card”, there has been virtually no pressure on the current administration to work with the Congressional Black Caucus to propose and fight for targeted legislation that addresses the interests of the African American community.

    As a result of orchestrated efforts by of some in the extremist wing of the Republican Party and the complacency of the Black electorate after the election of President Obama, many of the civil rights gained from the movement and culminating in the 1963 March (affirmative action, voting rights, and protections against police brutality) have been eviscerated.  The focus of the struggle has shifted away from inclusion into mainstream America to futile efforts to hang onto the gains that were hard fought and won in the 1960’s.

    The 2013 March on Washington was a wonderful commemoration and tribute to the past, but it failed to articulate a legislative agenda and plan to pressure the Obama administration and Congress to address disparities in mass incarceration, home foreclosure, unemployment or education.

    In 1963 President Kennedy stayed in the White House, choosing to watch the March on television. He was afraid that the March would turn into a riot. In 2013 President Obama was the keynote speaker. Many see this as progress.

    During his speech President Obama applauded the struggles and successes of the past and with soaring rhetoric talked about the promise of tomorrow. He did not propose any substantive legislative initiatives to address the suffering of today and ask those in attendance to go back to their homes and hamlets and work with him to defeat legislative gridlock.

    He offered the “tranquilizing drug of gradualism”.

    Dr. Wilmer Leon, an OUR COMMON GROUND Voice, is the Producer/ Host of the Sirisu/XM Satellite radio channel 110 call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon” Go to www.wilmerleon.com or email:wjl3us@yahoo.comwww.twitter.com/drwleon and Dr. Leon’s Prescription at Facebook.com

    © 2013 InfoWave Communications, LLC

    04-06 Wiler Leon

    Will Black People Be Forever Lost IN/AS Symbols ? – Dr. Tommy J. Curry, The Nationalist

    29TH AUG 2013

     THE NATIONALIST

    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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    King’s “Dream” vs. Obama’s Realpolitik – Dr. Wilmer Leon

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    King’s “Dream” vs. Obama’s Realpolitik

     | August 20, 2013

    Dr. Wilmer J. Leon, III

    – “Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. April 4, 1967

    As America commemorates the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom I am compelled to ask the following question, would Dr. King be invited to speak at upcoming events to commemorate the March?

    king 3If you get past the marketed “Dream” reference in the “I Have a Dream” speech you will understand that it was an indictment of America.  If you read “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” or Dr. King’s last book Where Do We Go From Here, Chaos or Community?; you can rest assured that today Dr. King would be in opposition to America’s backing of the assignation of Muammar Gaddafi, drone attacks, indefinite detention at Guantanamo, NSA wiretapping, mass incarceration, and the Obama administration’s failure to speak forcefully about poverty in America. From that premise one can only conclude that if Dr. King were alive today, those within the African American community who are engaged in stifling honest, fact-based, critical analysis of the administration’s policies would not allow Dr. King on the dais.  Reason being, Dr. King committed his life to a morally based sense of justice and humanity not actions taken from a sense of political expediency or realpolitik.

    On August 28, 1963 Dr. King stated, “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation…One hundred years later, the colored American lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”  Today according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate stands at 7.6% and 15% in the African American community.  Today, “in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity,” according to Bread For the World, “14.5 percent of U.S. households—nearly 49 million Americans, including 16.2 million children—struggle to put food on the table” and “more than one in five children is at risk of hunger. Among African-Americans and Latinos, nearly one in three children is at risk of hunger.”

    President Obama has claimed to be a champion of the middle class but rarely speaks to the plight of the poor in America.  Dr. King would not stand idly by and allow this to go unchallenged.  As America spends billions of dollars on its drone program, children continue to go hungry.  In his 1967 speech Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence Dr. King stated, “A few years ago…It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the poverty program…Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything on a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube.”  If you replace Vietnam with Afghanistan and the War on Terror I believe Dr. King would be engaged in the same analysis and saying the same things today.

    Dr. King said that the people of Vietnam must see, “Americans as strange liberators…they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy…What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them…?”  Today, Dr. King would be asking the same questions about America’s actions in Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, and the continued US support for the Zionist government in Israel as it continues to build settlements on Palestinian land in violation of international law.

    ObamaLet’s be very clear, I have used actions of the Obama administration to highlight many of the contradictions that we face and to demonstrate how the man we now revere, the icon that will be lauded at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington would not be invited to speak in today’s political context. That’s the symptom of a greater problem.

    To gain great insight into the real problem you have to examine the work of Edward Bernays and the rise of the propaganda industry in the 1920’s. “[The] American business community was also very impressed with the propaganda effort (created by Bernays). They had a problem at that time. The country was becoming formally more democratic. A lot more people were able to vote and that sort of thing. The country was becoming wealthier and more people could participate and a lot of new immigrants were coming in, and so on.  So what do you do? It’s going to be harder to run things as a private club. Therefore, obviously, you have to control what people think. There had been public relation specialists but there was never a public relations industry.” History as a Weapon – Noam Chomsky – 1997.

    The business community as Chomsky discussed or the corptocracy in today’s parlance uses propaganda to co-opt the American political landscape and has contributed to the decline of the American political left.  The politics and policies of the Obama administration are examples of that decline, not responsible for it. th

    At the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington pay very close attention to what is said and even closer attention to what is not (August 27, 2013 is the 50th commemoration of the passing of W.E.B. DuBois).

    Understanding the moral basis of Dr. King’s analysis, he would be standing today for the very things he stood for then.  He would be critical of the current administration, and as such, great efforts would be made to shut him out of the national debate since many in the African American community see honest, fact based, criticism of Obama administration policy as antithetical to the interests of the African American community.  The prophet is never welcome in his own village.

    Dr. King’s “Dream” was significant because of its juxtaposition against the reality of the Negros nightmare but Bernaysian propaganda keeps the focus on the “Dream”.

    04-06 Wiler2 LeonDr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the Sirisu/XM Satellite radio channel 110 call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Leon” Go to www.wilmerleon.com or email:wjl3us@yahoo.comwww.twitter.com/drwleon and Dr. Leon’s Prescription at Facebook.com  He is an OUR COMMON GROUND Voice, joining us as Guest and Co-Host.

    © 2013 InfoWave Communications, LLC

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