An Obama Fable and an Obama Challenge

Br. Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report writes:

"Finally, the most accomplished slickster in presidential history, Bill Clinton, was compelled to expose Barack Obama's 'fairy tale' anti-war history - some truth for a 'change.' Black Agenda Report knows the story very well, after more than four years of observing Obama's descent from vaguely progressive rhetoric to shameless pandering (to whites) and vapid 'Change!' mantra nonsense. Only the rich can win this game."

Ralph Nader's carries this "Obama Fable":

"Guy number four—'You’re one of those smart Haavard lawyers, Barack. You were a constitutional law teacher. You were against the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. So, why aren’t you putting two and two together—impeachment of the war criminals in the White House followed by conviction in the Senate?'

"Obama—'You don’t understand (testily), impeachment talk is just more of the same old Washington politics. I stand for change. No need to point fingers. We are one people....'”

Democracy Now AUDIO/VIDEO - Glen Ford vs. Michael Eric Dyson on Obama:

GLEN FORD: Well, Dr. Dyson doesn’t seem to know what a rightwing interest is. An expanded US military, 100,000 new troops, isn’t a rightwing interest? An expanded military budget that sucks up all of the money for healthcare, for revitalization of the cities, for a rebuilding of America’s infrastructure, for all the projects that black folks hold dear, all of which would go down the tubes, will be postponed indefinitely with the kind of expanded military budget that clearly follows from Barack Obama’s proposal for 100,000 new troops. And so, it is not in black folks’ interest. It’s really not in anyone’s interest, of course. But it is diametrically opposed to the historic black political consensus on domestic development to be proposing expanded military activities and budgets for the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: We only have thirty seconds. Michael Eric Dyson, your response?
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Well, listen here. I think that that is a legitimate comment to be made in terms of the critique of a potential Barack Obama presidency. Let’s see it get here first. I think that a Barack Obama presidency at least holds out the possibility of engaging these forms of critique, engaging the form of the black political consensus about which Mr. Ford has spoken, but also to deal with the fact that we have to be bifocal. The presidency—the people who are making critiques of the system, if he’s part of the system, he will be critiqued legitimately. And African American people will be able to enjoy the victory of the grassroots being able to speak, while at the same time being part of a political process that includes us in a very serious way.

Related to the above by concept is the following statement about The Great Debaters in a critique by Mark Anthony Neal:

"Figures like Farmer are often footnotes to the 'magic' Negro narratives that mainstream audiences find so damn fascinating--those stories of black folk who with their superior talents or superhuman capacity for forgiveness help whites salve their guilt about this country's racist past."

For the record, there's much I like about Obama, and since he, like I, am the product of a Kenyan father and a Euro-North American mother, I feel a certain kinship with him (although comparing us is sort of like comparing Willy Lumpkin and Mister Fantastic).

After all, he wrote an angry book about race in North America, and he has accomplished enough that he's an inspiration for many of our people. I've heard it said he was a fine advocate in earlier years for issues of importance to us. I also know that running for US President (or any office, for that matter) almost certainly means suppressing some aspects of yourself and your agenda (even some right-wingers do that... but then they implement that hidden agenda as soon as they can once they get elected).

But I am worried about two things in particular when it comes to Obama: 1. His "no-race" race, AKA "Make White folks as comfortable as possible" approach which inevitably means self-denial and self-racial denial, and how that "super-duper magical negro" approach makes possible 2) Barack becoming the premier "patriotically-correct" de-raced standard-bearer for American aggression, including the willingness to bomb US allies.


Anonymous said…
Greetings and kia ora to you from the other side of the globe

I regularly swing by your blog, and have been an avid listener of the Terrordome through podcast - though haven't been able to download any for a while - perhaps it is no longer in operation? Anyway, firstly let me thank you for what I have had the opportunity to listen to, such a diversity of ideas, opinions and information - it has been a fantastic resource for me, both on a personal level and in relation to my study, which focuses on racism here in Aotearoa (New Zealand).

I was interested to see what your thoughts might have been on Obama - I have been watching the elections from afar with great interest. I consider myself neither left nor right (and as an indigenous woman loathe the word progressive and all that it implies with respect to 'civilization') but radical. Yet while these are my longings/leanings I am pragmatic in understanding that within a democratic electoral system, with its heavy reliance on the 'majority' or mainstream. any person's claim to power is going to have to bow to that frame. And while I agree whole-heartedly with your concerns, I believe that no 'person of colour' could run any other way (sadly) and yet even that may not be enough to overcome that which so many of us know still pervades a post-colonial well - deep and entrenched racism. I tell myself I can cope with the 'shadow' of power that Chomsky correctly states a presidency really is; and the middle line that must be negotiated in Obama's political endeavour. Shamelessly, it is the symbolic victory that means most to me personally. Keep up the fanastic work here!
Anonymous said…
Oops - I meant to leave my name rather than be 'anonymous' - thanks again, Erika.
Minister Faust said…
Dear Erika,

Thank you for your kind remarks. I will update The Terrordome archive soon; CJSR was having technical difficulties for a while and then I got too busy. Glad you're listening from all the way over there. How did you find out about the show?

I understand your point about "progressive" vs "radical," and agree; unfortunately, the word "radical" is considered to off-putting here to be political useful.

I tend to agree with your point about people of colour, elections and "pragmatism;" it's noteworthy that Ron Paul, the odd Republican candidate whose newsletter apparently contained, over the years, numerous Whitesupremacist polemics, advocated the abolition of the "war on drugs" and the liberation of all people in jail on non-violent drugs offenses; he also advocated the end to the US war against Iraq. In all cases, he cited racism as the motive behind the US gov't's actions (if memory serves). Imagine Obama saying or advocating any of that? No, me neither.

I understand the importance of the symbolic victory--especially since many of my people in the US will be emboldened by what now appears to be Obama's likely win. But the victory of the Clinton clan was also symbolic, and the result was 8 of 11 years of US led sanctions against the people of Iraq, which cost 1.5 million lives, 643,000 of them children under 5. And the US was bombed Sudan and kept the Security Council out of Rwanda. So will Obama's symbolic victory mobilise us more than it demobilises us? I strongly doubt it, sadly.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Best wishes,

Minister Faust

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