Barack Obama v. Black fathers

Tyrone Simpson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Vassar College. He is also part of the Urban Studies Program, Africana Studies Program, and Program in American Culture. Prof. Simpson can be contacted at He writes:

"This dream of the Obamas bringing the Cosby fantasy to the White House signals what should be the true fear of progressives: the possibility that the election of Obama will conclude the process of politically sedating African Americans begun during the Clinton years.

"Though no longer embraced by blacks as the nation's 'first African American president' because of his race-baiting during his wife's campaign, Bill Clinton was once deeply beloved by the black electorate.

"We showered him with unconditional affection while he expanded the prison system, destroyed welfare, and exported solid jobs beyond our borders. His uncanny ability in public to make us feel good about ourselves, to pawn off symbolic black enfranchisement as the real thing, enabled him to pursue such policies without the inconveniences of black resistance or critique.

"Is Obama positioning himself to enjoy the same privilege? Will he be able to abuse black people without consequence?

"...If we believe the official reports, the most despicable aspect of Obama's diatribe about absent black fathers is the fact that its message was not solely intended for the people it scolds, but instead for white cultural conservatives whose votes can tip the electorate in his favor.

"If this is true (and experts seems to think it is), Obama reveals himself deaf to the lesson his struggle with Hillary tried to teach. Obama gained a decisive advantage with black voters when the Clintons demonstrated that they would willingly cater to the racist opinions of the nation in order to accrue votes.

"To this day, many African Americans see the race-baiting behavior of Bill Clinton as an unforgivable trespass that will forever serve as the reason for their estrangement from him. I am waiting for the resentment of insulted fathers and wounded sons to be turned back on Obama.

"Regardless of how the campaign for president evolves, these black men will recall that one of his first gestures after securing the Democratic nomination was to make a spectacle of our pain.

"The deed is unlikely to result in exile (for Obama, regrettably, is too symbolically important for black men to fully disown him), but might emerge as indifference when the nominee is in dire need of support.

"When the lynch party sets out for him (and it will. The drama of Reverend Wright was merely a dress rehearsal for things to come), who will take up arms, man the front yard, and prevent the attackers from making their approach?"


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