Sunday, July 20, 2008

You Have Got to Be Kidding Me

I keep myself informed. I read books, news articles, opinion pieces. Occasionally I check out George Mason University's History News Network. Sometimes there're good pieces. Other times, there's this: How Obama Might Change the Politics of Race in Unexpected Ways by James C. Cobb, history professor and author.

It's another one of those pieces that essentially argue, "with a black person in the Oval Office it might be more difficult than ever to blame these clouds on whites."

Of course, that's just plain ole false. As is the assertion that African Americans debated whether or not Obama is "black enough." It's as false as the "gospel according to a certain Mr. Cosby."

Here's the thing. There're probably millions of black voters who are upset with Obama's "personal responsibility" speeches that aren't intended for us at all. He mentioned his intention to continue focusing on personal responsibility in his speech at the NAACP's "Youth Night"; but in the speech, he talked more forcefully about structural and institutional racism that creates barriers for African Americans. Unfortunately, the MSM missed the part. Which, isn't surprising. Mainstream America often only hears what it wants.

The problem with Prof. Cobb's assessment is that it's the same assessment made after Counter Reconstruction. The argument that racism didn't hold former slaves and their descendants back, it was: their unfamiliarity with freedom; their inferior morality and intelligence. Sound familiar? Booker T Washington played Bill Cosby's roll then, arguing that black only had to concentrate on personal responsibility and economic education, and the future would be theirs. It was a lie then. It's a lie now. White America has been saying for over a century that racism isn't as bad as African Americans make it out to be. When are we finally gonna stop acting like that may be true. Since when did anyone trust those privileged by an unjust system to really call the system what it is? So why do we trust white America's assessment now?

If Obama success signaled a death nail for America's original sin, he wouldn't be roundly praised by white corporate media outlets for repeating to African Americans something we hear every Sunday as though he was saying something black folks just don't say to ourselves. If his success were anything for white America to hail, the dap his wife Michelle gave him wouldn't have made national news. He wouldn't have to beat back lies about his religion and true intentions. Michelle wouldn't face questions about her patriotism. Faux News wouldn't describe Michelle as Obama's "baby mama" then wonder why so many black women are "angry."

Let's just suffice it to say if racism wasn't an issue that Obama's facing during this election, much less something everyday African Americans face daily, he could be "black enough" without worrying about how many votes it would cost him. I'm going to write a post on this soon, but let me just say here that the politics of grievance will only be over when the grievance stops. It continues.

The truest thing Prof. Cobb says is, "If the Democrats manage to win in November, however, the full potential of their victory will be realized only if they can walk the fine line between celebrating a truly momentous achievement as an emotional springboard toward other such accomplishments and allowing that celebration to degenerate into an orgy of self-congratulation that has precisely the opposite effect."

But let's remember, the aim of the Civil Rights Movement and many black activists today isn't just to put black and brown faces in places of high position in the same ole Euro-centric, white privileged system. The goal was and is to radically change the system to end all kinds of injustice, race and gender as well as economic injustice.

Cause Lord I 'clare, the more things change, the more the stay the same.

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This isn't too complicated. If you disagree with me, I'm more than happy to have an honest discussion. I'm quite open to learning new facts and ideas. I'm dying for a conservative to explain their ideas in a sensible way.

But, I do have rules, and they also apply to those who agree with me. They just get the benefit of my already knowing the fact they'll be referring to.

So, here're the comment thread rules:

1 - Use facts.
2 - Refer to policy.
3 - Don't rely on theories and conjectures. Show me how, for example, a public health insurance option will lead to "rationing" of health care.
4 - No unfounded attacks on any entity.

If you break those rules, I will edit your comment to my own whimsical satisfaction.

Lastly, perhaps most importantly, I'm not going to entertain too much pro-white/racism-denying discussion. I want this to be a space to discuss strategies to fight racism, not space where I have to fight racism. I want anti-racists to be able to come here for a mental respite. If what you're interested in doing is attempting to demonstrate the fallacy of anti-racism by repeating the same ole comments and questions and accusations we hear all the time, please do that somewhere else.

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