Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama Takes the Race Bait

Barack Obama made a fine speech yesterday but to paraphrase Bill Clinton on racial matters, he made it because of a “mugging” and he shouldn’t have had to have made it. The entire incident is a text book case of how the political class operates today and how woefully unprincipled many of them are both on an institutional and individual level. The news cycle is very quick these days and which issue has legs usually depends on the lack of “real” news-a major speech by someone in power, a celebrity/political sex scandal, explosions or a fast moving automobile in traffic, you get the idea. Not to say there isn’t enough chatter about all issues, at any given moment you could probably find a discussion on Canadian tariff policy on cable, but the news cycle is swift and if you get caught up in one you can easily be Spitzed.

Barack Obama’s “problem” with his middle class place of worship, the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, began in earnest with bluster from Fox News’s Offensive Noseguard Sean Hannity. Hannity’s researchers found some inflammatory rhetoric from a few years ago and off went running the usual suspects, including moral watchdog Bill Kristol who played it cool by saying Barack’s problem was not that he hangs out with radical Black Nationalist’s, which was Hannity and Tucker Carlson’s line, but that Obama is too much of a politician and Americans want more than that, this from the guy who supported George Bush. After the media storm front crashed down upon us the liberal types started the hand wringing at the New York Times, National Public Radio, and other sober bastions of normalcy. There line in general was that there is no place for such rhetoric in the United States where calm and balanced debate is the norm. Bull.

Contrary to what the political class is saying discussion of race in the United States is a raucous affair. At the workplace, at the bar, on call in radio, at school, at Thanksgiving dinner all types of people are having wide open, vulgar, racially insensitive, amusing, ignorant and insightful conversations about how the “other” lives. Debate out here with the hoople is honest, often ill informed and visceral. In everyday discussion people get annoyed, irritated and angry. Debate for the most part is a contact sport where bruises and scratches occur and most people have fairly stable positions that have been hardened over the years of investment. This is not to say that minds are not changed in this dialectic but rough point counterpoint is more the norm than a meeting of the minds.

That’s why the brouhaha over Obama’s former preacher is a red herring. Unless a complete tara-ra-goon-de-ay most people know that Black Nationalism is a major theme in discussion of race today. It’s a major theme in Hip Hop, in the academe, in literature and in the Black Church. It’s usually combined with a bit of self help; pick yourself up by your bootstraps rhetoric, a historical analysis of racial injustice and an appeal for social justice. It also has a little whitey bashing. Big deal. We all know this and to act as if it doesn’t happen, and worse needs to be denounced, is dangerous. It is actually a call for censorship. We all do not aspire to speak with the $8 words of William F. Buckley or speak in the mild tones of Tom Brokaw. Real debate makes people uncomfortable; it challenges the premise of your argument and hopefully in the long hall alters our views. In the 1960’s Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael demanded Black Power and made Martin Luther King look the moderate even though for the most part he was regarded as a trouble maker by the establishment. Without the pressure of social movements, both Right and Left, the center holds and nothing changes. Social movements are not led by the NPR types in the world.

Barack Obama is no radical and we all know it. He chose a moderate Black Church because he wanted some connection with his history. He is of both the white and black world and he has heard the honest discussion on both sides. Depending on where you work and live most of us have actually heard the honest debate. That’s actually a good thing. Let’s keep up that debate not try to be contained to the hushed tones of NPR. Otherwise nothing will change.


Bob Feldman 68 said...

In relation to your photograph of Obama's now-deceased mother, what probably also should be fully-disclosed is that, besides working for the Ford Foundation and the U.S. goverment's Agency for International Development [AID], she was also worked for the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia a few years after the CIA's 1965 coup in Indonesia.

The link

makes the following reference to the role that the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia apparently played during the 1960s:

"...Thanks to the dedicated digging of researcher Kathy Kadane, we have learnt that the CIA and American Embassy officials in Jakarta passed on the names of Communist organisers and activists to Suharto's death squads (e.g. San Francisco Examiner, 20/5/90; "Year 501", pp131/33). Kadane found that: "The US government played a significant role by supplying the names of thousands of Communist Party leaders to the Indonesian Army, which hunted down the Leftists and killed them, former US diplomats say . . . As many as 5,000 names were furnished to the Indonesian Army, and the Americans later checked off the names of those who had been killed or captured, according to US officials . . . The lists were a detailed who's who of the leadership of the Party of three million members, [foreign service Robert] Martens said" ("Year 501", p131; Examiner, 20/5/90; see also "The Indonesian Killings of 1965-1966”, p7).

Anonymous said...

Mr. Feldman,

I fail to see what that has to do with Obama? Can you be more precise or is this more in the line of "guilt by association".

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent article but there is one aspect totally missing from your analysis. Yet corporations exhurt a great deal of power but you failed to mention the role Zionism has played on U.S. society and culture to maintain a chasm between whites and blacks.

The reason for the war in Iraq is has very much to do with Zionism as much less to do with corporate profit.

You site Bill Kristol who played a major role in Project for a New American Century (PNAC). Many on the left (like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn) tend to down play the grip that Zionism has on forming and limiting political ideas and discourse. It is an easy tool to maintain division especially as many Black Nationalists raised the issue of Zionist hegemony in the Middle East as well as their domestic hegemony. Pastor Wright spoke of the "terrorism" being direct at Palestinians.

In other words the neo-conservative project consist of THREE legs not one as you imply. It is the following...

[1] Zionism
[2] Neoliberalism
[3] Militarism

You have to confront all three otherwise it will be very easy to split any such coalition that emerges to deal with any parts of it.

Think about it. MLK identified the the three evils as racism, militarism, and exploitation in 1967. That is exactly the description of neo-conservatism and it is a bipartisan affair.

Anonymous said...

NPR types? You're an NPRacist! The whole problem with the speech is that it is nuanced. Too nuanced for NPR, let alone FOX. It was the most honest and apolitical talk that I have heard for many many years. Obama is the great black hope of the U.S! -Aman