Posted by: nquest2xl | June 5, 2008

GENERATIONS: Barack’s crazy imagination (Another: Damn You Barack! Fault Lines thread)

One of the frames Barack Obama used to distance himself from Rev. Jeremiah Wright was to banish the kind of things Rev. Wright said to the “anger” and “bitterness” Wright had as a product of his experience in the bygone era of Segregation where open, in-your-face racism was all over America and, in the most problematic manner, to Rev. Wright’s generation:

Legalized discrimination – where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations…

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families…

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted…

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years.

Obama readily credits Wright’s generation for “where he is today” but somehow maintains this dismissive, disrespectful and disparaging view of people who apparently don’t share his worldview. Make no mistake about it, to blame Rev. Wright’s type of worldview for this “LEGACY OF DEFEAT” is insulting and rather contradictory as was several other things in Obama’s speech on race.

The fact that nobody really ever called Obama on that curious GENERATIONS rhetoric is troubling. But don’t get it twisted. It’s that same GENERATIONS logic that’s been used to disparage the other Reverends, Jackson and Sharpton, in the complaint that they represent the “old guard” as opposed to some new school and crop of Black leaders, individuals or the new generation itself, that’s ready to take over. So, in that sense, I’m comfortable with the idea being well within the respectable range of differing African-American thought.

The real problem is that Wright’s perspective is as timeless as it is fundamental and firmly anchored, not in the past, but in every generation since Africans / African-Americans have populated this geography including the current Hip Hop generation:

After the Black Power movement, thanks to disco music and ’80’s materialism, the Afrocentric movement began to fade, replaced by an integrationist dream courtesy of a Jesse Jackson presidential run and a Bill Cosby sitcom.

However, thanks, in a large part, to political Hip Hop music via rap groups like Public Enemy and X-Clan and Spike Lee movies, a new generation of black youth went searching for their roots.

And those roots run deep despite how Obama disparages and marginalizes them deep, strong roots. Even Dr. King shouted in “anger” that he was tired of marching for what should have been his at birth. Maybe Obama believes Dr. King also passed on a “LEGACY OF DEFEAT.” After all, Obama had to acknowledge how what King and the things people of his generation attempted to accomplished haven’t been completed. Such unfinished business, things like Brown v. Board, which have been stalled if not utterly stopped by White backlash is another way of saying DEFEATED.

Frankly, I’m surprised by Obama’s “shallow understanding.” Again, I’m not surprised by the GENERATIONS narrative; again, it’s a popular one. No. What surprises me is how Obama could be a member of Trinity United Church of Christ with its Black Value System, emphasis on Africa and its Black Liberation Theology and not understand how Wright’s Afrocentricism always was and continues to be the way plenty of African-Americans Rev. Wright’s age and a whole lot younger see the world and, more importantly, value certain traditions and philosophies in African-American culture that have sustained them (us) throughout generations. When Obama says:

Historically, African-Americans have turned inward and towards black nationalism whenever they have a sense, as we do now, that the mainstream has rebuffed us, and that white Americans couldn’t care less about the profound problems African-Americans are facing.

He is speaking without discernment. I’m sorry but I have to rep mine. Afrocentricism, Black Nationalism and the whole strain of Black socio-political discourse is, as I said, fundamental. The first African who resisted slavery was a Black Nationalist just like Harriet Tubman was a Black Nationalist. Both wanted unconditional freedom for themselves and their people.

Don’t get it twisted.

I’m not just talking ideology, per se. I’m talking the fundamental truth and virtue inherent in the idea of Black Nationalism and reason for it. There is no such “turning” inward (Obama praises the American Revolution in his stump speech but never refers to it as some kind of isolationism). And his mainstream rebuff notion only make sense if we think of African-Americans as a monolith and forget that Black Nationalism has co-existed with and has always been present with the integrationist/accommodationist ethic.

The core belief, the philosophy, the core Black Nationalist worldview (and its close cousin Pan Africanism) is an interpretation of what freedom means to those of us who aren’t indoctrinated with the illusion inducing elixir of Americanism, to steal Malcolm X’s term. Kunta Kente had no desire to integrate. So this is about first things and putting them first. As the song-anthem goes:

True to our God, True to our native land…

There is something to be said for being true to those first things and there is nothing “defeating” or wrong in doing so. This republic, this nation is credited with valuing high ideals enshrined in the very Constitution that cemented our enslaved and the Declaration of Independence that mocked and later inspired us. Likewise, many of us, the sons and daughters of Africans brought here as slaves are inspired by their Tubman like dream of unconditional freedom. As I have come to say, to fully express this sentiment and for our human right to exercise it…


And we should view ourselves as nothing less. Understanding that, the same way people should be able to understand Dr. King’s frustration, shouldn’t be a problem.

(Note: This post was originally written and interrupted by another DAMN YOU BARACK!! moment – i.e. his break with Trinity United Church of Christ after Father Michael Pfleger media cited sermon at the church which just happened to fall on the UCC’s nation-wide “sacred conversation” on race. Hmmm….)



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