Posted by: nquest2xl | June 22, 2008

Why a Black president Obama won’t necessarily mean progress – Part I

Starters: The Multiple Choice Test of Progress

First things, first. I support Barack Obama’s bid for president. I’ve always considered him not only the best candidate, on all the ways we consider electability, but I’ve always seen him as a statesman and, perhaps, the best person to be president at this point and time. Of course, that doesn’t come without, now, considerable reservations most of which have to do with hating the game (politics) and not necessarily Barack as the player although Obama’s game has gotten rather sloppy of late, IMHO.

By the looks of it, Obama could never be confused as my ideological brother. For that matter, neither more recent Black presidential hopefuls including the Reverends Jackson and Sharpton. Then, too, I don’t consider myself an ideologue but, like most people perhaps, there are certain non-negotiables and things I just won’t hear or countenance when it comes to my politics.

To sum it all up, I realize that the world doesn’t revolve around me and my perspective. I also understand where my views fall along the American continuum. That said, I refuse to take anything but an Afrocentric perspective, for the lack of a more virgin term. In a word, I don’t feel my views or those of African-Americans, as individuals or by political consensus, are MINOR — the root word in minority.

So with that noted, I would think people can understand how views on what constitutes progress may vary.

Ironically, it seems like most people judge progress, supposedly a forward looking idea, backwards. That is to say that people often determine there to be progress based on what existed in the past. I see that as problematic in a number of ways. As problematic as circling “progress” out of several choices for what best describes our nation’s historical shift from the slavery era to the era of Jim Crow racism. I suppose from a certain perspective, one not centered in the experiences of the people who suffered greatly in both those eras, one could circle “progress” with a straight face. I’m just not one to share that perspective.

Unfortunately, the alternative way to view progress also has its problems. The alternative to determining progress by looking-backwards and comparing what we have now vs. what we have or are able to do compared to then is to judge what progress is by the vision, goal or destination itself. All we need is a map to see how not all movement from a bad place amounts to progress in terms of getting to one’s desired destination.

I also find it odd to play up the idea that it “better” than it was, say prior to 1960, because I expect for things not to remain stagnant. Simply, I don’t expect for things to be the same.

Two more starting perspectives in closing:

1. With the poor economy the country is experiencing now, it makes sense to attribute some of the racial “progress” of the last half-century to the overall favorable economic prospects of the country then. The standard libertarian economic argument, as I understand it, has always been that racism doesn’t make good business sense. I think that kind of business perspective, viewing African-Americans as a domestic consumer colony, may account for some of the racial “progress” we’ve seen over the past few decades.

2. The last of the two closing perspectives, comes from, perhaps, the person who created the nation’s language of racial progress: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I’m tired of marching. . . for something that should have been mine at birth.”

I suppose you can call getting out of the red in your personal finances “progress”, and I’d imagine we’d all feel greatly relieved not to be in debt, but on that multiple choice test where we choose the term that best describes such a development, progress would hardly be the best word for what just happened. Follow me?

Also from Dr. King:

“Justice for black people will not flow into society merely from court decisions nor from fountains of political oratory. Nor will a few token change quell all the tempestuous yearning of millions of disadvantaged black people. White America must recognize that justice for black people cannot be achieved without radical changes in the structure of our society. The comfortable, the entrenched, the privileged cannot continue to tremble at the prospect of change in the status quo. When millions of people have been cheated for centuries, restitution is a costly process. Inferior education, poor housing, unemployment, inadequate health care–each is a bitter component of the oppression that has been our heritage. Each will require billions of dollars to correct. Justice so long deferred has accumulated interest and its cost for this society will be substantial in financial as well as human terms. This fact has not been fully grasped, because most of the gains of the past decade were obtained at bargain rates. The desegregation of public facilities cost nothing; neither did the election and appointment of a few black public officials.”

That should speak for itself but when people like Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who are lauded for their good record on civil rights, Lincolnize LBJ as the Great Emancipator 2, never speak of the racist views either of them had while demanding that African-Americans via Obama denounce and reject Blacks they don’t like (Rev. Wright and, especially, Farrakhan); when people like Sen. Clinton put a curious spin on Dr. King’s dream and suggest that both her candidacy and Obama’s represent the fulfillment of that dream, then it’s clear the whole idea of what progress is, is terribly twisted.

Barack Obama as president may or may not exactly fit what Dr. King’s said about “the election of a few black public officials” but it is a complete misappropriation of what Dr. King felt about the goals of the civil rights movement to say that the election of a Black president would be a crowning achievement from his view. From the quote above, it’s clear Dr. King’s view was predicated on seeing progress from a goal oriented perspective vs. the relative view of what existed before or even what he could have imagined back in the 1960’s.



  1. Dr. King also said this,

    “Negro leaders suffer from this interplay of solidarity and divisiveness, being either exalted excessively or grossly abused. Some of these leaders suffer from an aloofness and absence of faith in their people. The white establishment is skilled in flattering and cultivating emerging leaders. It presses its own image on them and finally, from imitation of manners, dress and style of living, a deeper strain of corruption develops. This kind of Negro leader acquires the white man’s contempt for the ordinary Negro. He is often more at home with the middle-class white than he is among his own people. His language changes, his location changes, his income changes, and ultimately he changes from the representative of the Negro to the white man into the white man’s representative to the Negro. The tragedy is that too often he does not recognize what has happened to him.

    I learned a lesson many years ago from a report of two men who flew to Atlanta to confer with a Negro civil rights leader at the airport. Before they could begin to talk, the porter sweeping the floor drew the local leader aside to talk about a matter that troubled him. After fifteen minutes had passed, one of the visitors said bitterly to his companion, “I am just too busy for this kind of nonsense. I haven’t come a thousand miles to sit and wait while he talks to a porter.”

    The other replied, “When the day comes that he stops having time to talk to a porter, on that day,I will not have the time to come one mile to see him.”

    I then this,

    “The majority of Negro political leaders do not ascend to prominence on the shoulders of mass support. Although genuinely popular leaders are now emerging, most are still selected by white leadership, elevated to position, supplied with resources and inevitably subjected to white control. The mass of Negroes nurtures a healthy suspicion toward this manufactured leader, who spends little time in persuading them that he embodies personal integrity, commitment and ability and offers few programs and less service. Tragically, he is in too many respects not a fighter for a new life but a figurehead of the old one. Hence, very few Negro political leaders are impressive or illustrious to their constituents. They enjoy only limited loyalty and qualified support.”

    Whenever I show people those quotes, when they behave as if Dr.King’s dream has been fulfilled through Obama, I usually hear crickets. These words and the ones you included in your post above just prove that progress and change is more than a black man in the white house who has to operate within the constraints of the already corrupt system but progress and real change are a result of total and complete transformation of a given society. Other than that, it is limited and superficial changes and symbolism which cannot be seen as progress.

  2. Thanks, Rhonda…

    The mass of Negroes nurtures a healthy suspicion toward this manufactured leader, who spends little time in persuading them that he embodies personal integrity, commitment and ability and offers few programs and less service.

    That’s it in a nutshell.

    I’m aware of a few programs Barack has in his platform but those things I’ve cited a plenty of times in debates against cynical Black critics who question everything about him (including his ‘blackness’) but those programs and issues aren’t seeing the light of day now that there is a major spotlight on his campaign.

  3. Well written posting, it is unfortunate that Afrikans have been in conflict with the Aryan world for some 3,000 seasons at large, and some 500+ years with Europe in particular, yet we percieve that Euro-America will transform because an Afrikan descendant may become its titular head. Very unfortunate indeed.

  4. Majadi,

    Thanks for bother you’re comments…

    3,000 seasons

    What else can you say?

  5. You see with Obama, I am critical when needed and I praise him when I agree with him. I support him and respect and understand what he has to go through.

    My thing with Obama these days is if he is going to go through what he has promised or previously spoke about. I feel like he is slowly becoming more and more politically expedient.

    I too am aware of the programs but are they going to be a priority or will they be forgotten or changed.

    I spent a whole year campaigning for him so I am pretty aware with much of what he has done. However, will he be the same person once elected is my issue and that is why I believe that those who are critical and even suspicious are entitled. Obama seems to be very quick to cave into pressure from the white media and establishment even those who are on the right and don’t support him. It gets me sort of nervous though I am still in support of him

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