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Black America and Obama: The cost of silence | Race-Talk | 30

Black America and Obama: The cost of silence

Filed under: African Americans,Featured,Politics,US |


Since the 2008 election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States, numerous constituencies have experienced some measure of social uplift as they have exercised their political strength in compelling the administration to advance their interests.

This reality prevails, as the Hispanic community, ever politically cognizant of Obama’s campaign promises ensuring his commitment to the body’s general prosperity, observed the 2009 nomination and installment of Justice Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court.

Latino Americans would further realize a social triumph, as this population in the late spring and summer months of last year asserted their increasing political might in pressuring the White House to maneuver on behalf the collective in halting Arizona’s veiled efforts to establish an apartheid state in its attempt to enact Arizona Senate Bill 1070.

Not only have Hispanic Americans utilized their political capital in prompting the Obama Administration to function as a proponent for measures that would ensure greater degrees of group wealth but so too has another population.

The gay community in December of last year witnessed the culmination of an enormous protracted effort to force the federal government to end what they and many others believed to be a human rights violation. The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — the United States military’s policy rendering gay and lesbian armed service members unable to divulge their sexual orientation absent penalty — served as an enormous step in the gay community’s fight for an equitable standing within American society.

In the face of these monumental victories experienced by the Hispanic and gay communities in imposing their political will on the Obama administration to act as an advocate in forwarding each group’s agenda, the president’s most loyal constituents have yet to collectively enter into such interactions with the Head of State – even though their needs are the greatest. The reason for this circumstance may perhaps exist as a product of an aged African American conviction.

The African-American community has long functioned as an integral force behind the Democratic Party and even more so as a stalwart supporter of the institution’s latest lead official, President Obama. It is a population however, that has historically experienced enormous suffering, not withstanding its current condition which further serves to extend this troubled legacy.

A Black populace devastated more than any other by the country’s economic crisis as reflected by a 16% unemployment rate – approximately twice that of white Americans.

A community whose youth ever increasingly attend monumentally failing public schools – such institutions serving as no more than temporary holding facilities before nearly a third of its male populations drift into the tide of the prison industrial complex.

A constituency that comprises only 13% of the nation’s population however accounts for nearly half of all newly documented HIV/AIDS cases.

A people perpetually made the victim of state-sponsored terrorism, as signified by the merciless slayings of its members to include Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell and Oscar Grant — among scores of others — via law enforcement officials sworn to protect all segments of society.

A body perennially abused by an extraordinarily racist criminal justice system, as reflected most recently in the improper and callous execution of Troy Davis.

A collection of citizens however, that served as a vital and stable electoral force which if not for their efforts, the president would have never escaped the 2008 Democratic primaries; a precursor to Obama’s ultimate victory during the general election. Additionally, this group is one whose support the incumbent will need to rely heavily on in his bid for reelection.

In light of this paradoxical circumstance in which an overwhelmingly distressed people have refused to collectively register a single demand upon an elected official, partially of the same race and considerably indebted to them, an explanation as to why such a conundrum exists begs expression.

The answer to this unfortunate and enormously problematic riddle finds its origins in the vestiges of the past – a turbulent history which for the African American signifies considerable oppression.

The history of the African American bespeaks the unparalleled experience of centuries of chattel slavery followed by decades of forced segregation. These institutions served to render Black America’s capacity to exercise its natural rights a mere aspiration.

Additional destabilizing factors such as the assassinations of this group’s leaders — Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Dr. King etc… — functioned to further render this population vulnerable to the will of a larger White society determined to maintain an unbalanced social order predicated on the false notion of their own superiority.

Finally, the crack epidemic along with the current proliferation of a genocidal music in the form of “gangsta rap” have effectively reduced much of Black America to a society in which visions anchored in promise increasingly surrender to conceptions founded in despair.

However, with hope among many Black Americans a fading commodity, a man of unquestionable intellect and oratorical prowess would emerge. A man of African descent who would inspire an entire race — as well as international community — to fathom what most believed an impossibility.

A then-Illinois Junior Senator, Barack Obama, would ascend from obscurity and command the attention of the world in becoming the United States’ first African-American president, the very land in which incalculable crimes against humanity were committed against the race to which he in part belongs. This is a population of Black Americans who have for so long endured and fought against an unrelenting current of racial persecution, however all the while have held on to an intrinsic belief a better day would come.

It is within this context, millions of African Americans have witnessed the rise of Barack Obama, largely believing this figure to exist as the personification of the long-held promise perpetually denied them. Resultantly, the Black masses enamored by the very being of President Obama, have essentially exalted this leader to the status of quasi-deity and have subsequently served as the figurative buffer between him and any force that would seek to compromise the executive’s standing.

Manifestly, Americans of African descent have resolved themselves to collectively enact no measure that would in any manner place political pressure on this charismatic figure to the extent his administration would have to address the dire condition of the group.

This sociopolitical arrangement serves as an inherently disadvantageous position, however one in which African Americans as a function of ethnic pride commixed with confusion have embraced.

Those public figures such as Glen Ford and Dr. Cornel West — among others — who have directed justifiable criticism toward the Obama administration for its refusal to specifically address the destitute standing of Black America have often felt the scorn of those who comprise these legions of White House supporters.

This circumstance stands in light of the fact both thinkers have for years championed Black issues. Moreover, this development illustrates the extent to which the African-American masses desire to remain obedient to an inimical arrangement that by definition serves to place the interests of an elected official above those of the collective.

The African-American community has found a hero it presently celebrates. In so doing the group has chosen largely to sacrifice its own immediate needs in adulation for a public official who has never asked for such favor, offered no specific relief to the body and has even chastised some of its other political leaders.

If the African-American community is to elevate itself from the depths of social anguish an extraordinary transformation must occur.

This people must transition from the status of jubilant but uncritical Obama admirers to a class of constituents, which holds its admiration for this individual, subordinate to its concern for the welfare of the group.

The failure of such an occurrence to evolve will only function to further entrench this people in the abyss of social indigence while its members cling to the illusion of an image they so believe represents freedom.

The Black masses must find the political will to place demands upon their cherished leader for it is through this enactment pieces of the dream may be realized.