President Obama may be one of the most important politicians of our generation. This fact is magnitudes truer for people of African descent in America. Our people were the first in the history of this nation to see a man of African descent accent to the highest office in the land and the fact that one of us has reached that point has immense implications for our people. The major implication of his ascension is that it brings to the forefront the assumptions and ideologies that Black people base their political decision making on. Part of the dominant strategy for African America is to support the Democratic Party, the only “viable” progressive party that can actually win an election AND will represent the interest of African America. The other major pillar of our current political strategy is to support ANYTHING Black based on an assumption that blackness usually translates to good political decisions being made on our behalf.
President Obama is the perfect marriage of assumptions about the Democratic Party and “All Black Everything” and thus many in our community see Obama as the beginning of the upward movement of African America and the fortunes of those who find themselves in it. Even for those who are skeptical of what he may bring, they still in the end see him as the best chance for a better political future for Black people. What if I told you that both of those positions are dead wrong and that we are wasting our time with Obama? In many Black communities in America the reaction would look something like me getting chased with pitchforks. But seriously, here are 3 reasonable reasons why Obama (and by extension black politicians and the electoral system in general) not only isn’t the optimum solution to the most pressing problems in the black community, but is in many cases the cause/ perpetuator of them.
Reason #1: Obama Can’t Stop the Slaughter of Black Children, Women, and Men (And other POC’s/ Queer/ Other Generally Undesirable People)
A report was put out recently by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement which states that every 36 hours from January to June this year a black man, woman, or child was killed by a police officer or security officer. Add in the killings and lynchings of queer individuals, Trans persons, and other POC the number climbs much higher than that. As a point of reference, if you calculate the numbers between 1882 and 1968 (86 years) there was roughly one lynching every 6 hours (black and white accounted for). Considering it’s 2012 and the meter has moved within 1/6 of the era of Jim Crow, KKK, and white supremacy, I think we can safely state we are experiencing a slaughter. With that said, what has Obama said about police brutality in America lately? Or ever? Take into account the violence against the Occupy Movement, “Stop and Frisk” in NYC and the state of the prison industrial complex and even as an Obama supporter one has to question why he has been silent on this issue.
Even if Obama was to speak out against police brutality, what would it really matter? For those in Anaheim, for instance, who are currently under the gun of the police for protesting the killing of two youth in their community political platitudes does little to help their situation. At the core of the matter the police’s main job is to protect the rich from the poor. Couple that with the multi-billion dollar prison industrial complex which benefits from police aggression, would you as president, in an election year no less speak out against the interest of these people? And any law that may be passed to stem the tide of violence against our people and other Americans, like all laws, would take considerable time and be met with stiff resistance from most Republicans and “Blue Dog”/ Conservative Democrats. By the time legal measures were taken a couple hundred other people will be dead at the hands of the police. Taking all of this into account it is up to the people of America themselves to protest, agitate, and defend themselves if necessary from police violence against their communities. As Fredrick Douglass said “Power only concedes to Power”, a timely lesson for us to learn.
Reason #2: Obama Can’t Stop His Own Slaughter of Other Nations’ Children, Women, and Men (And Their Governments)
Obama will go down as one of the most aggressive presidents in history. In his 1st 4 years he accelerated the Afghanistan War, taken military action in Pakistan, Yemen, Uganda, Libya, Central African Republic, and the Congo, continued the war in Iraq (there are still active troops in the country) and is currently assisting Kenya in its incursion/invasion of southern Somalia.
Besides the aforementioned military initiatives either started by Obama or extended by him, we have to mention his mainstreaming of the use of “Predator” drones which are unmanned planes armed with hi-res cams and missiles. He has used these drone famously in Libya and to a much higher degree in Pakistan. As mentioned here, in 2009 he ordered more drone strikes in that year alone than Bush did in his 8 years as president. The exponential increase in drone strikes by Obama has led to many thousands of civilians living in “war zones” to become victims of these strikes. Add to that the fact that Obama has gone as far as killing American citizens suspected of terror activity (and their children) without trial using drone strikes we have to begin questioning things like him getting an Nobel Peace Prize for instance…
From the perspective of African America, these actions on Obama’s part is a serious red flag. Referencing reason #1, how can we trust Obama to speak up for Americans being victimized by the police when he’s doing the same exact thing to people aboard? We can’t and with the pushing of things like AFRICOM we see a president who is in many ways more dangerous to the world and its people than even Bush. Fancy that, the first black president being the president with the most simultaneous military operations underway in Africa.
Reason #3: He Chose to Become President In the First Place
To be frank and truthful, America is built on slaughter, slavery, and imperialism. This nation’s history up until…always has been filled with violence towards the poor, people of color, so-called deviants, and other nations. All of this violence was done in the name of profit and power. With this history in mind and the fact that even today this society still has racism, sexism, and imperialism as its foundations why would anyone want to become the leader and protector of such a society? With all the people who probably disagree with that assessment of America, there must be a few people reading who are probably thinking “of course America is a steaming pile! That’s why we need people like Obama, to change it for the better”. That is very bad thinking. That’s like calling it rational for Jews in Nazi Germany (remember the police killing stats before you call this a bad analogy) to strive to become head of the Nazi Party so they may change it and make it less anti-Jew. Would the Nazis even let a Jew get a shot at becoming Fuhrer? If they did, would they give X Jewish guy enough power to make any substantive changes without their permission? No they wouldn’t. Right there is what’s wrong with any discussion about Obama or any other politician as change agents. We are trusting an millionaire, Harvard educated lawyer and politician who happens to be Black to be an agent of change for the millions of poor Americans and billions of non-Americans who are victims of American imperialism and racism/sexism/homophobia. And we are trusting him knowing that even a slight deviation from this path will likely end in the political or mortal destruction of this man, a fact that he ought to very well know himself.
At the end of the day,positive change will only come from the people. For people of African descent the strategy of hoping the right people will get into power and change things is a passive strategy and a failed one at that. We have spent 50 years gaining new Black mayors, city council members, senators, representatives, judges, and presidents to represent us in concert with the Democratic Party. What have we gotten in return? A worse state of being than we had under Jim Crow. More men enslaved in prison than were enslaved at the height of slavery. A death rate in encounters with authorities approaching that of the Lynching era. If that is the outcome of that political strategy then it needs to die quickly.
What shall we replace it with? Look at our history for that answer. Any gains made by our people and that of any other oppressed nation was the result of not a messianic leader/politicians nor the benevolent actions of a member of the dominate group. We gained because the people struggled plain and simple. They marched, protested, occupied, fought, died, and in some cased killed for their freedom. We gained what little rights solely on the basis of our own hands and minds working together with the hands and minds of others to make it happen. If we want to see an end to the wars abroad, the wars at home, and the persistent oppression of racism, sexism, homophobia, and other systems of discrimination, we must stop playing by the rules of our enemies, stop waiting on Superman, and take our freedom the same way our predecessors did, through collective mass action, organized and precise as a knife. By no other means will we see a light at the end of what Malcolm X called “ The American Nightmare”.