Barack and Black America

Obama 2008I’ve been a proponent of the phrase “Black America” and I’ve used it openly and liberally here in my blog, however I’ve tried my best not to make it proper noun.  However most times that is the tacit understanding of the designation “Black America.”  The connotation is that blacks living in this country are in fact not living in the same country as the rest of Americans.  I believe that that argument is more than valid.  In fact in my first blog about Jeremiah Wright I spoke to the fact that Wright’s comments uncovered a “second America” that many whites have the priviledge of not having to deal with on a day to day basis.  This “second America” is not just based on skin color, but also economic and financial lots in life.

For this post, I would like to use race as a starting point, however.

Obama 2008 ReaxI guess in the midst of me studying and recovering from midterms, this following article originally published on October 28th by an AP writer slipped under my radar.  And actually, it’s interesting to see how American’s tone and rhetoric has shifted so violently following the campaigns.  Suddenly the Republicans are speaking about being “centrist” and is Obama going to live up to his campaign pledges and during the campaign, they were equally as partisan as the Democrats.  Even Rush Limbaugh has called Obama a “thug” of all things. 

This is the story in it’s entirety from the AP News story published on October 28th, by Jesse Washington:

What’s more scary: a bleak economy or a black president? The two ideas converge in a small but influential group of voters who fear that if elected, Barack Obama would give blacks preferential treatment when all Americans need help in financial hard times.

Some of Obama’s success thus far against John McCain is because of his casting himself as a “post-racial” candidate who would fight for the middle class and represent everyone equally. The Democratic nominee also says that affirmative action should be extended to low-income whites and exclude privileged minorities like his two daughters.

But the collision between economic worries and fear of a black president most often occurs in middle- and lower-class swing voters, a coveted demographic in this tight election, polls show. The sentiment also hints at racial hurdles that would arise if Obama does become the nation’s first black chief executive.

“I do think he has that minority thing probably in the back of his mind, deep down,” said Charles Palmer of Lafayette, La., a retired oil company manager and registered Democrat who plans to vote for McCain. “He’s not going to hurt ’em, let’s put it that way. It’s just the attitude blacks have toward the whites in this country. “It’s very negative.”

Palmer has lost about a third of his retirement savings in the stock market tumble, but at age 74 he’s not scared of running out of money. Among those closer to the financial edge, however, fear is more stark.

A farmer from Eau Claire, Wis., was quoted recently in The New Yorker magazine as saying an Obama presidency would mean “the end of life as we know it,” while a retired state employee in Kentucky said he didn’t want a black president because “he would put too many minorities in positions over the white race.”

Obama opened up his biggest lead in the polls in early October, just after Congress and the White House approved the $700 billion economic bailout.

“The economic issue has been enormously beneficial to Obama at the end of the campaign,” said Glenn Loury, a professor of social science and economics at Brown University. “So I think you have to say that fear of economic instability and belief that the Democrats in general and Obama in particular are likely to be better on those issues have won out over race.”

But even in latent form, fear of a black president raises provocative questions: Is it predicated on the belief that the 43 white presidents have favored white citizens, and that a President McCain would do the same? Do people assume that a black president would be powerless against the desire to avenge centuries of slavery and oppression?

Are the interests of whites and blacks necessarily opposed? Is power a zero-sum proposition? And what are Obama’s thoughts about race-sensitive issues like disproportionate incarceration rates or the war on drugs?

“Post-election, with a huge mandate, a lot of these issues will come back and be more intense because it will be a black man setting the agenda for the country,” Loury said.

Obama has assembled a diverse staff. His Senate chief of staff, chief campaign strategist and campaign manager are all white. Still, 12 percent of white men in a recent AP-Yahoo poll said the fact Obama would be the first black president would make it less likely they would support him.  McCain did not respond to a request for information about the racial makeup of his staff.

When Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review, some liberal and minority editors were critical of Obama for not appointing more minorities to leadership positions, his Harvard classmate Bradford Berenson told the PBS show “Frontline.”

President Clinton assembled one of the most diverse cabinets in history. President Bush appointed Colin Powell as the first black secretary of state; the 21 cabinet-level positions currently listed on the White House’s Web site include Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice — Hispanic, Asian-American and black, respectively.

Even among white voters who think that Obama would govern equally, such as Dominic Moccio of North Brunswick, N.J., there are concerns rooted in America’s rapidly changing racial demographics.

“People who are in power set the agenda,” said Moccio, who works in information technology at a cosmetics plant. “If Latinos are in power, they’re going to set an agenda that tries to make things better for Latinos … (Obama) doesn’t come across that way, but who’s going to be influencing him (if he’s elected)? Is it going to be Reverend Wright, (Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s controversial former pastor), is it going to be Jesse Jackson, or is it going to be Colin Powell?”

Moccio, an independent who supports McCain, said he doesn’t fear an Obama presidency. But still, “It’s hard to be a white male today.”

“Every time I turn around, I see people being treated special because of their ethnicity, their gender, their sexual orientation,” said Moccio, an independent who supports McCain. “All these people are protected. But when I see them, I just see another person that I’m competing with.”

White men support McCain 55 percent to 33 percent for Obama, compared with 44 percent of all likely voters supporting Obama and 43 percent McCain, according to a AP-GfK poll released last week.

Twelve percent of white men in a recent AP-Yahoo poll said the fact Obama would be the first black president would make it less likely they would support him.

Ramon Chavez, a University of Oklahoma professor who is Hispanic and Native American, agrees that “it’s a scary time for white males, because they’re in the last vestiges of their power.”

“If I’m a white middle-age or older male, I’m looking around me and saying, ‘I’m losing power, I’m losing my influence,’ and I get a little scared because the tables have turned. And that’s OK, that’s the way our population and the world is going. So they’re going to have to make an adjustment, and that might mean giving up a little bit of power. I can understand why white people are scared right now.”

Fear can be an irresistible political tool. Obama uses fear about the future of the economy to push people away from the incumbent Republican party of President Bush; McCain leverages fear about values to separate himself from Obama.

“There’s something about everyone to be afraid of,” said Moccio. “The biggest thing people are afraid of is the unknown.”

Election Reax 2008As lengthy as the article was, it still drives home a fear that still exists despite the bipartisanship that Obama seems to be putting forth.  Actually, it should be the liberals and his own party that should be balking at him because Obama has made such a centrist move.  Not necessarily in policies that have been set forth, but he’s not out holding press conferences trying to usurp the power of George Bush.  Granted some Republicans are complaining because he’s already made press releases about certain executive orders that he plans on rescinding and what policies he plans on getting Congress to pass.  But as we all know, that’s just simply the perks of being the President-elect.  Seriously, what can Bush do in the next seventy or so days that will have long lasting implications? I’m quite sure there isn’t any–he’s a lame duck president.

reaction-to-obama-winning-2Underlying all of this partisanship and putrid vile spewed from the conservative talking heads on the right-wing dominated talk show airwaves, I’m convinced is really race.  This country has built itself on fear tactics, particularly from those that label themselves “conservative.”  I think it was a slap in their face that Obama won, and garnered the majority of the vote, something that hadn’t been done since Ronald Regan had won in 1984.  And it was a clear majority, 53% to McCain’s 46%.  (Bill Clinton had only 43% because of H. Ross Perot running in 1992.)  E.D. Hill  of FoxNews as we all know likened Obama to a terrorist because of the fist pound that he and his wife made at a rally.  Limbaugh feels comfortable calling him a “thug” and God knows what awful rhetoric was said on the Hannity and Colmes show using uber-hyperbolic adjectives to describe Obama.  My question is: what are white folk afraid of?

reaction-to-obama-winning-4My parents, both of them said that their parents had a saying that said “Don’t nothing flinch but a sore back horse.”  That’s the equivalent of “A hit dog will holler.”  In other words, one can always tell the guilty party, they’re always the one’s who are protesting the loudest and complaining the most or often times, the most uncomfortable with a current situation.  I disagree slightly with Ramon Chavez who was quoted in the above article, by in large, I still see white males in control of the wealth and in overreaching policy positions.  One need only look at the Fortune 500 list or even look at the U.S. Congress which is over 80% white and male.  With Obama as President, that leaves the U.S. Senate without any African American representation.  Let us remember, Obama is only the fourth African American in the history of this country to be elected to the Senate.

reaction-to-obama-winning-5I’m convinced that this has less to do with a cession of power on behalf of whites [male] in this country than it does have to do with the revenge motives that have been projected onto blacks by whites.  I did a story back based on the AP/Yahoo poll (of which I didn’t get as many comments as I had hoped) and whites think that blacks have an unfavorable opinion of them.  Well, that’s not hard to believe when often times blacks are just as isolated in our own communities as whites are in theirs.  If whites talk about blacks in the same way blacks talk about whites in our communal settings without prolonged lived experiences, it’s no wonder round the way flare-ups happen at jobs and other instances.  Although, when blatant cases of discrimination abound so much, I can’t help but side with my own people.*

This kind of fear of revenge is the same kind of fear that was portrayed in the groundbreaking movie “Birth of A Nation” that portrayed blacks as “taking over” and ending life as white folk know it.  Aside from the grossly erroneous and insulting scenes that showed random white men in black face as former slaves chasing after the helpless white damsel in distress, there is the scene that shows “the blacks” sitting in Congress and just having fun and making a party atmosphere. 

reaction-to-obama-winning-6In addition to that, I believe that there is the fear that Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Jeremiah Wright will be Cabinet members.  The level of absurdity that the conservatives spew resonates with “Joe Six Pack” who doesn’t understand what hyperbole is, let alone understand that much of what gets said on television, be it MSNBC or FoxNews is said merely for the ratings.  Clearly, I tune in to watch Bill O’Reilly bloviate or Sean Hannity just to see what stupidity gets passed off for sanity.  It then shows that people believe that those three aformentioned names will somehow be informing Obama on how to subjugate whites in this country, or at least lift blacks up over that of whites.

Seriously, at this point in the game, I’d really like to see the thought process behind such claims that Obama will somehow enforce policies that favor blacks.  What would a policy that favors blacks look like exactly?  Let alone how could that come from the desk of the president.  Perhaps whites have just gotten caught up on the similar comedic hyperbole of Chris Rock in “Head of State” in which he co-starred with Bernie Mac.

At this point in our progression as a country, I think that it’s black people who are more deferential to white people than the other way around.  As far as I’m concerned, if an Obama administration did something that allegedly showed preferential treatment to blacks, it would be a policy that would have a wide reach across racial lines.  If blacks are positively affected in this country, so is the rest of the country.  We’re kind of like Ohio in the context of the electoral college–whatever happens to us, happens to the rest of the country.

A frequent reader and commenter of blog said that even while at the Obama celebration party she had found herself at the night of November 4th, that one somebody told her that “we have finally conquered racism.”  Racism is still alive and well.  To list the pathologies of why racism is still alive would make this post longer than what it already is.  It is only the blind person who seriously believes that.  It almost seems to suggest that people voted solely on the color of Obama’s skin when that really isn’t the case.  If for no other reason, he ran a better campaign than McCain–Obama clearly won on merit.  In fact, that fact that he joked about being a “mutt” in last Friday’s press conference is further proof that he and his campaign were quite clear to run an aracial campaign (I refuse to say post-racial).

The fact that there is a black man occupying the building built by those who had been enslaved on the sole basis of their skin color which is the same as his is not a fact that should be dismissed by any stretch of the imagination.  Moreover, the fact that he’s the first president, not just not of Anglo-Saxon heritage, or even “American” heritage, but actually of non-Nort hAmerican heritage.  I remember a teacher of mine in high school said this country would almost never elect someone who didn’t have an Anglo-Saxon last name. (But that was in reference to a guy in my class who had a Polish last name). History was made and will be made throughout his administration.

Black America has asked Barack to dance with them, and we’re still waiting on our answer as he stands across the ballroom eyeing us and we are flirting back with him.

Bluntly put, Black America does not want it to be politics as usual.  We want a change and demand a change.  What I think the rest of America needs to realise is that “politics as usual” was in fact detrimental to our well being.  However, at the same time, no one’s expecting or even asking Obama to show preferential treatment as far as policies are concerned, or cabinet picks or U.S. Attorney appointees–we’re just asking for fairness.  Same as affirmative action–just asking to level the playing field.  Whites have operated under the delusion that the playing field was even.  But perhaps it’s hard to see one’s advantage when they’re in the position of priviledge.

Barack, Black America is waiting for an answer.

Do you feel that white Americans have a valid fear that Obama is going to show “preferential treatment” towards blacks?  Do you think that Obama is listening to Jesse, Al and Jeremiah Wright for advice?  Do you think we still need affirmative action programs?  Has racism ended as a result of electing Obama, or have we even taken a step toward ending racism with Obama’s election? 

Who actually read this entire post? lol

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully racidal, JLL

5 thoughts on “Barack and Black America

  1. Uhhh, didn’t read the entire blog, but skimmed it as I got towards the end :-).
    I think understand where the fear comes from if you’ve had hate or ignorance instilled in you, do I think they have anything to worry about as far as preferential treatment. Absolutely not! Yes, he’s a black man with the power now. But that power has to get the approval of a majorly white congress. “White America” still runs this country. Are still the heads of probably 95% of major and 500 fortune companies. Still have better excess to things that a good majority in “Black America” don’t, Schools, Financial Literacy, etc. If anything this election IS and should be a wake up call for Black America to realize that we can do what so many other ethnic groups have done in coming together to advocate for ourselves. Obama being elected is not the second coming as I think many White Americans think us black folk believe it is. Obama’s being elected is a call for us to really start stepping our game up. While race will continue to be a factor, the whole “blame it on the white man” concept can no longer be used in the magnitude that it was.
    As far as Obama listening to the Rev and Jesse. Maybe, Jesse as far as insight into urban issues, but that’s about it. I don’t seem that at all being part of his team of advisers.
    I believe that we still need the affirmative action programs and they need to be take advantage of.
    As far as racism ending, institutionally/legally, yes we have taken some steps. Socially, we still have a long a$$ ways to go and the last weeks and aftermath of the election is proving it. I feel the past couple of decades we witness closet racism and IMO I believe this is why many in Generation Y don’t really get the REAL significance of Obama being elected. They’ve seen it but they haven’t. The US is becoming more of a biracial cultural and the racism we see today is more in code language. Not that blatant out in your face stuff that was known from slavery to the late 80’s.
    But with the end of the election… welcome back blatant racism, welcome back.

  2. Do you feel that white Americans have a valid fear that Obama is going to show “preferential treatment” towards blacks? – Valid, no.

    Do you think that Obama is listening to Jesse, Al and Jeremiah Wright for advice? Probably not, but he ought to (some).

    Do you think we still need affirmative action programs? Yes

    Has racism ended as a result of electing Obama, no, of course not, no matter what definition of “racism” you have in mind.

    or have we even taken a step toward ending racism with Obama’s election? maybe yes, in fact I’ll vote yes. There are lots of scenarios that could end badly, but also lots that could end well. It sure as heck can’t hurt the self-image of young black folk, and the images white folk carry around in their heads of black people. Having all these folks talk about how happy they are to see this happen is a good thing, I think, for our collective psyche. if we keep telling ourselves that we are all one people, that will help to make it happen.

    Who actually read this entire post? lol — well, skimmed it. I’d already read the AP story.

    As for the real meat of the post, that is, where are we going now, that’s the big thing, isn’t it? I’m both hopeful and fearful. As a White person who reads and listens to a lot of Black people as well as White people, I know how many different ideas there are out there on all sides. I think when the dust settles, most people will have pretty much the same attitudes about race they had last week, and people are still going to disagree about what to do. BUT the structural conditions that shape those attitudes are going to move around. And, again, I do think it is a good thing, not a bad thing, to have folks feeling all happy with each other in a “we did it” mood. And I sure hope and pray it helps all those troubled Black kids experiencing the consequences of oppression feel that it is worthwhile to hope and work hard and stay out of trouble, to see themselves as people with potential, not as the potential criminals society has been treating them as. And helps their teachers and preachers and parents see them that way, too.

    I do worry about the pressures on Obama to be “not pro-Black.” He’s going to take heat from all sides. But I think he’s likely to be a positive influence on the rest of us.

  3. Ha Ha…. the ole Michelle Obama wearing cornrolls after a month in office. Obama is a polished politician he knows what he can and can’t get away with. I think some blacks are going to be suprised because Obama is going to be too polished. We shall see….

  4. @citizen ojo

    People have been decrying Lady Michelle’s fashion as of late….but I’m waiting on the cornrows eventually. I mean she has felt more than comfortable grabbing all of that into a ponytail when she didn’t feel like doing her hair. I think what we see is mom.

    we just haven’t seen a mom in the white house in a long time.

    But, um, yeah, I think america is looking for he Obama’s to be The Cosby Show. Where they don’t have to say explicitly “We’re black” like, lets say, how “The Fresh Prince” handled race with many episodes clearly broaching the topic, but rather a tacit blackness that will be exhibited in the food they eat (I’m sure that’ll be worthy of about two good days of news who Michelle picks for the head chef), what type of artwork she may hang, what Christmas in an Obama White House. it was the same blackness that was evident in The Cosby Show. Not one time did any of the Huxtable’s mention their blackness, but from having the artwork, Cliff’s affinity for jazz, having BB King and Nancy Wilson and Lena Horne, Miriam Mikeba as guests, no one beyond the shadow of a doubt could have transported that same script and done it with white actors and have the same show.

    If I could see that I’d be more than happy. if any black person is expecting Obama to throw a Buck-ed Naked Party like some Ques did in undergrad, they can keep waiting till Jesus comes back.

  5. There is much that Obama can do that can be broad based, and Black folks will benefit too. There are a few topics, though, that, quite frankly, are of deeper concern to Black folks than the rest of the country.

    1. Those federal HIV/AIDS funds should be flowing into Black-oriented agencies, because WE have become the face of HIV/AIDS

    2. Protecting voting rights. Sure, it, in theory, effects all, but somehow, it is more targeted towards Black folk.

    3. The Prison Industrial Complex. Can’t get around that one. Very little way to put a ‘ rainbow’, ‘multicultural’ face on that issue.

    Michelle in cornrows?


    At a State Dinner?


    At a White House official function?


    On vacation with her family?


    Loved the post.

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