Posted by: Khepera | Monday, 30 April 2007

Barack Obama & The Presidency

Having listened to much of the harangue about Obama – from supposedly conscious components of the AA community, those posing as voices of our community, to those clearly aping the dominant chainlink mindset – a few things emerge with stark clarity.

First of all, as is often the case, most are not getting the answers they seek because they ask the wrong questions, ill-formed questions, or ill-informed questions, in terms of historical and contemporary context. If we are to accept what is being presented to us, the questions of Obama’s presidential campaign distill out to a few not so salient points:

  • Given various & questionable definitions, is Obama ‘down for the cause’?
  • Is Obama ‘Black’ enough?
  • What does he bring to the table, what is his vision as it potentially benefits AA’s? Etc.

In my humble opinion, before we even engage the flaws in these questions, and, derivatively, the flawed answers which result, let’s look at the causes behind this charade of faux intellectualism and culture consciousness. Like every other AA man in this society – and women as well – Obama suffers from the angst resulting from the behaviors of those who went before. He now faces a double-edged sword against which there is little defense, except perhaps shining a light on the sword, and its wielder – a scrutiny many would prefer to avoid.

Like those of us watching women clutch their purses tightly in elevators due to fears legitimate &/or imagined, many of us are familiar with this stigma. The sword arises out of poor choices, flawed character, and generally unreasonable expectations of human perfection in our community’s leaders in the past. If we can accept that, as a group, in general, the AA community has a ‘messiah complex’, we can begin to address some long-standing patterns of behavior. We embrace those who step up, giving often the flimsiest of impressions of a ‘do-right’ agenda, leaving us disappointed when they take the money & run; or their patterns of opportunism or misogyny or misrepresenting the truth come to light. We don’t just feel wronged, or deceived, we feel betrayed. This speaks to a potent pattern of mind set and backlash. Any man who has approached an AA woman with a history of insensitive partners knows this dance. So, Obama, if you feel you are being called upon by the AA community to demonstrate your principles, record and actions in unreasonable ways, there is little help for it. We live in days where treachery and deceit are the norm – from the top down.

So the double-edged sword is the burgeoning response to decades of demands and evocations for our community to exercise some critical thinking skills – to ask hard questions, to not settle for easy answers, to scrutinize both the speaker and what is being spoken with diligence and comprehensive follow-through. This is beginning to develop, among certain sectors of the community. Unfortunately, most of those exercising these new cognitive muscles have incorporated a presumed sense of personal independence, mitigating against the cultivation – and harvesting – of a functional collective. Once again, we have – individually & collectively – fallen for the ‘divide and conquer’ directive, camouflaged in the pin stripes of economics and education, or the statistics of demographics, with few bothering to ask “who set up the criteria for these filters on our perception?” If you focus on difference, difference is most of what you will see. If you focus on commonality, differences become less than secondary.

There is hardly an AA in this country who, if they were to be scrutinized with diligence, would not have to face hard questions about just how “Black” they are. The problem is, in part due to aforementioned issues, there is no single definition, in word or action. There is not even a menu of a la carte or set piece choices which enough could agree on to make any sort of reasonable assessment viable. Is ‘Black’ about street cred, educational advancement, crusading for the community, donating to AA institutions, establishing an AA presence in business, media and technology? Is ‘Black’ about what you do with your family, building your community from the inside out, by exemplifying principles in ourselves which are best suited to achieve the ‘greatest good for the greatest number’? When did ‘each one teach one’ become cliché, and why? According to whom? Is ‘Black’ more about how much Black history you know, or how well you apply the healthy principles of our fabric of cultures in our daily lives? Is ‘Black’ about how big your church, mosque, house or SUV is? Is ‘Black’ more about how much kente you wear, how you style your hair, how much African art you own, or is it about the Afrocentric tattoos you have and your red, black & green gold-filled teeth? These are the questions, the conversation we all know we need to have, but few want to engage in. Why? Because it involves vested interests, lifestyle choices, contexts of vision which, if challenged, are difficult for most to defend, even under righteous scrutiny. There was a time when “Is that Black enough for you?” was such a common phrase, it was labeled cliché, then taboo…by we know who. How can those who reject our humanity demand we engage our lives as humans, instead of African-Americans, given the actuality of our political reality?

Now, let me be clear about two things. First, any of us who initiates a discussion about our situation in this country which is founded on the premise of race has immediately & automatically lost that argument. Why? Because you have established your premise on a definition, a game whose rules you can neither influence nor control. You have conceded defeat by accepting the bogus premise of race in the first place. Alright, but the actuality of race is a part of our daily lives. It’s all about how we frame the issue. When we speak of our African-Americaness, we are tying ourselves to land, to culture, despite how much most may misunderstand the magnitude and scope of what it includes. When we speak of our communities, our AA communities, our conversation is no different than those of any other community, identified by any set of specifics. Why should anyone be constrained from such a conversation?

The second point of clarity is simple: in my humble opinion, anyone who desires to be president after the mess this fool will leave behind needs to have their head examined. If all you do is hold the status quo, at home and abroad, it would be an incomprehensible miracle, yet it would be met with the derision of assumed failure.

If Obama deserves my vote, it’s because of his capacity to demonstrate his vision and agenda, for communities, environment, technology and empowered self-determination where, finally, those with big stick dollars are not the only ones with voices with leverage. I wonder about what Obama brings to the table regarding international policy and issues – the Middle East, China, Korea, Japan, India, Venezuela & the rest of the Americas – which will go a long way in determining what we can do here at home in ways which were never true before. Regardless of the paint job, one thing the last seven years have taught us: we need a thinking, intelligent person in the Oval Office.

by Khepera

© 22 April 2007

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