If Barack Obama isn’t going to have Black issues high among his priorities, what was the point of America making such a big deal out of him being the first Black president?
Indeed, why did Black voters turn out in record numbers to put him in the White House? Just for the sake of being able to swell up their chests and point with pride to the fact that for the first time in history there’s an African American politician in the country’s most prestigious office?
Just as a hollow, cosmetic gesture? The nation’s affirmative action poster boy? The ultimate token? Where is the pride in that?
Each opportunity Obama has had to show Black America he is an agent of true social progress and prove ”Change We Can Believe In” was more than just a slick campaign slogan, he has passed on. Quintessentially palatable, resolutely non-threatening, this is the White folk’s Black president whom liberals can hold dear to their hearts.
They can showboat their admiration of him to their Black associates, political and personal alike, as evidence they don’t have a racist bone in their bodies — while privately being delighted that he’s not going to actually do a damned thing about the society that keeps them privileged hypocrites who benefit just as much from racism as do bigots. At least bigots are honest about their delusions of inherent superiority.
He is the boozhie Black folks’ precious icon they hold up as the shining exemplar: “See, our president is the perfect example of how well life works if you believe in yourself, work hard and get along with powerful White people.”
Barack Obama cashed in on his birthday suit, then turned right around and sold Black America out. It became clear as water what kind of so-called Black man he is when that business with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and that Cambridge cop came to light. Anyone could see the cop was in the wrong for arresting Gates as a trespasser in his own home.
Even Obama, who at first, in his only moment of honesty about race in America, called the arrest stupid. But Obama, in the next breath, apologized for saying that. He had the cop and Gates over to Obama’s backyard for a nice, chummy beer. First thing the cop said was that he’d go but — and he made it clear — he was not going to apologize to Gates. That was fine with Obama. Anything so long as Black people stopped saying how outraged they were over this blatant instance of racial profiling — a Black man suspected of burglary just for being in a rich neighborhood.
His weak-kneed reaction to the Trayvon Martin tragedy is a disgrace. The boldest response he made was a mealy-mouthed: “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon. When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids.”
Meanwhile, everybody else Black in this country was mad enough to chew nails and spit thumbtacks. Congressional Rep. Bobby Rush walked onto the House floor, took off his suit jacket, under which was a sweatshirt, and put the hood up, stating, “Racial profiling has to stop. Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum.”
This in the wake of that 17-year-old kid — armed with an Arizona drink and a bag of Skittles — being shot because some paranoid hysteric thought a Black adolescent wearing a hooded sweatshirt automatically constituted a life-threatening presence. In recognition of Rush’s gesture and in solidarity against entrenched, ongoing racism in America, people across the country — including Black men and women, but not all of them were Black — who didn’t even own a hoodie and had to go get one, putting on a hooded sweatshirt to protest the senseless death.
Where was Obama’s hoodie?
When it comes to issuing pardons for the imprisoned, the president has full reign to free anyone he sees fit. Gerald Ford even got away with pardoning Richard Nixon, because you cannot question a presidential pardon. What has Barack Obama done with this power?
Over the course of two terms, he has made 20 to 30 or so Mickey Mouse decisions, handing get-out-of-jail-free cards to those convicted of such offenses as falsely altering a money order, unauthorized acquisition of food stamps, marijuana possession, cocaine peddling, and having an unregistered gun. He has played it completely safe in ignoring that Mumia Abu-Jamal, after all these years, still languishes behind bars for a cop-killing every examination of the case shows he didn’t commit.
It’s been pointed out before and bears pointing out again in a report from the Barnard Center for Research on Women, ”Women, Prisons and Change,” which states ”the majority of women put away for violent crimes were convicted for defending themselves or their children from abuse.” And a New York Times editorial attests, “90 percent of women imprisoned for killing men were battered by those men.”
Neither source indicates exactly how many of those women are Black, but you don’t need to conduct exhaustive research to realize that among those horrendous numbers a great many have to be Black, if only based on the fact that African Americans make up most of the institutionalized feast on which the beast of incarceration feeds. Where are Barack Obama’s pardons for the Black woman who fought back when some Neanderthal went upside her head, when he was going to hurt her child?
All said, what is Barack Obama about when Black America needs him? Change we can believe in? Not so you’d notice it.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.