Published in Issue 217 of The Black Commentator on February 15, 2007

By Larry Pinkney

In a span of less than one week, US Presidential hopeful Barack Obama, has managed to simultaneously both deeply insult and negate Black America, while courting what appears to be an increasing amount of white Americans. Many of these white Americans are in flagrant denial of their own color privilege and racism, and clearly grasp that Mr. Obama represents no substantive challenge to the continuation of their aforementioned privilege and/or racism.

Launching his US Presidential campaign from Springfield, Illinois, the home of former US President and cynical racist Abraham Lincoln, Mr. Obama apparently wishes us to believe that Abraham Lincoln was an emancipator of Black people in America. In fact, Mr. Lincoln was a Republican Party opportunist who did not emancipate Black slaves, but callously manipulated them. Indeed, as noted historian, Lerone Bennett, Jr., wrote concerning Abraham Lincoln, “Lincoln says slavery is wrong, but he also says he is opposed to giving Negroes social and political equality”. Thus, it becomes increasingly clear as to perhaps why some white Americans seemingly have such a cuddly comfort level with Mr. Obama’s candidacy.

Further adding insult to injury, Mr. Obama apparently somehow did not find it important enough for him to be in attendance at ‘The State of the Black Union 2007’ nationally televised conference, recently held at Hampton University in Virginia. It would appear that at all costs, Mr. Obama must keep a “safe distance” from forthrightly, substantively, and undeniably identifying himself directly with Black people who are seriously committed to real versus superficial “social and political equality” in America. At that nationally televised day-long event, Mr. Obama could have shared with Black America, and the nation as a whole, his substantive thoughts, plans, and ideas as to how he intends to address Black America’s pressing concerns, which ultimately affect the entire nation. Moreover, Barack Obama’s astounding absence from ‘The State of the Black Union 2007’ conference speaks volumes as to his defacto lack of commitment to Black America, something in which, no doubt, many white Americans find enormous comfort while being able hypocritically to embrace a “Black” person’s candidacy for US President.

There are many in Black America who legitimately question Mr. Obama’s commitment to Black Americans, and who wonder if white America has at last attained its trojan horse, Black U.S. Presidential candidate in the person of Barack Obama. As Conrad Worrill, director of inner-city studies at Northeastern Illinois University, is quoted as saying in the Los Angeles Times, “The question is: Will this generation of new, college-trained beneficiaries of the Black political power movement in America fight for Black political interests?”

One of the “beneficiaries of the Black political power movement in America” is the Harvard University trained, now US Presidential candidate, Barack Obama. Had it not been for the ongoing collective struggle of Black Americans and indeed had there been no Frederick Douglass, no Harriet Tubman, no Mary McLeod Bethune, or no Rosa Parks and certain allies, it is doubtful that America’s racist, so-called anti-miscegnation laws would ever have allowed Barack Obama’s Kenyan father to marry the white American woman who became Barack Obama’s mother. Many Black Americans have paid and are still paying a terribly high price for the benefits enjoyed by a relatively few “beneficiaries.” Mr. Obama could and should have learned some valuable lessons from the examples set by Black American US Presidential candidates who were his forerunners. Unlike Barack Obama; Shirley Chisholm, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton never sought to distance themselves from Black America, as did Mr. Obama, as demonstrated by his absence from the recent ‘State of the Black Union 2007’ conference.

What is Mr. Obama’s position on the issue of perpetual unequal justice, racial profiling, and the massively disproportionate rate of incarceration affecting the vast majority of Black and other people of color in this nation? Where does he stand even in his home state of Illinois, on the issue of the admitted horrible and brutal torture by members of the Chicago Police Department of Black people in Chicago, that special prosecutors finally now say occurred, but for which the police will not be prosecuted? [Reference July 19, 2006, Associated Press article entitled, ‘Chicago Police Tortured Black Suspects In ’70s And 80’s: Report’] Why did US Senator Barack Obama oppose a “Senate reform banning the practice by legislators of hiring their family members on their campaign or PAC payrolls?” [Reference THE HILL newspaper dated January 17, 2007, article entitled, ‘Obama’s First Blunder’] What is Mr. Obama’s stance on the issue of affirmative action, and regarding reparations to Black America for the brutality and ill-gotten gain as a result of slavery and Jim Crow repression? These questions and many more deserve substantive answers and clarifications from Mr. Obama.

Mr. Obama might well be reminded that Black America has, for at least four hundred years and against all odds, maintained “hope”, and now in the 21st century does not need nor relish empty, insulting, and nonsubstantive rhetoric calling for “a more hopeful America” that offers nothing substantive to Black Americans. Black America wants to know Mr. Obama’s action plan and nothing less will do. Sweeping, pious pronouncements, which lack a well thought out and developed action plan, are utterly meaningless and ultimately insulting to Black Americans and, in reality, to all Americans. As Fannie Lou Hamer so poignantly stated, Black Americans are truly “sick and tired of being sick and tired” and will not tolerate being sacrificed yet again on the alter of political expediency by any candidate, irrespective of gender or color.

Barack Obama would do well not to take the vote of Black America (or indeed any American) for granted, and be substantive–not superficial and mediocre. Black people in America rightfully expect more of candidates, so very much more, as should all Americans. To quote the extremely relevant words of Lerone Bennett, Jr., “Everything has changed in Black-white America; and yet nothing has changed”. The question is: Does Barack Obama understand and respect this reality, especially as it pertains to those Black people who are the descendants not only of the kings, queens, and scholars of Africa but also of those who were brought by force in a most brutal, unspeakable, inhuman bondage to this place called the United States of America, where to this very day, real “social and political equality” have yet to be obtained?

Being biologically Black and on the cover of Ebony magazine, is no substitute for a well thought out, clearly defined, substantive plan of action, coupled with a serious commitment to Black America.

Larry Pinkney is a veteran of the Black Panther Party, the former Minister of Interior of the Republic of New Africa, a former political prisoner and the only American to have successfully self-authored his civil/political rights case to the United Nations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In connection with his political organizing activities, Pinkney was interviewed in 1988 on the nationally televised PBS News Hour, formerly known as The MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour, and more recently on the nationally syndicated Alex Jones Show. Pinkney is a former university instructor of political science and international relations, and his writings have been published in various places, including The Boston Globe, San Francisco BayView newspaper, Black Commentator, Intrepid Report, Global Research (Canada), LINKE ZEITUNG (Germany), 107 Cowgate (Ireland and Scotland), and Mayihlome News (Azania/South Africa). He is in the archives of Dr. Huey P. Newton (Stanford University, CA), cofounder of the Black Panther Party. For more about Larry Pinkney see the book, Saying No to Power: Autobiography of a 20th Century Activist and Thinker, by William Mandel [Introduction by Howard Zinn]. (Click here to read excerpts from the book.)


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