by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
Black leadership is paralyzed, white “progressives” are still drunk on ObamaL'aid, and much of the purported anti-war movement fears to confront the nation's First Black President. As historically the most reliably anti-war and pro-social justice ethnicity in the United States, African Americans have a special role to play in the late capitalist drama. “To free our people’s hopes and dreams from oblivion, we need a coalition dedicated to the proposition that Black is Back.”
Black is Back! A Coalition to Fight the Powers that Be – Including Obama
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“The election of Obama as president has undermined our solidarity with the oppressed peoples of the world as well as our own efforts for liberation.”
If we are to head off political and existential disaster, it is critical that Black-led formations reassert themselves to reverse the paralysis that has engulfed the Black Liberation, anti-war and anti-corporate movements since the ascension of Barack Obama. The evidence has accumulated in fearsome abundance: rather than unleashing the pent-up energies and aspirations of those who suffer under the rule of profiteers and militarists – most especially, African Americans – Obama’s rise has led to wholesale surrender of Black and “progressive” leadership to the financial and war-making interests embraced by the First Black President.
“’Black is Back’ is a statement of the re-entry of African people into political life independent of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party,” reads the Call to build the Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations. At an organizing meeting in Washington, DC, more than a dozen “leading anti-imperialist African diaspora activists, artists, journalists and organizations” (including this writer) agreed that “the election of Obama as president has undermined our solidarity with the oppressed peoples of the world as well as our own efforts for liberation.”
African Americans have long struggled under the institutional weight of the Democratic Party, whose priorities have not coincided with our own for most of the last 40 years, if ever. Deployed as bloc voters once every two or four years and dismissed and disrespected every single day in between, African Americans have endured countless betrayals, all the while postponing and diluting our own demands in deference to a party that slides inexorably Rightward. To that historical burden of misplaced deference has been added the First Black President, whose very presence has succeeded in politically lobotomizing many of the most active elements of Black leadership. If we are to reverse the damage, we must act in the spirit of the slogan, Black is Back!
“The First Black President's very presence has succeeded in politically lobotomizing many of the most active elements of Black leadership.”
Obama preached peace, then enlarged U.S. wars. He championed the language of universal health care, while sabotaging its most fervent supporters. He moves his lips to criticize the bankers, then puts tens of trillions of the people’s dollars at their disposal. He orates on the pain of poverty, and in the next breath proclaims that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” He blames African underdevelopment on internal corruption while relentlessly militarizing the continent through the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). He panders to the most base white prejudices by calling Black men boys and singling out African Americans as models of bad morals and work habits.
Oprah was dead wrong: Obama is not The One. He is not even an ally; he is an obstacle that must be struggled against, a formidable bulwark of finance capital and imperial barbarism.
While Obama defends his wars and his bailouts, and African American leadership expends all its energies defending the president, the Black agenda is left with hardly any defenders at all. It is as if African American aspirations were sequestered in some dank basement corner of Obama’s White House, never to be seen or heard from again. To free our people’s hopes and dreams from oblivion, we need a coalition dedicated to the proposition that Black is Back.
“Obama is an obstacle that must be struggled against.”
White “progressives” and anti-imperialists are also in need of a Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations. Historically, African Americans have been the most reliably anti-war and pro-social justice ethnicity in the United States. Blacks have opposed U.S. military adventures abroad for as long as the major polling outfits have surveyed African American opinion. A February 2003 Zogby poll showed only 23 percent of Blacks favored George Bush’s planned attack on Iraq, versus 62 percent of whites. A solid majority of white men backed the invasion even if it would result in thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties. Only seven percent of African Americans supported war under such circumstances. African Americans have always been deeply suspicious of U.S. motives in the world, and are least likely to dehumanize the Other.
These sentiments are rooted in Black historical experience – and are now in profound conflict with the warlike policies of the First Black President. It is the job, first and foremost, of African American anti-imperialists to confront Obama’s militarism. This would nullify excuses from non-Black activists who claim that fear of alienating Blacks makes them reluctant to directly challenge Obama. When we Bring Back Black, we advance the struggle of all peoples.
“In the absence of a militant Black critique and challenge to Obama, the Black conversation devolves into angry counterattacks against the likes of Glenn Beck, and little else.”
As racist whites transfer their hatred of African Americans to the person of Obama, far too many Blacks have forsaken their traditional causes – peace, economic justice and social equality – to circle the wagons around a politician that is fundamentally opposed to the historical Black agenda in all respects but one: upward mobility for Black politicians. In the absence of a militant Black critique and challenge to Obama, the Black conversation devolves into angry counterattacks against the likes of Glenn Beck, and little else. Meanwhile, the objective circumstances of our people deteriorate on an unprecedented scale as a direct result of White House policies and the policies of previous presidents that Obama has embraced. As the Call for a Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations puts it:
“While Obama has opposed the demand for reparations for African people in the U.S. for the history of slavery, exploitation and terror, he has handed over trillions of dollars of the taxpayer’s money to the banking elite. Meanwhile millions of African people have lost their homes after being targeted by these same bankers for subprime mortgages that result in the loss of billions of dollars of African community wealth in the form of mass home foreclosures.
“While more than a quarter million jobs are being lost in the U.S. monthly, African people face 15.9 percent official unemployment. African teenagers with 38.9 percent unemployment are jobless at four times the overall U.S. unemployment rate.
“In the U.S., where Barack Obama also told us that racial exploitation and oppression are no longer factors in life, the black-white health gap costs the lives of more than 83,000 African people each year. Additionally, African men in the U.S. are incarcerated at rates eight times higher than white men and one out of three African males in his 30s has a prison record. One out of eight African men in his 20s is now in prison or jail on any given day.”
These are facts that speak directly to the African American condition, and resonate among all conscious elements of our people. The rapidly worsening Black domestic situation, growing theaters of war and threats of “regime change” abroad, and a multiplicity of global crises demand “re-entry of African people into political life independent of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party,” as called for by the newly formed coalition. Black is Back!
The Black is Back Coalition (see list of participants, below) will soon announce the date of its inaugural rally in Washington, D.C. For information, contact:
Chioma Oruh 202.320.5542 [email protected]
Rosa Clemente 646.721.7441 [email protected]
Jared Ball 202.997.0267 [email protected]
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].
Coalition participants as of September 12:
Omali Yeshitela, African Peoples Socialist Party (APSP)
Dorothy Lewis, NCOBRA
Cynthia McKinney, Green Party
Ayesha Fleary, APSP
Chimurenga Waller, APSP
Stic Man, Dead Prez
M-1, Dead Prez
Ousainou Mbenga, APSP
Abdul Alim Musa, Masjid al-Islam
Ona Zena Yeshitela, APSP
Omawale Kefing, Burning Spear
Curtis Gatewood, NAACP
Raheal Rayza, University of Toronto
Norman Richmond, Toronto
Luwezi Kinshasa, APSP
Chakanda Gondwe, APSP
Pam Africa, Free Mumia Campaign
Brother Riley, Uhuru Radio
Rich Piedrahita, APSP
Jared Ball, VoxUnion Media
Chioma Oruh, SPSP
Rosa Clemente, Green Party
Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report.