by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
When Barack Obama’s legacy is fully measured, it must include his role in eroding Black America’s historical position as the nation’s most anti-war constituency. He was a Pied Piper of war, and most of Black political leadership, as well as a portion of the Black public at large, followed him into the abyss. However, “we can expect this gross deformity to be corrected once the artificial aura of “Blackness” is removed from the White House.
The Obama Legacy: A Temporary Deformity of Black Minds on War and Peace
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“Most Blacks took for granted that racial dominance and aggression were facts of life in U.S. foreign policy, just as in domestic affairs.”
Eight years ago, Black America drank deeply from the intoxicating cup we at Black Agenda Report dubbed “ObamaL’aid, a mind altering substance designed to dull Black folks’ historical aversion to U.S. military adventures abroad and undermine their well-founded distrust of the motives of those that rule the United States. A million African Americans made pilgrimage to the Washington Mall in a “Great Black Hajj” to witness a near miraculous event: the inauguration of the nation’s First Black President. For far too many, and for far too long, the line between deliverance and delirium disappeared.
For the most profound historical reasons, Black people had always been skeptical of Power, which had always meant White Power. Most Blacks took for granted that racial dominance and aggression were facts of life in U.S. foreign policy, just as in domestic affairs. Ever since the Sixties, when major polling organizations began tracking public opinion by race, Blacks have been the nation’s most consistently anti-war constituency. But these vital Black political resistance mechanisms were compromised by the physical presence of a Black family in the White House. It was no longer a question of what “they” -- white people -- were up to in sending troops and bombs overseas, most often to kill people of color. Now the commander-in-chief of the world’s most potent military was one of “us.”
It was inevitable that a significant section of Black public opinion would be sucked into the dark side on issues of war and peace, in racial solidarity with a Black corporate militarist. As we at BAR feared and expected, the power-worshipping and image-obsessed Black Misleadership Class led the way in trashing Black America’s collective legacy of empathy with the victims of U.S. imperialism – most horrifically, with the unprovoked war against Libya.
“The power-worshipping and image-obsessed Black Misleadership Class led the way in trashing Black America’s collective legacy of empathy with the victims of U.S. imperialism.”
In June of 2011, more than half the Congressional Black Caucus, 24 members, gave President Obama their full assent to the continued NATO bombing of Libya, which had already destroyed the infrastructure of what had been Africa’s most prosperous nation. Thirty-one Black congresspersons voted to continue spending money on the regime change operation, with only six CBC members -- John Conyers, Jr. (MI); Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL); Barbara Lee (CA); Laura Richardson (CA); Bobby Scott (VA); and Maxine Waters (CA) -- rejecting the aggression, outright. (See BAR, July 2, 2011, “Black Caucus on Libya War: The Good, the Confused, and the Hopeless.”) The “peace” faction in the CBC proved to be tiny, indeed -- only one-seventh of the caucus membership.
(Back in 2002, only four members of the CBC voted in favor of giving George Bush war powers to invade Iraq. One month before the March, 2003, invasion, just 7 percent of Blacks told the Zogby polling organization they favored “an invasion of Iraq that would result in the death of thousands of Iraqi civilians,” while large majorities of whites supported that proposition.)
Among those in favor of continued funding for the 2011 Libya war was Atlanta Congressman John Lewis, a man that wraps himself in the aura of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but who votes to continue the Unites States in its status as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” as Dr. King put it, back in 1967.
Rep. Keith Ellison, the Black Congressman from Minneapolis, a Muslim who now aspires to head the Democratic National Committee and is touted as one of the nation’s leading “progressives,” defended the U.S. aggression against Libya as a blow for “freedom and the right to self-determination.” In reality, it was the opening salvo in Obama’s military occupation of Africa and his hellish alliance with Islamic jihadists that would result in the death of half a million people in Syria and the destruction of that country’s infrastructure.
“Rep. Keith Ellison defended the U.S. aggression against Libya as a blow for ‘freedom and the right to self-determination.’”
In late August of 2013, Obama threatened to launch a direct air attack on Syria, supposedly in response to the Damascus government’s alleged role in a chemical attack against civilians. According to a Washington Post/ABC poll, 40 percent of African Americans said they would support the airstrike -- two points more than whites and nine points higher more than Hispanics. Although only minorities of Americans of all races were in favor of the bombing, it was the first time in polling history that Blacks registered as the most warlike constituency -- due, no doubt, to the Obama Effect on Black political perceptions.
Prior to Barack Obama’s two warmongering terms in the White House, it would have been impossible to imagine that virtually the whole of the Black political (misleadership) class, and an unknown portion of the African American rank and file, would be mimicking the CIA, ranting and raving about some bogus Russian threat to American “democracy.” But, this, too, shall pass. There is a deep objective, as well as historical, basis for broad Black opposition to U.S. imperial wars. We can expect the Obama era’s gross deformity in Black attitudes towards war and peace to be corrected once the artificial aura of “Blackness” is removed from the White House -- that is, when Black people no longer have strong emotional reasons to identify with U.S. State Power. The Black Misleadership Class, however, is utterly hopeless, having hitched its fortunes to a Democratic Party that is attacking a right-wing president-elect from even farther to the Right, in a rush towards all-out global war.
The ObamaL’aid has run out. Now it’s time for Black folks to sober up, and Fight the Power. And it ain’t Russian.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].