Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Who is this man?

In an issue published on February 7, 2007 in zmag, an online leftist magazine, journalist Paul Street proclaimed Democratic electoral candidate Barack Obama an opportunist with “presidential ambitions from the start” in an article entitled The Obama Illusion. Street, a pro-socialist, anti-imperialist leftist accused Obama of addressing only mainstream contemporary issues that the public wanted to hear, and taunted Obama’s claims at being a progressive candidate, citing his dismissal of “Al Gore's widely discussed proposal to link a "carbon tax" on fossil fuels to targeted tax relief for the nation's millions of working poor (Joe Klein, "The Fresh Face," Time, October 17, 2006).” Barely one week after his formal bid at the 2008 presidency, Obama’s political competency and motives are denigrated and challenged by extremists from the political party in which he hopes to represent. As Street devalues Obama’s attempts as screams of “presidential ambition beneath false humility and ponderous, power-worshipping prose”, the Democratic hopeful remains reserved as he awaits the endorsement of community leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.



Considering the cynical undertone of commentators like Street, and the increased media coverage of what may be history in the making, African-Americans are finally beginning to ask, “Who is this man?” “Who is this proclaimed hero that is being praised even by right-wing conservatives like Republican columnist David Brooks of the New York Times for having "a mentality formed by globalization, not the SDS?” Though Obama is a Democrat, there is irresolution of how accommodating he will be to the black struggle and dilemma in the United States. Also since most voters have proven partiality to candidates that share commonalities with them, favoring race and gender over ideology, the race will be particularly interesting for black women, who have an opportunity to either endorse a black person, or a woman; Democratic front-runner and New York Senator Hilary Clinton.

In a poll taken by www.rasmussenreports.com of 800 likely voters, 79 percent said that they were willing to vote for an African-American president. However, in a January ABC news poll, Clinton led Obama among African-American voters, 60 percent to 20 percent, and is currently leading him in the overall primary, 28 percent to 24 percent.

Obama is apparently being questioned of the loyalty he may or may not have or show towards the black race. The son of an African father and white mother, Obama speaks of the struggle of humanity as a whole, and focuses on the plights of all people. This disconcerts the African-American population because these outlooks are the same that were held of former presidents of whom the black race remained downtrodden under. Obama’s blackness is questioned due to his education, and his lack of a direct link to the civil rights movement and inner-city life.

So who is this man? What are your instincts, apprehensions? And will a black leader that is not categorized as a civil rights leader be a progressive or detrimental step in the African-American struggle in the United States?

- Wayetu Moore

1 comment:

Wendi Muse said...

Whenever I read articles about Barack Obama, I always think, "oh, there goes the 'One Drop Rule' up to its usual shennanigans again." It's interesting how in a country with so much diversity, we are still stuck on the idea of black vs white. Even though Obama is half white, it is demanded of him by our society to choose blackness...mainly because of what he looks like. Of course, Barack made this decision at his own free will, and to be honest, I am glad that he, as such a positive role model for black Americans, has chosen to consider himself as such. BUT it's problematic that people are, as a result of harassment from one race or another, and in particular in Obama's case, the media, forced to choose sides. Did anyone else feel themselves saying, "Wait, IS she black" when Halle Berry won the Academy Award for Best Actress? I remember the headlines proclaiming her as the first black actress to gain the title...but last time I checked, Halle is biracial. But then again, aren't most of us? Considering the slavery-era rapes that went unaccounted for, intermarriage between blacks and what remained of the Native Americans in the southeast during slavery, and the myriad of African ethnicities that all ended up in the same place, most black Americans could consider themselves multiracial, if it weren't for the one-drop rule. I wonder how this would all play out if we had the same long list of racial categories used in, say, Uruguay or Brazil.

But that's all a big side note.

I like Obama, as a person, but I fear that as a presidential candidate, he has too many fences he has to straddle. His color, age, lack of longterm political experience on Capitol Hill, and even his very own consituency (which is mixed in race and class) holds him back in so many ways. Obama has to play it safe. Afterall, he doesn't want to be the first black president to be in office and assassinated on the same day. I think that Hillary Clinton, as a woman who already has the monkey of a controversial past riding on her back, is limited as well, not only because of the aforementioned past, but because of the very fact that she is a woman. It's history in the making that we have to choose between a black man and a white woman for presidential candidacy, but it's also sad that we have to worry about what it will mean if one wins over the other. Let's suspsend reality for a moment and pretend that John Edwards were not running this time around, and that only Barack and Hillary were up for the ticket. Let's also pretend for a moment that as a voter, I know absolutely nothing about either candidate and am only presented with their pictures (pause: ok, maybe this isn't so much a "suspension of reality;" many people go into the voting booths completely uninformed, after all). Who would I vote for? Would I vote for Barack Obama because we share the same color or Hillary Clinton because we share the same gender? It would be hard to decide.

I think that's a huge problem with media coverage of the candidates, however, because it tries to make that decision for us, assuming that blacks will vote for Obama, women (who are, of course, according to the press, all white) will vote for Hillary. Who will Asian-Americans vote for? What about Latinos...who...gasp...come in all colors!?!??!? It's ridiculous for us to assume that candidates will, without a doubt, favor legislation related to their respective backgrounds (hello? post-colonial African governments...black leaders doing terrible things to other blacks...or, for women, Ann Coulter!). It's also unfair for us to expect that. Whoever becomes the next president of the United States will be elected to serve the people, particularly those who voted for him/her, not just gender or ethnic group with which they best identify.

In short, I wish that Barack Obama would challenge us more...tell us more about his political platform...but I suppose only time will tell.

Here is another interesting article on Barack Obama...
"Obama, 'The Magic Negro'" http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-ehrenstein19mar19,0,5335087.story?coll=la-opinion-center