Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Barack Obama Is More Than 'Black Enough'

One of my TransGriot readers posted this commentary on the blog concerning Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama

Monica sistergirl,

I am sooooo fed up with people talking about whether Obama is black enough like Black people are actually sitting around arguing about it. I've made it clear to people that I think it's nothing but rehashing *other* people's stereotypes of blacks as being anti-education, driven by a herd mentality, and just plain silly but people insist that it's a real issue put forth by "prominent black leaders". Would you mind lending your eloquence to this subject? I'm eager to hear your thoughts

Since TransGriot strives to be an interactive forum, I'll honor your request to add my two cents to this ongoing debate about whether Barack is 'Black enough' for the African-American community.

One of the painful legacies of slavery is African-Americans who aided and abetted our slavemasters. Whether it be the Black folks who 'told massa' when the slaves were planning a revolt or an escape' or helped thwart our progress during the Jim Crow era and beyond (see Condoleezza Rice, Clarence Thomas and other Bush misadministration Negroes as current examples), we have always been vigilant about being taken in by 'Oreos'.

Barack's appeal to the white electorate in this country, while refreshing, makes him suspect to many peeps the African-American community. His story as a kid that was born in Hawaii to a Kenyan father and a white mother from Kansas who didn't grow up in the hood but in Indonesia (and in their mind doesn't have any ties to the Civil Rights Movement leadership many of them detest) has many African-American people asking questions. We wonder whether he would be an effective advocate for those of us who did grow up in the hood, who never forget HOW we got to these shores in the first place and how much fighting we STILL have to do just to get our rights as human beings and American citizens respected.

Personally, I like him. I plan on reading his books Dreams of My Father and The Audacity of Hope . I like a lot of what he has to say in terms of what's wrong and what's right with this country because much of it mirrors my own views in many ways. I'm encouraged by his record as an Illinois state senator, by what I've heard about him from my relatives who live in Chicago and by some of the policy stances he has laid out.

My concern is whether Barack Hussein Obama would actually get to stand in front of the Capitol building on January 20, 2009 and take the oath of office as the 44th President of the United States.

I have observed throughout my life that African-Americans have a hard time just getting elected to statewide office. Granted, Barack is the sitting junior senator of Illinois. But I have seen enough of the GOP slash-and-burn win-at-all-costs election tactics to know that if they're losing, they will not hesitate to negatively use race to keep the White House in their hands (ask Harold Ford, Jr. and Harvey Gantt about that). They know that 10% of this country's electorate will not vote for an African-American no matter how qualified he is and that's a sizable enough chunk of votes in a close election to turn it.

We African-Americans define leadership in a different way as University of Maryland professor Dr. Ron Walters points out.

The task of Black leadership is to provide the vision, resources, tactics, and strategies that facilitate the achievement of the objectives of Black people.

These objectives have been variously described as freedom, integration, equality, liberation, or defined in the terms of specific public policies. It is a role that often requires disturbing the peace. And we constantly carry on a dialogue about the fitness of various leaders and the qualities they bring to the table to fulfill this mission.

This standard is what Barack Obama is being evaluated by in the African-American community. Contrary to what conservatives think, we are not monolithic lemmings who reflexively vote for anything with a 'D' behind their name or as Michael Steele, Ken Blackwell, Lynn Swann and the GOP found out last November we don't vote for peeps or support them just because they're fellow African-Americans either.

As Dr. Julia Hare said during the recent Tavis Smiley 'State of the Black Union' event at Hampton University, there's a difference between Black leaders and leading blacks. Right now we're trying to figure out which category Barack fits in. And let's be real here. It's only March 2007 and the first presidential primaries don't happen until January 2008.

If he is deemed to be a Black leader after some introspective thought, debate and input from the various sectors of the community, you will see his support rise. If he doesn't pass that community litmus test we will support the candidate who we deem not only has the best chance to get elected but who will pursue our interests once he or she is sitting in the Oval Office courtesy of our votes.

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