This editorial by Bakari Kitwana and reposted on the Hip Hop Congress website got me thinking about the discussion on Obama and race. While the immediate context is the cartoon printed in the New York Post and rightfully dubbed racist by Kitwana and a host of others, it should serve as a basis for talking about the way Obama has chosen to respond to questions of race in America.
I want to point y'all to a couple of other blogs where we've taken up this question. The first is a contributing blog from Matt Hamilton called "Hip-Hop, Obama, and Black Power" and the second is an interview we did with Alex at Rebel Frequencies.
We oppose the cartoon, but we also oppose Obama's own justification for white supremacy. I explain this a bit further in the comment I left and I encourage others to chime in as well.
Shout out to the HHC.
"Does Kitwana really believe that Obama isn’t a champion of post-race politics, despite his lip service in that speech about not ignoring racial problems? The fact is, Obama intentionally “ignored” that he was being attacked during his campaign (and obviously still is) for being a black man and for having an Arab name. And what is remarkable about that is the degree to which white supremacy has shaped the discussion on race. For if Obama had called it out for what it was, he would be “divisive” or “playing the race card.” Meanwhile the American ruling class owns the deck.
Obama’s reluctance at pointing to the prevalence of white supremacy in our society surely makes him a post-race black politician. Black candidates who rode the waves of black power in the 1970s and into the 80s and who became the basis for the Rainbow Coalition would have never ignored it. In fact, they drew there validity by embodying the language, dress, and some of the ethos of the period.
The problem with the RC, though, is that they served as a break on popular energies. They promised to tame the black nation in exchange for creating a patronage network that was supposed to give black folks a slice of the pie. But they never did. What they did was to actually serve as a more advanced justification for white supremacy.
Obama is not beholden to any popular movement the way the RC was. And because of this, he doesn’t have to talk about white supremacy. But Obama like the RC will continue to prop up white supremacy as police departments continue to attack and murder youth of color, as community colleges scale back on funding that educate black youth, and as local black politicians oversee the destruction of black communities.
We agree with Kitwana that white supremacy prevails, but aren’t so naive to think that Obama and his ilk can substitute for the only thing that can effectively challenge it; a mobilized people of color. Obama won’t be defeated or hamstrung by racism, he’ll serve as a new means for it, whether he sees it or not.
Thanks for posting this."