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As a Black man who is old enough to remember the courageously focused and determined lives of both Malcolm and Martin Luther King, and their gruesome and untimely deaths, and educated enough to be cognizant of the painful sacrifices that generations of Black people have endured to make this, Barack Obama’s moment-our moment—in history possible, I simply cannot find the words to adequately express my feelings of deep frustration and disgust towards the young brothers who heckled Sen. Obama during his St. Petersburg speech. But while for the very first time in my life, words completely fail me, I now have a much better understanding of why the penalty for treason is so severe.
But perhaps this example of mindless idiocy will give other Black people pause. Perhaps it will help those who tend to nitpick Sen. Obama to death to recognize that they, just like the hecklers, are mounting a meaningless assault on all of the hopes, dreams, and prayers whispered by millions of Black people, from the day we first set foot on this foreign soil.
It is for precisely that reason that the hecklers have undoubtedly earned themselves a footnote in history. Considering the Black experience in America, their thoughtless irresponsibility will certainly stand out as one of the most stupid acts of self-mutilation in the history of mankind. But unfortunately, in the process they’ve managed to also taint the more thoughtful Black people in our community, since posterity will undoubtedly point to their ignorance as a prime example of why Black people, as a whole, have found it such an arduous struggle to rise above what has unfortunately become our station, at the very bottom of this society.
But it’s easy to indulge in hyperbole. One should always substantiate one’s assertions, so let me take a moment to build a simple scenario as proof of the hecklers’ stupidity: If you’re about to be lynched, and a brother comes to your rescue, what kind of fool would stop his rescuer just as he’s taking the rope away from around your neck, to say, “Wait a minute. I want to ask you a question before you touch this rope—why haven’t you spoken out with more vigor in support of Affirmative Action?” Needless to say, such an act would represent the height of stupidity, but that’s exactly what the St. Petersburg hecklers, and to a lesser extent, many other Black, self-haters are doing during this election-and unnecessarily, since there was going to be a question and answer period after the speech anyway.
I simply can’t believe how stupid and shortsighted some of our people are proving themselves to be. It goes beyond stupid—it’s a national embarrassment to every Black person with a brain. And in many cases, these are highly educated Black people. I began to suspect that we had a problem when Dr. Cornel West acted a fool on Tavis Smiley’s “State of Black America” broadcast, on the very day that Sen. Obama declared his intent to seek the presidency.
I’ll never forget it. Just hours after this brilliant young Black man declared his candidacy for President of the United States, in the shadow of the statehouse that was once occupied by Abraham Lincoln, and being wildly cheered by Blacks, Whites, young, old, rich, poor, Jew and gentile, I turned to Tavis’ broadcast, hailed as “The State of Black America.” Then with my eyes still damp with emotion, the very first thing I see is Dr. Cornel West ranting about Obama, and pointing out that he wasn’t impressed. He suggested that Black people should be asking Obama, “How deep is your love for your people” and Where is your money coming from?” Then he went on to suggest that people associated with Sen. Obama didn’t warrant our trust. But what was most instructive about his comments was what he didn’t say. He, nor Jesse Jackson on FOX news, nor the St. Petersburg hecklers, had one critical word to say about any of the hordes of Republican politicians that’s been cutting our throats for the past seven years. I’ve never even heard it rumored that Jesse thought Bush should be castrated.
So at this point it has become abundantly clear that we have a serious problem in the Black community, and we need to confront it in a head-on, and brutally forthright manner. The problem is glaringly clear, and now, undeniable. Many of us suffer from a severe case of self-hatred that we tend to cloak in petty grievances that have nothing to do with reality.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that Black people become unquestioning zombies in support of everything that Obama does, after all, he is a politician, and ALL politicians need to be kept on a short rein. In fact, I am still, highly critical, and highly disturbed by Obama’s weak-kneed support of the recent FISA legislation. But in that case we’re talking about his support for modifying the United States Constitution and diminishing our right to privacy. Everyone should speak out in protest of such issues. In addition, I cut off my monthly financial contribution to his campaign in response to that act. So I’m a firm believer in letting ALL politicians know that the only rock stars in this game are the people. While we allow the politicians to have all the glory, we must always remember that in the final analysis, they’re nothing more, or less, than our employees.
But is the case of the St. Petersburg hecklers, and many other Black nitpickers, some are trying to hold the man hostage to their narrow, self-centered agenda, and others are flat-out trying to sabotage his effort because they seem to believe that Obama’s national influence and celebrity tends to diminish their accomplishments and standing in the community. That’s not only sick, selfish, and self-defeating, but it’s Naderian in its stupidity. What sense dose it make to say, “If you don’t give me everything that I want, I’m going to help the efforts of your opponent, who will assuredly give me nothing? The only possible way of defining such a stance is self-hatred, and gross stupidity.
Those hecklers provided McCain with the best moment he’s had during this election. McCain couldn’t have paid for better publicity if he had hired those brothers. Their behavior, and the banner they held up before the world might as well have said,
“DOWN WITH BLACK PEOPLE. WE’RE TOO STUPID TO HAVE RIGHTS.”
Eric L. Wattree
Eric L. Wattree, Sr. can be reached at