Arguably, in his first term Barack Obama did very little for Black people, but there are signs of some improvement in the second term. For example, last week, the administration reversed itself and called for a cap on the amount of time students spend on taking standardized tests. This is a huge turnabout, since Obama had continued George W. Bush’s policy emphasizing standardized tests were essential for holding schools and teachers accountable for what students learn.
Something about Barack Obama has always bothered me, despite the euphoria that surrounded his campaign for president in 2008. My concern stemmed from his speeches and writings before and during the campaign. In short, Obama’s agenda catered to liberals and progressives but did not address the specific concerns of Black people. I also felt the way he cut all ties with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his former mentor and spiritual advisor, was egregious; unfair and politically motivated. He not only threw Rev. Wright under the bus, but-extending the metaphor, ordered the bus driver to take off. That firmed up my doubt and I said, “What’s all the shouting about before the curtain rises?”
Roy Douglas Malonson’s, “We Must Understand: Jeremiah Wright was Right.” (Aframnews.com Oct. 2014) is straight forward criticism of Obama’s treatment of Rev. Wright. I don’t agree with everything he says, but Malonson re-opens an important conversation that is as relevant today as it was seven years ago:
Malonson asks, “What has President Obama done for Black people?” He says the response by many Blacks is, “He’s not Black people’s president, he’s the president of the United States of America,” or, “We can’t expect him to just address our issues he’s Black.” But Malonson correctly asserts President Obama has not hesitated when it involves addressing the plight of others, “Don’t we have a right to talk about his lack of effort in addressing our issues?”
He reminds us Black people stood in line for hours and hours to secure Obama’s win and gave their hard-earned money to his campaign. The majority of Blacks believed his slogan, “Change We Can Believe In,” would become a reality and improve our condition. Many even hoped we would be joining hands with others as one big happy family ushering in a “post-racial” era.
During Obama’s 2008 campaign, the media resurfaced a 2003 sermon by Jeremiah Wright that was heavily critical of the “corruptness, hypocrisy and laws of the U.S. government.”:
“..And the United States government, when it came to treating her citizens of Indian descent fairly, she failed. She put them on reservations. When it came to treating her citizens of Japanese citizens fairly, she failed. She put them in internment prison camps. When it came to treating her citizens of African descent fairly, America failed. She put them in chains. The government put them in slave quarters, put them on auction blocks, put them in cotton fields, put them in inferior schools, put them in sub-standard housing, put them in scientific experiments, put them in the lowest-paying jobs, put them outside the equal protection of the law, kept them out of their racist bastions of higher education and locked them into a position of hopelessness and helplessness.
“The government gives them drugs, builds larger prisons, passes a 3-strikes law and then wants us to sing, “God Bless America.” No, no, no. Not “God Bless America”, ‘God damn America,’ that’s in the Bible, for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating her citizens as less than human. God damn America as long as she keeps trying to act like she is God and she is supreme.”
Malonson believes Rev. Wright did not lie, he told the truth. President Obama, in Philadelphia ( March 2008), in response to the re-surfacing of Rev. Wright’s speech- an attempt by his opposition to derail his presidential run- said, “The profound mistake of Rev. Wright’s sermon is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country….a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of White and Black, Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old, is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know—what we have seen—is that America can change. That is the true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope—the audacity to hope—for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.”
Malonson: “Well, Mr. Obama, seven years and more grey hair later, the harsh reality is the euphoria has worn off. He looks like he’s ready to turn in the keys to the White House. He can barely get any policies passed without facing opposition and vitriol. He and his family have been racially attacked from day one. It only proves that no matter how high we go up, white society still only sees one thing—Black skin.
“Nothing has changed much in America, let alone for Black people. We’re still treated like three-fifths of a human being, unjustly gunned down, unemployed, leading in most negative health statistics and many more. That change we can believe in will only come from us making it ourselves. Not from the White House.”