Barack Obama's election is mega change from George W. Bush's calamitous imperialism. However, those who believe he is a flawless icon will be sorely disappointed. Not only is Obama mortal, but legitimate questions regarding some of his decisions were raised during the campaign, continued with liberals and progressives grumbling over cabinet appointments, his equivocating on a campaign promise to approve faith-based aid on an agreement by religious charities not to discriminate in hiring, sending 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and the $787 billion Stimulus Bill. (Some economists argue that the legislation is a plan for rehabilitation, not stimulation.)
New York writer Jill Nelson's essay, "The Audacity of Whiteness: Framing Barack Obama," (Huffington Post) is provocative, insightful, and many will claim, sacrilegious.
Nelson says, "I know that it's bad form to mention race and upset the new post-race apple cart. The one that doesn't even have a Black chauffeur, (he's) been laid off or taken the buyout. (At least 300 Black journalists left the print media in 2007, and there's every indication that 2008 was worse.) In this brave new world, the playing field's level, Dr. King's dream has been realized and it's all about meritocracy. Yet, a look at the unbelievably white American media reminds us that even with a Black president, little has changed in terms of who frame the issues. For the most part, media looks like a meeting of the White Citizens Council, circa 1956-as determined to retain control of the dialogue as those racists were to maintain the southern way of life."
Staccato-like, Nelson challenges the myth that Obama magically ushered in a colorless era substantially devoid of race-based inequities. Her rebuttal to blinding euphoria is compelling: "Why is it okay for George Will to have President Obama to dinner with conservative white journalists with not a Black face in the room?; The vast majority of journalists, talking heads and experts discussing the new president (and his administration) are white; Is this time for change we can believe in or is it still time for Black to get back?; The absence of African Americans is appalling in light of the plethora of white people from someplace else getting paid to examine, spin and explain Barack Obama to Americans," Blacks as well.
Too many Blacks fail to realize that they are one of countless special interest groups pounding on Obama's door. Euphoric expectations notwithstanding, the reality is, unless Blacks present doable initiatives to Obama's administration, they will remain perennial moaners and out of the loop. Absent strategic unity, especially among Black leadership, a place at the table as equals will be as elusive as ever. But this morose scenario is by no means inevitable and would dishonor Blacks' prolonged history of pride and struggle.
Though ostensibly not noteworthy, President Obama's recent posthumous praise for a highly respected Native American leader raises a serious question. He praises that man's leadership and devotion to his people, but has no comparable praise for those who focus specifically on Blacks 'interests. Does this mean Obama still fears alienating whites?
Eric H. Holder Jr. is the nation's first Black Attorney-General and his Black History Month speech to hundreds of Department of Justice employees was anything but accommodating. Urging Americans, in and out of government, to action he said, "The United States is a nation of cowards that urgently needs to begin confronting the issue of race before it polarizes the country even further."
"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been, and continue to be, in too many ways a nation of cowards." Is Holder Pinocchio to Obama's Geppeto, mouthing the unspeakable for a reluctant boss, or is he really someone willing to take risks and speak his mind. Even if Obama pre-sanctioned Holder's speech, he himself does not articulate clearly and forcefully, as did Holder, the continuing primacy of race in this country.
Jill Nelson: "In reality, this post-racial apple cart is for whites only, a dishonest and opportunistic effort to pretend race no longer matters now that Americans have elected Barack Obama……Post-racial is another attempt to further enshrine white privilege and white supremacy. What a waste to have (new) possibilities identified and interpreted by whites only." Barack Obama's presidency does not ipso facto alter political institutions or entrenched political processes. Thankfully, it signals, as hardly ever before, hope for real change and the possibility for an awakening throughout the land that transcends cowardice and consummates the liberty and justice it has always espoused.
Larry Aubry can be contacted at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org